Supporting Actress Smackdown - 1967

The Year is...

And the Smackdowners for the 40th Annual Academy Awards are...
CALUM of Ultimate Addict
J.D. of Joe's Movie Corner
KEN of Canadian Ken
yours truly, STINKYLULU.

1967's Supporting Actresses are...
(Each Smackdowner's comments are arranged according to ascending levels of love. Click on the nominee's name/film to see StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Sunday review.)

Carol Channing in Thoroughly Modern Millie
KEN Channing’s wide-eyed daffy schtick already had whiskers by ’67 and she varies it not a whit here. A reviewer once couldn’t decide whether the profoundly odd Edith Massey’s performance in a John Waters film called for an Oscar or a round-the-clock nurse. For Channing in Thoroughly Modern Millie, the decision’s much easier.
Thoroughly horrifying. Channing’s such a repellent force of nature that my living room plants withered and died the minute she (it?) appeared on my TV. Wasn’t MacLaine or Verdon available? Why did the role go to this creature so utterly devoid of subtlety, reality, and gender?
As the film’s only principal performer to "get" the ostensible joke of the film and have the comic chops to deliver on it, Channing demonstrates a trouper’s fortitude -- gamely spinning distinctively schticky webs, her wide eyes expressing the film's only emotional intelligence. Peculiarly impressive – emphasis on the peculiar.
Uh… uh… uh… I seriously have no idea, both on why she was nominated, and why she exists. Muzzy is just like the film though: Freaky, random, not that good, but most assuredly entertaining and wacky enough to fly over the semi-uncomfortable weirdness.
Ever the hostess, she’s rather like a crazy, embarrassing Aunt, showing you up at every possible opportunity. She wades in and out of the film a daring breath of fresh air, and shamelessly steals scenes with her maniacal audacity.
The title of this movie would have you believe that it is about Millie. However, this movie is utterly and totally Muzzie's. Channing steals every scene while crafting a masterclass musical performance.
TOTAL: 16s

Mildred Natwick in Barefoot in the Park
MATT Natwick shows her savvy by her adept delivery and by emphasizing the “good sport” aspect of the character. But the performance seems a little undercooked. Could’ve used more comic crispness (and more of the panache she demonstrates in the film’s final moments), and less of the wobbly vagueness she plays.
A solid performance, you get the feeling that Natwick knows the character. However due to the filmmaker's mistreatment of this play it becomes character a caricature of old lady tics and quirks, crippling the performance.
Bounces off of Fonda’s irrationality well and delivers her many one-liners with believable bemusement. But her performance feels like an impersonation of Marion Lorne as Bewitched’s Aunt Clara and on the whole is less maternal than it really ought to.
Far more sophisticated than the material, Natwick wisely dodges stock character clich├ęs by oscillating between warmth and wonderment, crafting a genuine and humane characterization of a lonely, settled, bored woman experiencing a life-changing night.
Her character was surprisingly interesting, and Natwick does a lot to show that. There’s so much and so little going on at the same time, and somehow she’s always making assumptions you might have about her obsolete.
The movie’s just an assembly line of briskly delivered sitcom punchlines – except for Natwick. Charming, accomodating, hilarious – sprinkling each syllable with a droll dusting of good-natured asperity - she executes a series of inspired vocal hesitations and comic U-turns, transforming even the simple act of knocking on a door into an eloquently exhausted S.O.S. Comic perfection!
TOTAL: 19s

Estelle Parsons in Bonnie and Clyde
CALUM She shrills; she shrieks, but it’s comic relief. Parsons’ wailing banshee is less of a character than a conformity punch-bag, but rather than instilling empathy her histrionics made me want to don some gloves and join in.
A righteous, shrieking, prissy shrew. In the hands of a Kahn or a Moorehead, I might adore her. But Parsons is neither hilarious nor heartbreaking enough to maintain the balance needed for this strange character. Vivid and memorable, but only in the worst ways.
Very unremarkable. She whines a lot, but it never turns into anything brilliant. It’s not really a bad performance, but sometimes I just wanted to jump into the screen and hit her until she shut up. I loved Bonnie, so I guess I have to hate her. And I do.
She’s fully attuned to Hackman’s tremendous performance, seamlessly interacting to help him achieve it. And their tragedy’s ultimately more gritty and affecting for not being seen through the gauzy lens of Beatty-Dunaway glamour. I love the quiet conversation with Pollard – part cordial exchange at a church social, part baffled despair.
Works with comic authority—she’s particularly funny dodging bullets while brandishing a spatula. I also enjoyed her weak smiles of propriety as she tries to maintain her respectability amid her criminal kin. Shrill, too, but the character requires shrillness, and Blanche’s hysteria nicely counterbalances the film’s continuous din of gunfire.
Parson's Blanche is a high-wire act that consists mainly of shrieking at the top of her voice, but with an intense emotional core. It's a harrowing performance that sticks with you well after the credits roll.
TOTAL: 17s

