...Maria Ouspenskaya in Dodsworth (1936).
5 minutes and 27 seconds on-screen
5% of film's total screen time
In Dodsworth, Ouspenskaya plays Baroness Von Obersdorf, the imperious mother of Baron Kurt von Obersdorf -- the third European cad to "make love" to the story's female protagonist, Fran Dodsworth (Ruth Chatterton), a wealthy not-quite-divorced American simp. Baron Kurt & Fran are planning to marry and Ouspenskaya's Baroness arrives -- a wee tiny gorgon swathed in widow's black and possessing the kind of bark that makes you real scared of her bite-- to survey her son's betrothed. Simply put, Ouspenskaya's Baroness does not approve and conveys her withering disdain with near scientific precision. In perhaps the movie's most exultant moment, Ouspenskaya's Baroness slaps some sense into the sillysilly Fran: "Have you thought how little happiness there can be for the old wife of a young husband!" Of course, the impact on Fran -- whose dithering selfishness contributes the narrative through-line of the film -- doesn't last long. But the Baroness' verbal smackdown of insufferable Fran contributes one of those moments to inspire a movie-house's cheering... and Ouspenskaya manages it with clarity, precision and integrity.
Can't say that StinkyLulu loved the performance, but -- for what it was -- Maria Ouspenskaya's Baroness contributed some exhilarating zest to this fascinating, if tortured, contemplation on the perils of middle age. And while Mary Astor might have made for a much more satisfying Supporting Actress candidate, Ouspenskaya's just fine. Her extraordinary presence creates an indelible impression & one can't help but think that this encounter with the Baroness might well be the turning point in Fran Dodsworth's idiocy. All told, an interesting romp that reminds Lulu that -- where Supporting Actresses are concerned -- surprises lurk around every corner...