5.28.2006

Supporting Actress Smackdown - 1942

For this 2nd Smackdown, StinkyLulu's just giddy to be joined again by the prodigiously productive Nick (of Nick's Flick Picks) AND the indefagitably industrious Nathaniel (of The Film Experience). And puddle jumping to join the stateside obsessives, StinkyLu's thrilled to welcome to Tim of Mainly Movies to this merry troupe of Smackdowners.

The Year is 1942...
Do yourself the pleasure of consulting Nathaniel's fantabulous clipreel of 1942's Supporting Performances. Once again, Nathaniel has endeavored to construct this edifying montage for the benefit of the Smackdown. Pause to be in appropriately reverent awe. (And while there, consider casting yourself as the wealthy patron and Nathaniel as the gorgeous & talented starving artist...by offering your bits to TheFilmExperience endowment drive.)

And 1942's Supporting Actresses are...
(An aside about format: Each Smackdowners comments are listed according to ascending love levels -- StinkyLulu is all about love, after all -- & a wrap-up from each of the Smackdowners arrives at the end. Clicking on the nominee's name/film will link to StinkyLulu's previously posted Supporting Actress Sunday review.)

Tim Sez
"I prefer my monster mothers Lansbury-esque, but Cooper has the sense to be more flatly obstructive than showily formidable. Without grandstanding, she’s a memorable obstacle, even if the character’s lack of self-knowledge keeps limiting her attempts at subtlety."
Nathaniel Sez
"Old Hollywood's favorite tyrannical bitch. Her fury hardly goes unexpressed here but she implies that it's just the tip of her iceberg. Love the discombobulation and shades of self-pity when she can't figure a way around her daughter's new life force."
StinkyLulu Sez
"Embodiment of acid-tongued evil. She can bully a whole room of people -- while bed-ridden & in another room. Cooper's routine is at full-force here & it remains a thrill to behold. Just love the giddiness of that moment when she alights on the idea to throw herself down the stair."
Nick Sez
"Perennially cast as a brittle old bone, Cooper plows that terrain to nimble perfection here, finding the fire and the fear underneath her monstrous controlling mama. Not exactly a revelatory character, but in perfect service to the film."

StinkyLulu Sez
"Moorehead's a genius & force of nature besides. Indisputably. But something about this performance just seems off-key. The actorly grace that glimmers here&there seems to be eviscerated by the editing crimes &/or trampled under the bootheels of Welles' rampant auteurism. A brilliant failure."
Tim Sez
"Moorehead’s is one of the few perfs ever nominated in this category that both properly supports her movie and owns it. There’s a well of marginalised sadness in Fanny that she fills in every scene, however shrill her defensive fa├žade."
Nick Sez
"Bravely, floridly ingenious at limning jealousy, officiousness, ritual good cheer, and almost total despair. So potent, in fact, she supplies an id to the entire cast: a rattling cage of longing that is both heartbreaking and genuinely scary."
Nathaniel Sez
"On chewing scenery: Usually I want actors to spit the damn stuff out. But there's something so shadowy and twisted in her hysterics that I feel like she's a part of the gothic mansion itself. It's not scenery-chewing...it's cannibalism."

Tim Sez
"One good scene – her exit – and it’s handled with winning modesty, but the character is a chirpy sideshow otherwise, seeming to exist purely so that Ronald Colman can not marry her. Lively and sympathetic, but that’s it."
StinkyLulu Sez
"Auspicious work that transcends the idiocy of the role. But -- even with a gulpingly human final scene -- the part remains merely a device."
Nathaniel Sez
"She first appears as a flighty teenager with an inappropriately forceful crush. Hated her. But she transforms into a levelheaded good soul even as the crush crushes her. Too bad her career was over before it began."
Nick Sez
"The part is limited, but Peters still does a credible job playing Kitty's ardent desire both for Ronald Colman's character and for the whole idea of being married, and she manages her key moments with confidence and subtle, creative detail."

