4.26.2006

1958's CouldaWouldaShouldas (+ mini-profile of Lansbury & Remick in LONG HOT SUMMER)

Nick's consistently bemused riff throughout the 1958 Supporting Actress Smackdown has really got Lulu thinking:

The Supporting Actresses of 1958 really were an odd lot. Only Stapleton and Hiller sustained careers of any note, with Martha Hyer and Cara Williams lapsing fairly quickly into obscurity (& Peggy Cass mostly working the panel, couch or dais in various televidiocies of the '60s and '70s).

So what of the snubs? The CouldaShouldaWouldas of 1958?
In addition to Gwen and Tina, it seems a curiously consistent factoid that there were at least four major 1958 releases that each boasted at least two performances that CouldaShouldaWoulda been contenders in this category. Might these performance pairs have cancelled each other out when when it came to ballotting time?
Clearly, Dietrich and Gingold (in either BBB or Gigi) are the real contenders in the CouldaShouldaWoulda category. Their exclusions are the real slights where the other omissions just underscore how curious the nominee field for 1958 actually turned out to be. Indeed, a strong case can be made for each of these performances. And they're all worth revisiting. Plus wouldn't it be FABU to have McCambridge's "I. Want. To. Watch." as the shortest nominated performance?

But there's one more film to which StinkyLulu'd like give some especial attention, mostly 'cuz it features two of Lulu's most treasured, the kind of actresses that never top the favorite lists but whose very presence makes almost any movie intrinsically more interesting :
Lee Remick & Angela Lansbury.


The Long Hot Summer is yet another one of those torrid Southern sagas of family intrigue, minus the tawdry tragedy of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and the gawdy goofiness of God's Little Acre. The scenario's fairly simple. Paul Newman (the definition of all kinds of "hot" here) is Ben Quick, a drifter with a real bad rep, who arrives to the Louisiana estate of Will Varner (Orson Welles, perspiring through fake nose and swarthy greasepaint). Nearly immediately, Quick insinuates himself into the financial stakes and personal neuroses of the entire Varner clan, while also enflaming the passionate dis/interest of the unmarried 23 year old "spinster" Clara (Joanne Woodward, giving a thrillingly apt performance). Ultimately, The Long Hot Summer becomes a romance -- part Shakespearean, part soaperatic -- complete with three couples securing the conclusion with wedding plans.


Lee Remick plays Eula, the babydoll newlywed wife of the scion of the Varner family's fortune, Jody (an oddly desparate Anthony Franciosa). Eula's a luscious baby belle who's alternately rattling illuminating inanities or squealing with delight while being pursued by Jody. Remick invests Eula with surprising intelligence & the result is a performance that is much more interesting than the simple role. At 19 in this performance, Remick here shows the actorly acuity that made her one of the best beautiful actresses of her era.


Angela Lansbury plays Minnie Littlejohn, the golddigging town tart with her claws into (and her heart wide open for) the deeply unappealing Will Varner (Welles). Lansbury here is luminously erotic -- believe it -- & her quest to marry the noxious patriarch becomes tender in its misguided ferocity. A lesser actress might have played only the comedy (which Lansbury nails at every turn) but Lansbury adds a simple generosity to the schtick, making a complete character out of what might otherwise been merely a character part.

Both Remick and Lansbury have scanty screen time in this strangely intricate tale. Yet every moment conveys the humanity, intelligence and beauty of their women, who could have just as easily become jokey little Southern caricatures. To Lulu, that's being a real Supporting Actress. And why actresses like Lee Remick & Angela Lansbury are such treasures.

PS: Don't worry Lulu hasn't forgotten about Maureen Stapleton in Lonelyhearts. The final Supporting Actress Sunday for 1958 is still to come: Sunday, April 30. Also, don't forget to VOTE FOR MAY's Supporting Actress Sunday roster. And, finally, thanks to one and all for making this past week of Supporting Actress Sundays so fantabulously fun...

1 comment:

Nick Davis said...

I've never seen The Long Hot Summer, even though I've had it on tape forever. Thanks for amping up the incentive!

I did recently watch Teacher's Pet, a pretty asinine Doris Day/Clark Gable vehicle from '58 that scored a lucky-duck Supporting Actor nod for Gig Young. No supporting roles for women to speak of, so no snubs.

Great shout-outs all through this post... and I also agree with Nathaniel that it's somewhat amazing that Oscar passed over Gladys Cooper in Separate Tables, since they obviously liked the film, and they rewarded her on three other occasions for doing her brittle-shrew thing. Glad to see her go missing, at least.