September 13, 2014

Round-Up: Actress 1939


Coming in last is a lady whose presence I admire more than her actual work. Dunne brings her usual charm here but it wasn't enough to make a lasting impression on me. The film itself is standard and neither Dunne or Charles Boyer can do much to save it. In fact, I just found the performance overall to be a bit standarda been there, done that type of scenarioand I can't say that Dunne does anything distinctive here. We've seen it all before...touching emotional moment(s)? Check. Singing sequence? Check. It's good, which is to be expected with Dunne, but after awhile "good" just ends up being boring.


Initially I was planning to put Garson in last place, but only because her role is significantly more scant compared to the other ladies. But upon reflection I realized that I liked her work too much to throw her a default last place finish strictly due to role size. Because hers is a perfect example of "elevating" one's material. She creates an utterly beguiling and lasting impression with her minimal timesomething I believe Dunne fails to do. Perhaps in time once I've tired of Garson after viewing all of her 1940s nominations I may have a change of heart, but as it stands, I have nothing but positive feelings when thinking about this short little performance. 


Sure, this is a much more gentler and vulnerable Davis than I've seen thus far. But given the score, does this mean I like her performance here as much as I liked her Jezebel or Of Human Bondage performances? Hardly. This is definitely a lower-tier 4, and the only reason I bumped it up a statue was because I liked and felt I had to give her props for her more tender and restrained scenes. So from a strictly technical standpoint I think she nails what's required of her, but while watching her performance roll out I never felt as though I was watching some sort of bravura heartbreaker that it was structured to be. Good, but not work I'll always remember her by.


I've never been so pleased watching a Garbo performance than I was with this one. She just puts a smile on your face, especially in those scenes from the film's first act. It just seems as though she's letting go of her inhibitions and having fun, and it certainly translate onscreen. What's more, I think this is by far the most consistent performance of hers, and one in which she's fully dedicated in creating a character. She's so very easy to watch here and such a treat. 


As if anybody else stood a chance at taking the top spot away from Leigh's legendary work. I'm not sure what else I could say about her that I haven't already said in my review, but she's sheer perfection. Capable of channeling bitch with a simple cock of her brow as swiftly as she is able to cry her eyes out (though I've read about the teary makeup applied to her face, but I digress), watching her performance is like watching an exhausting yet stirring four hour marathon unfold. It's simply one of the all time greats folks. 

IN CONCLUSION: Again, not as strong a year for me as the numbers would suggestBette's probably more of a 3.5and sadly there wasn't much to be excited about out of this batch of ladies, especially as I had already seen Leigh's performance before. I would easily drop Garson into the supporting race and un-nominate Dunne for Merle Oberon's devastating work as Cathy in Wuthering HeightsI just adored her in that film and it's a shame her Oscar legacy stands solely on her bland perf in The Dark Angel. I would also make room for Norma Shearer in The Women, whom I felt was very potent and heartfelt and was more than capable of holding her own up against a slew of ladies in top form and each vying for viewer attention. It would have been a great sendoff for Shearer, who along with Paul Muni were basically the faces of the 1930's, but tragically The Women got zero attention from the Academy (a damn dirty shame!!), probably due to the picture losing money. Who knows how close Judy Garland got to a nomination for her work in The Wizard of Oz, seeing as it was a Best Picture nominee, not to mention that Garland was pretty popular from her movies with Mickey Rooney, but she probably wasn't apart of the conversation seeing as the film lost money for MGM as well. I for one rewatched The Wizard of Oz about a month ago and found it (and her) to be disappointing. I see Marlene Dietrich frequently being pointed out as being worthy of the Best Actress race for her work in Destry Rides AgainInside Oscar noted that "critics were ecstatic about the actress' flair for rowdy comedy", but I suppose the Academy only had room for one comedy queen in '39. There's also Claire Trevor, who's superb in Stagecoach. Even though she gets top billing, Stagecoach is such an ensemble piece that it's tough to categorize her work as lead or supporting. Either one works I suppose, though you wonder if the Academy got confused about it as well, or if there's something to be said about her status as more of a supporting actress than a leading actress (as shown by all her Oscar nominations being for the supporting category). Lastly there is perennial force and little miss embarrassment of riches herself Bette Davis with her work in either Juarez, The Old Maid, or The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. My money is on Elizabeth and Essex for being her ticket for a nomination if it wasn't for Dark Victory, because who could resist Davis in Elizabeth R drag and being a bitchy queen for a few hours?

WHAT'S NEXT: We're done!!! I can hardly believe it! What's to follow will be a few posts reflecting on and celebrating the finish of Oscar's first twelve years. Yippee!


  1. "WHAT'S NEXT: We're done!!! I can hardly believe it! What's to follow will be a few posts reflecting on and celebrating the finish of Oscar's first twelve years. Yippee!" - translates as "I'm tired, I need a break from old movies" :D

    I do think Claire Trevor is also somewhere around there for Stagecoach, if I remember correctly...

    1. I'm actually not as tired of old movies as you'd think :) It's the blogging that takes a toll on me. I'm due for a mini break. I write better/my creative juices flow more smoothly after some time off anyways.

      Claire Trevor! I completely forgot! Brain fart on my part. Will fix. Though I'm wondering if she's better off in supporting...

    2. I can't see how Trevor would've missed Supporting had they pushed for it there. (if Edna May Oliver - is that her name? - made it, there there was room, for sure). Maybe they were gunning Leading (if I remember correctly, there's no actress in the film with more screentime than her). And Greer got in leading herself, so...

      enjoy the break :)