Beah Richards in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
MATT The role isn’t much—mostly a series of reaction shots, and two short speeches. Maybe that’s why Beah Richards makes nary an imprint in the proceedings of this laughable, dated drama. But she’s to blame for her near-inaudibility and garbled diction, and her final monologue seems curiously both bland and overwrought.
Progressive ideas; staid and stodgy packaging. The movie spends two hours patting itself on the back, then expects us to continue doing it. Don’t recall seeing Richards elsewhere so I don’t know whether her bland tip-toeing on eggshells approach is a specific choice or just business as usual . Either way, two hearts is generous.
No actress here does more with dialogue than her. Every time she spoke -- to her husband, her son, or her soon-to-be in-laws -- she conveyed so much truth and emotion in her eloquence of the situation, it sewed together everything and made them click.
Beah's performance is a pitch-perfect performance that hangs on one stunning scene. And when the scene is played this well; we should all stand up and applaud her.
Despite being little more than a repressed pawn in Spencer Tracy’s arduous arc Beah is the resonant soul of the film. It’s all in the eyes. Their richness etch the pain of a generation all on their own.
In every moment, in all kinds of tiny tiny ways, Beah Richards maneuvers the flaccid morality play scenario with subtle, humane nuance. Hers is a startling performance, layered with fully inhabited empathy and clarity, far more than the sum of its scripted parts.
TOTAL: 20s

Katharine Ross in The Graduate
MATT Mike Nichols’ penchant for close-ups exposes Katharine Ross’s inadequacies as an actress; some of the role’s demands (crying on cue, conveying anger) clearly aren’t in her skill set. Nevertheless her charm, her rapport with Hoffman, and her occasionally fresh line readings trump her amateurishness.
Ross plays the least interesting character with a remarkable amount of depth and emotional clarity. Sadly, the material doesn't serve her at all and so the performances ends up without much to its name.
I often forget Katharine Ross when recalling the great beauties of the 60’s. Unfair. Because she is striking – radiating an appealing, reflective quality that separates her from most of her peers. But with a take-no-prisoners Bancroft on hand, Miss Robinson’s destined to be forever in the shadow of Mrs. Robinson.
Eloquent yet plausible in her ambiguity, Ross’s intrinsic honesty is essential to the film’s 2nd half but it’s her range of wordless expressions at the back of the bus that provide The Graduate’s most haunting emotional truths.
There’s something compelling about Elaine and the way Ross plays her, so unexpected and so incredible. I don’t know what it is, but it made sense. She came late but ran the emotional gambit, and yet she felt more genuine and unique than anyone else in the film!
The polar opposite of Bancroft’s dangerous older woman she rarely changes as a character, yet evolves from disinteresting to desirable in the space of two hours. Her careful understated beauty crept into my heart as it did Hoffman’s.
TOTAL: 23s

Oscar chose...
Estelle Parsons in Bonnie and Clyde!
And, in a nailbiter,
the SMACKDOWN decisively dissents,
anointing Katharine Ross in The Graduate as
our Best Supporting Actress of 1967.
So, lovely reader, what do YOU think?


Cal said...

Interesting. We disagreed majorly over the first four and then kind of united for Katharine Ross. A worthy winner! Overall I thought the category was pretty good quality compared to some of the disastrous Supp Actress lineups there's been over the years. But the only one I really didn't like won it. Haha.

Brooke Cloudbuster said...

Oh wow. I didn't expect it to go like this. I expected Richards to take it all the way to the top. Glad to know I'm not really down with consensus. Rage against quality! Yeah. In all seriousness, maybe I just wasn't open enough to the flaws of Channing and Parsons in these films.

RBurton said...

Ross is definitely the right choice.

Ken, your write-up on Carol Channing had me grinning from ear to ear. I couldn't have said it better myself unless I was outside her house with a pitchfork in one hand and torch in the other.

Here's how they're ranked in my notebook.

01. The Graduate - Katharine Ross
02. Bonnie and Clyde - Estelle Parsons
03. Barefoot in the Park - Mildred Natwick
04. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner - Beah Richards
05. Thoroughly Modern Millie - Carol Channing

whip-smart said...

I was unable to take part due to the unexpected absence of 'Barefoot in the Park' and 'The Graduate' from video store shelves in my area (no Netflix in NZ, sadly - although that is about to change). But, of the ones I did see, I would probably make Carol Channing the winner, simply due to the fact that she is so frickin' awesome - Estelle Parsons was unexpectedly memorable, its a performance that sticks with you, but her best scenes were at the end and for the majority of the film her mania is more irritating than it is interesting... Beah Richards was a tall, cool glass of B-O-R-I-N-G.