Tim Sez
"In a movie full of typecast stars doing solid jobs, Whitty’s Denchian grande dame has the hokiest arc to follow and knows it. Perfectly professional, but lacks real shading and surprise for my money."
Nick Sez
"Like fellow Dames Cooper, Smith, and Dench, she often got hired to reprise a very familiar persona: in her case, a carping, dusty, dry-witted aristocrat. I liked her big scene at the flower-contest, but this is a boring nod."
Nathaniel Sez
"The B plot is all about her flower show. I wanted the camera on Greer Garson for all 134 minutes! But I ended up relishing Whitty. When she's called upon to reveal the woman underneath the social status she's deliciously funny/moving"
StinkyLulu Sez
"Dame May's is a broad performance, to be sure. Yet, in its execution, Whitty's subtle dexterity -- hitting notes both comic and poignant -- makes this an uncommonly affecting performance. "

Nathaniel Sez
"How many actresses have been honored for playing ideal girlfriends or wives? Probably too many. She does glow, it's true and she's not a bad actress but the film seems to coast on her youthful beauty as characterization."
StinkyLulu Sez
"What's not to love about Teresa Wright, in this role or any other. And, here, she reaches beyond the role with welcome intelligence, deftly dodging preciosity, sentimentality & maudlin mopiness in a role rife with such pitfalls. If only the narrative respected her character as much as Wright did."
Tim Sez
"Wright’s saintly war bride isn’t much more of a role than Whitty’s, but she graces it with an evangelical sweetness that does the trick. The speeches are rigged, the close-ups milked, but her anxious silences speak louder than Garson’s."
Nick Sez
"Wright, to me, is as immediately likable as Irene Dunne or top-flight Meg Ryan; I enjoy and respect the intelligence, modulation, and quiet ardor she always infuses in her nice gals. Finds a real person in a plot-device character."

Oscar awarded Teresa Wright...

But the SMACKDOWN gives it to:
Agnes Moorehead!

Oh give a smile, Nessie. The Smackdowners love you...

And now some "Final Thoughts" from our intrepid SMACKDOWNERS:
Nathaniel Sez: "In keeping with Oscar's tradition, they gave the prize to the performance I found least impressive (Teresa's). It's almost like they check with me first and then vote in the opposite direction. Yes, it's all about me. Even before I was alive."

StinkyLulu Sez: "It's a curious field. A pair of disapproving dowagers. A twin set of ingenious ingenues. With the one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others -- an alternately spineless & spirited spinster -- off to the side by herself. And though I loved (or loved hating) this collection of really good performances, this is one contest where I really don't have a strong preference. Each actress maneuvers the limitations of the role with intelligence, skill and charisma. And because LaMoorehead brings out the contrarian in me, I might just cast my vote for Dame May. Just to mix things up."
Nick Sez: "A good vintage, this. I'm the first to fess up I'm grading on a steep curve: a three-heart rating doesn't denote average work, but a basic standard of quality that an Oscar-nominated performance should hit. Which is to say, I think Peters and Wright are solid nominees, and Cooper's even better. But Moorehead's work, to me, is one of the best, most interesting performances ever logged in this category. Even in a relatively quiet scene like the one where she combs her nephew for gossip while scolding him for eating like a pig -- revealing both her fragile and impossible romantic hopes and her frustration with The Whole Damn Thing -- Moorehead distinguishes herself, she fruitfully pushes her fellow actor, and she immeasurably deepens the whole film."

Tim Sez: "Moorehead towers over this otherwise middling contest for her career-best work, and because it's impossible to imagine Ambersons without her; her co-nominees are fairly effective in severely constricted roles. AMPAS picked the better of their home-front ingenues, I think, but still only the third-best performance; and Wright is much more interesting in Shadow of a Doubt the following year. Haven't seen Pride of the Yankees so I can't assess whether this was a Jessica-Lange-in-Tootsie-ish consolation prize; if so, there have been worse, and at least the unstretched Whitty didn't walk off with it. As for snubs, I rate Dolores Costello in Amberson at least as much as Cooper and Wright, but really, who's touching Moorehead here, ever? A mere nomination in this company seems like insult by faint praise."

