August 5, 2015

Mary Pickford, Coquette

as NORMA BESANT
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Won: Academy Award - Best Actress

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What more is there to say about Mary Pickford's Academy Award® winning performance in Coquette? At least, what else is there to say that hasn't already been said? It is, after all, considered to be one of the worst performances to ever win an Oscar, and has been crucified by many an Oscar-enthusiast over the years. Instead of diving thoroughly into bashing  Pickford's work here, I'll just talk about the art of exaggeration and how Pickford utilizes it to a criminal extent. First and foremost, Pickford does not know how to act within the sound medium. She emphasizes everything. It is as though she is worried the audience won't be able to understand the language, so she'll put some oomph into what she's saying just about 100% of the time just to be safe (ex: instead of "I'd never dreamed he'd send them," we get "I'd never DREAMED! he'd send them!"). Second, she doesn't seem to be confident in her own cutesie-ness, and so she over-emphasizes that aspect as well, constantly pursing her lips and jamming her finger to her mouth like some sort of special-needs Lolita. One of the things I thought while watching Pickford in her scenes was that she was "trying too hard," and I firmly believe that had she toned it down (or if someone had told her to tone it down), it may very well have been good work. It's this very over-emphasis which in turn makes what might have been a so-so to solid performance into the frenzied--and often times laughable--piece of work that it is today. And the very reason that the performance gets the vitriol that it does today is mostly because it comes off as too haphazardly cartoonish. Overall, I don't hate it as much as other reviewers seemed to have hated it; I found it to be watchable at the very least. But it is the quintessential example of what it means to be "over-the-top", and just a nasty mark on the Best Actress category as a whole.

1 comment:

  1. I saw this on TCM today. The archaic film aspects of this movie are just unavoidable, with both the sound and screen presentations of the print TCM showed being simply impossible to overcome. That said, there are two things to say about Pickford's performance: she shows actress abilities that infer her earliest work on the stage and .... she performs for the camera as only a silent movie actress ever would. It's both frustrating and oddly endearing but, in the end all, the performance is of another time, place, world and sensibilities than that of today.

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