If I had taken part, I would have given these ratings:
Carol Channing - 4 hearts
Estelle Parsons - 3 hearts
Beah Richards - 2 hearts

J.D. said...

I can't believe Ross actually won! Yay! [happy dance]

Brooke Cloudbuster said...

Huh. I guess Carol Channing must appeal to me the same way that Faye Dunaway does in Mommie Dearest. Seriously; that latter performance ranks upon some of the actress' best work and I'm not even kidding. It takes a kind of actorly skill to swallow the scenery whole.

Rural Juror said...

Wow...this is something of a surprise.

I'm bummed I couldn't take part. Oh well. See you for the class of '07

Cinebeats said...

3 cheers for Ross!!!

CanadianKen said...

Surprised (but not too unpleasantly) with The Ross victory. Would've liked to see Natwick with the crown - but I had a sinking feeling Beah Richards would take it; seems Matt's meh reaction (along with my own half-hearted shrug) apparently kept that from happening. Funny how a performance that hardly registers as a puff of smoke to some can affect others so differently. I'd have to say the one interesting thing about Richards' work here is the range of reactions it seems to provoke ... Channing was, of course, merely the easiest target painted on the immense,stumbling carcass of THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE. I like the snappy title-tune - and dishy James Fox is irresistible on every level. Otherwise, it's a massive trainwreck, with conductress Julie Andrews - crisp and colorless - still primly punching tickets as the whole miserable enterprise hurtles off the tracks.

whip-smart said...

Why the TMM hate? I found it easy-breezy-entertaining, with some spot-on comic perfs by Andrews (witness her wonderful looks at the camera, harbinging the arrival of those cute title cards), Tyler Moore ("Who signs a check for 35 cents?" "I do!"), John Gavin (swell, just swell) and, of course, the indomitable Channing. Sure, it was awkward at the beginning, but that was part of its appeal.

Off topic - Oh, can we do 1969 next? Please, please?!

StinkyLulu said...

I'm not sure when we'll hit 1969, but I do know that Supporting Actress Sundays goes on hiatus for a couple months (to start up again in April).

Thanks to all for making the last Smackdown of 2007 (the final "episode" of the 2nd "season") so exciting...

Of course, we have the Supporting Actress Blogathon NEXT week and then the profiles/smackdown for the 2007 nominees in February. But the jaunts to the past won't start up again until April (and I'll be totally revamping the structure for year selections so stay tuned...).

Brooke Cloudbuster said...

Oooh. Revamp! Exciting. I'm angling for an '05 Smackdown, personally! The strongest year of the new millenium. (And this year doesn't seem to hold a candle to that either. Sigh.)

Also: Yay! 2007 Profile and Smackdown!

Matt said...

Interesting Smackdown--and a nice bunch of participants, too! I was a Scrooge with my hearts this time and felt vaguely guilty as I scrolled through all the sweet-natured comments here. It made me think: am I critically discriminating, or just a big cranky poop? Please judge me kindly. I just hope Carol Channing doesn't try to track me down after my write-up.

I must admit, though, that I enjoyed tearing these performances to ribbons; I think that 1967 is one of the weakest years in this category, with strange, unqualified nods (though I like Parsons and Ross) and even stranger movies. (I agree completely with Ken's witty assessment of "Millie.")

I think the Academy should've gone all the way to lunacy and voted for the worst performances for that year. I've brought up the "Worst Supporting Actress" idea before (see my November posts), but really: why not nominate the delightful, pill-popping triumvirate of "Valley of the Dolls"? (Though I guess Patty Duke can be considered a lead.) How about Katharine Houghton, that insufferable exponent of nepotism, for "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"? (She's Hepburn's niece.) And, though I haven't seen "To Sir, With Love," I suspect Lulu might be able to join the ranks here. It all would've made for a zany category.

Whom did I like? Again, Parsons and Ross. Natwick wasn't bad. Lee Grant for "In the Heat of the Night." And I liked what Elizabeth Wilson did with her role in "The Graduate."

Anyway, thanks Stinky, for hosting a fun Smackdown!

CanadianKen said...

By the way, just for the record, my five nominees for '67 would've been:
ELEANOR BRON "Two for the Road"
in the Park"
ESTELLE PARSONS "Bonnie & Clyde"
SHELLEY WINTERS "Enter Laughing"

A very strong and very close race.
All deserving winners. And I'd probably tend to give the trophy to different ladies on different days. But today I'll say NATWICK.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Oh man I hated Estelle Parsons. Like, a lot.