So, lovely reader, what do you think of the Supporting Actresses of 1942? Are the Smackdowners on the ball? Or off the beam? Be sure to vote (see poll at right). And please do continue the Smackdown in comments.

Look for the next Smackdown on June 25.
And don't forget to cast your vote here to decide which year of nominees the June Smackdown will assess. (Voting will close when the winner is announced on Wednesday, May 31.) If you would like to join the fun/insanity/obsessiveness of a future smack down, just email StinkyLulu...

EDITED TO ADD (May 31, 2006):


8 comments:

NATHANIEL R said...

ahhhh. i had so much fun with this year (so much better than 58)

hope everone enjoys reading these and watching the clipreel

StinkyLulu said...

Me too. It was wierd -- I sorta dreaded going into each movie ('cept Now, Voyager which I knew was wonderful, & even better to see again). But I came out really liking the three "women's pictures" and finding Ambersons endlessly fascinating.

As Nick noted: 1942 was a "good vintage'...
And, Nathaniel, the clipreel is yet another demonstration of how you've mined your obsession for gold. Brilliant.

(O'course, now, I'm totally obsessed with the voting for June: looks like a horserace between '51, '78 & '96. Completely different vibes.)

NATHANIEL R said...

it's horrible that even with, what, 9 nominees for BP that they left out Now, Voyager.

tim r said...

This was a blast! I'm only sorry I've been so distracted and haven't been able to post a lot more about the various movies. I must say I liked Random Harvest, even a bit more than Mrs Miniver, and I was surprised by how good Ronald Colman was in it. Very interesting dissent on Moorehead, Stinky! All in all I'm feeling a bit stingy with my three hearts for Cooper and only considering it a middling year, it's certainly above average...

Nick Davis said...

Is it embarrassing if all of us comment on our own conversation? Whatever, caution to the wind: as others have said, not only were the performances good, but all of the movies impressed me. When Mrs. Miniver is the least accomplished in any set of four films, you're in very good company. I was worried that Now, Voyager would feel soggier than I remembered it, but it's so craftily executed, and Random Harvest really impressed me—especially from the director of The Bad Seed. But we'll have to wait till '56 to talk more about that.

Nick Davis said...

Oh, and just to be clear: Wright may well have gotten an Oscar boost for having also been in The Pride of the Yankees (and therefore having had a very good year in extremely lucrative movies), but I think the Yankees nod surely rode the coattails of the Miniver performance, rather than the other way around. She's affable and, when necessary, appealingly mournful in Yankees, but there's precious little for her to do, and it's arguably not a "lead" in the first place.

Vertigo's Psycho said...

Smart choice, as Moorehead's is one of the greatest performances, period. Outside of Vivien Leigh in Streetcar and Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest, I can't think of another actress who pushed herself so deep, emotionally speaking, to bring a character to life- it's truly an unforgettable performance (and the breakdown in the kitchen as Fanny leans against the boiler and goes from despondent to near-insanity before our eyes marks one of the most brilliant moments any performer every had on film).

It's worth mentioning her work was so indelible the New York Film Critics bestowed the Best Actress Award on Moorehead, over all other lead and supporting female players (the NYFC Award for Supporting Actress didn't come into play until 1969).

Raybee said...

I agree with the outcome.

My Rankings:

1. Agnes Moorehead - The Magnificent Ambersons
2. Gladys Cooper - Now Voyager
3. Susan Peters - Random Harvest
4. Teresa Wright - Mrs. Miniver
5. Dame May Whitty - Mrs. Miniver


Moorehead was the only logical choice for this year as well. I didn't really care all that much for the rest of them, to be honest.