June 25, 2015

Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity

as PHYLLIS DIETRICHSON
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The quintessential femme-fatale. There's not much else to say. Barbara Stanwyck's work in Double Indemnity makes for one of the finest femme-fatales the film-noir genre ever saw. And why is that exactly? What makes Stanwyck so great in this film? My belief is that Stanwyck never set out determined to craft an iconic character; and instead, it's an instance where all the recipes came together to formulate into something accidentally great.

June 24, 2015

Tallulah Bankhead, Lifeboat

as CONSTANCE "CONNIE" PORTER
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Won: New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actress
It is said that Alfred Hitchcock wanted the “most oblique, incongruous person imaginable” for the role of the glamourous, high-society journalist Connie Porter in Lifeboat. And to say that Tallulah Bankhead fits that criteria perfectly is an understatement. She is wholly fascinating specimen, carrying with her an alien presence that’s ripe with a sexuality and exoticism not so fitting for the Hayes Code-era. 

June 13, 2015

Claudette Colbert, Since You Went Away

as ANNE HILTON
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As a viewer who adored Claudette Colbert's pre-code turns in the likes of It Happened One Night and Honor Among Lovers, and as one who has always felt Colbert to have a fluid, interesting sexiness in her on-screen persona (even when she's stuck in ho-hum pictures like Private Worlds) imagine how taken aback I was to watch her play such a tame, stifled and boring housewife in Since You Went Away. Point blank: Since You Went Away is one immobilizing picture, clocking in at three(!!!) long hours in which a lot is said yet nothing really happens. Colbert is pretty much the strongest performer in this movie, but her strengths can't balance out such banal material.

June 7, 2015

Greer Garson, Mrs. Parkington

as SUSIE PARKINGTON
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Another year, another Greer Garson nomination. The worst part about frequent nominees are when all the performances seem exactly the same, and that's wholly exemplified here with Mrs. Parkington. The warm, doe-eyed, sweet girl? See Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Blossoms in the Dust or Madame Curie. The warm, doe-eyed sweet girl coming from a poor background? See Madame Curie. The warm, doe-eyed sweet girl who falls for Walter Pidgeon? See Blossoms in the Dust, Madame Curie, and to a lesser extent, Mrs. Miniver. But what about Greer Garson decked out in old lady drag? See Madame Curie. My point is, we've seen it all before. And yet we're served more and more of the same. 

June 6, 2015

Bette Davis, Mr. Skeffington

as FANNY TRELLIS / MRS. SKEFFINGTON
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Mr. Skeffington is often regarded as one of Bette Davis' worst nominations, a glaring example of just how hard the Academy mistook ubiquity for quality during this frustratingly repetitive decade. And after finishing the film, I'll agree that this is definitely the least deserving of the eight nominations I've watched and reviewed of Davis' thus far. As the horridly vain and selfish Fanny Trellis, Davis comes to Mr. Skeffington with an approach that straddles a fine line between annoying and unbearable, but I'll be damned if I didn't have fun watching her!