Supporting Actress Smackdown - 1967
The Year is...
CALUM of Ultimate Addict
J.D. of Joe's Movie Corner
KEN of Canadian Ken
yours truly, STINKYLULU.
(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.)
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.
MATT 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?
STINKYLULU 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.
J.D. 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.
CALUM 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.
BROOKE CLOUDBUSTER 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.
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.
BROOKE CLOUDBUSTER 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.
CALUM 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.
STINKYLULU Far more sophisticated than the material, Natwick wisely dodges stock character clichés by oscillating between warmth and wonderment, crafting a genuine and humane characterization of a lonely, settled, bored woman experiencing a life-changing night.
J.D. 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.
KEN 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!
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.
STINKYLULU 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.
J.D. 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.
KEN 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.
MATT 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.
BROOKE CLOUDBUSTER 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.
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.
KEN 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.
J.D. 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.
BROOKE CLOUDBUSTER 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.
CALUM 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.
STINKYLULU 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.
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.
BROOKE CLOUDBUSTER 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.
KEN 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.
STINKYLULU 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.
J.D. 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!
CALUM 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.
Estelle Parsons in Bonnie and Clyde!
the SMACKDOWN decisively dissents,
anointing Katharine Ross in The Graduate as
our Best Supporting Actress of 1967.