July 24, 2015

Gloria Swanson, Sadie Thompson


I think that when it all boils down to it, the reason why I have always loved Gloria Swanson in Sadie Thompson is due to how fab the woman is in this film (and this comes from someone who loathes the word, so much so I can't even type out the entire word!) Swanson obtains such an inexplicably magnetic confidence that draws the eyes--so much so that you can't help but watch her as she interacts with everyone in the film, or even when she's not doing anything special in particular. That in and of itself constitutes the prowess of movie star in peak form, and that is what Swanson brings to the table here. Put against the teary-eyed and nameless housewives by Dresser and Gaynor or the teary-eyed damsels in distress trifecta mastered by Janet Gaynor during Oscar's inaugural year, Swanson stands out like a sore thumb because she is glamorous, because she is brazen and defiant and lively. . In addition to knowing how to control a frame with the utmost ease when the camera is on her, Swanson is so vivid in the breaking down that confidence and portraying Sadie's fears and insecurities as Davidson circles around her like killer and prey. I think that what's most important in my fondness for this performance is that Sadie is a much more transparent and detailed character than any of the other ladies on the Best Actress shortlist; do we really know or have any sense of who Angela, Mama Pleznik, and The Wife are? Is there much there to Diane beyond her sad, depressed glory? Sadie commands attention not on the grounds that we feel so sorry for her, but because she is fascinating; and that factor can only be attested to the actress who plays her. It's a wonderful star turn by a fantastic star, of which, as you should know by now, gets extra points from me because I adore a strong female character who isn't meek and can fight her own battles with aplomb.

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