March 13, 2016

Loretta Young, The Farmer's Daughter

Won: Academy Award - Best Actress
It was of course a shocker at the time, but in retrospect, Loretta Young’s Best Actress victory should come as a surprise to nobody. Because when you're up against a reckless alcoholic, an embittered woman with a murderous family, and a woman losing her mind, the morally-correct-small-town-farm-girl-who-excels-at-all-domestic-tasks-and-has-big-dreams-of-being-a-nurse-but-instead-gets-sucked-into-an-impromptu-political-career is a much more friendlier female archetype for the for the Academy to channel its attention to. So sure, this one definitely goes down in Oscar history as one of those stunning come-from-behind victories, but the role and performance itself bears no elements of excitement to match the glory of its actual win.

The Farmer's Daughter is the kind of silly, light-hearted fare that I've become so averse to, that does just about nothing for me--so while Young is consistently fine, the film doesn't bear very many redeeming qualities to help bolster what I'm watching. So Young's got a persistent enough Swedish accent, and she's got those big doe eyes that complement the ingenue she's playing, which she plays rather well. Holistically the performance Young gives is befitting to the what Katie is supposed to be -- she creates a character that is supremely honest and likable. But to that effect, there just isn't much else here that would differentiate her work from the countless many other honest, virtuous, likable lady characters I've seen in countless many other films. Viewing this from the lens of the typical "old male" Oscar voter that is purported to make up the vast portion of AMPAs, Katie is kind of a ridiculous creation. From this purview, why are we to like Katie? Because she can problem solve literally any type of problem pertaining to the home life? Because she's doe-eyed and pure and innocent, because she stands for the right values and doesn't have any sort of human flaw like Angie, Louise, and Lavinia? In other words, Katie is a character which panders too much to the the male gaze, such that I am often disconnected from all that she's doing. I am disconnected because Katie doesn't seem to be like any sort of 'real' woman or 'real' human. She instead looks and feels like a cartoon character, And don't get me wrong, I completely understand that in its nature, The Farmer's Daughter is mere feel-good fodder that is technically meant to entertain us and not necessarily meant to be taken very seriously. But in that regard, how am I to take Katie seriously? And isn't it ironic that Katie, played by Loretta Young who herself was presented to the public as a woman with a clean reputation (though see: Clark Gable's love child), would end up snatching the top prize? In theory this is a solid enough performance, though by no means is it an extraordinary one--if anything, what the performance stands for, and how this likely played in its favor to win the Best Actress Oscar in 1947, is what rubs me the wrong way. But in any case:
guess I should say that I don't hate Young's performance. It's not a bad one. But


  1. I think this is one of the worst, if not the worst, of the Best Actress winners in Academy history. Loretta Young always had a problem with bringing life and 'pizzazz' to her performances. She's always seemed bland and too self-satisfied for me. This performance is adequate but no more and certainly not deserving of an Oscar. I thought she was better in "The Bishop's Wife" of the same year, though that was not Oscar-worthy either.

  2. I haven't seen her in a long time but I remember linking her. Still, this liking does not mean that this is an Oscar-worthy performance in any way. The 30s and 40s are full with little comedies that basically offer the same kind of performances and nobody would ever think of an Oscar. The Oscar win is the only reason people really excamine this performance. She is charming and nice but even if the material was more familiy-friendly than that of her co-nominees, I really don't get this win...

  3. Loved the review. Young had a fascinating beginning in Hollywood, but then she went deep in her religious life and became too ladylike. She made most of her characters bland and self-controlled. I think she's fine enough here, but cannot hold a candle to her fellow nominees regarding riskiness and range.

  4. I remember her hitting the right emotional note at one point towards the ending, which made it overall almost acceptable to me.