Supporting Actress Smackdown - 1969

The Year is...

And the Smackdowners for the 49th Annual Academy Awards are...

ALEX of Alex in Movieland
BRAD of Criticlasm & Oh, Well, Just This Once...
yours truly, STINKYLULU.

And, again this month,
Alex in Movieland has generously graced us with another brilliant clipreel.
click image to be routed to video

1969'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.)

BRAD I hated this film on so many levels. I found Burns’ performance weirdly mannered, as if a child was trying to act like an adult. Such a strategy might have worked, but I didn’t quite believe Burns, and never forgot she was acting. The whole exercise was excruciating without being revelatory.
STINKYLULU A deft, alarming portrayal of a precociously insightful yet abidingly naïve young woman. While not especially artful, Burns delivers a consistently compelling performance in a confined and confounding film.
Burns' understanding of Rhoda does not allow her to be just a victim; she illuminates the other essential details of her character, her self-knowledge and loneliness. Nowhere is this more evident than in her shattering monologue, but this is a full-bodied and developed performance.
She’s like an ugly Samantha Morton in nauseating film. There’s deglam, but also a tone of talent which comes to light in a haunting monologue done with perfect mimicry and great storytelling skills.

RICHARD When the stuffy Academy recognizes an unknown’s work in a little indie film, you know there’s something special here. From every shy downturn of her eyes to every nervous smile, Burns doesn’t disappoint, and retains her power even years later.
Saddled with the victim in a malicious game of adolescent cat-and-mouse, Burns could have mired Rhoda in a mess of tics and neuroses, or succumbed to easy bathos. Instead, she grounds the character in ways that are refreshingly, devastatingly human. Breathtaking work, some of the best this category has seen.
TOTAL: 22s

STINKYLULU Cannon's doll-like features combine with her formidable charisma to create a character we are inclined to like, and to root for, even when Cannon herself does little to illuminate Alice’s complex character arc. A vivid, captivating, appealing yet – ultimately – erratic and vacuous performance.
I will say that this is probably Cannon’s best performance, which isn’t saying much. In a far weaker year she might’ve actually had a chance at a win. Not so here. This is a serviceable performance in an outdated film.
Cannon gives a performance that is nothing if not consistent; she slam-dunks the character arc of Alice with apparent ease with few shortfalls. However, at points, one might ask for a little more from the actress, some scenes at the end of the movie are missed opportunities.
ALEX When she’s bashful, I find her loveable and sweet. When she gets naughty, she’s delicious and hot. Dyan does justice to the character’s arc and I think the casting’s right. Yet, could she have done more? Probably. But still good.
BRAD The most interesting and anchored performance in a film that is tonally all over the place. I would think she got this for the scene with the therapist, which is great, and for being the person we empathize with (as Lulu has pointed out). She never disappears into the role, and at times I felt her personal twinkle coming out instead of character. Solid, compelling without necessarily soaring, but it still was what kept me involved.
As Gould provides the comic high point for this already hilarious picture, Cannon gives the film an emotional anchor that is instrumental in preventing it from disappearing up its own ass. Sublime and perceptive work from an underappreciated actress.
TOTAL: 17s

ALEX Her performance in the beginning is so bad that it’s hard to recover. Some tears and scattered moments of good but never great save her a bit. Cool to vote for her, but still an absurd win and flawed performance.
SLAYTON Hawn bursts on to the screen with a spirit and verve uncommon in a debut, making the most of her thin sketch of a role. She’s very good at what she does here, and she’s quite adept considering the material, but unfortunately the part doesn’t really demand talent or innovation. A confection, nothing more.
RICHARD This is an easy role to play, but hard to play well. I find Hawn’s Oscar win understandable for her enjoyable fluff of a film, but given her superior competition, I was expecting just a little bit more.
Hawn's work in Cactus Flower is perfectly apt, impressively conveying all that’s necessary (uncommon charisma, emotional simplicity, infectious charm) for this role, a role that asks simply that Hawn be impossibly yet believably cute. A memorably vivid performance of a subtly difficult role.
BRAD Speaking of twinkling—gah! Hawn upstages Matthau and Bergman (almost), and seems completely at home. I imagine that, had I never seen her before, I would have been enthralled (see Amy Adams in Junebug for a recent parallel). Hawn gives the “dumb blonde” role a depth, humanity and intelligent the script doesn’t.
BROOKE Oscar did right by this choice. Hawn uses her unrelenting charisma and clear comic abilities to create a believable character, and far surpasses the material she's given.
TOTAL: 20s

RICHARD Are you kidding me? How did anyone even remember Miles in a film that focused on the legendary Hoffman and Voight? I can appreciate her ability as this cipher of a character, but even mentioning a nomination is too much.
SLAYTON Miles wanders into the film in her own little world, contributing an incredibly overwrought reading of her character and absolutely refusing to be a receptive scene partner. Technically good on its own, but wildly dissonant within the scope of the film.
BROOKE Miles makes an iconic cameo, but her role lacks the kind of narrative hooks of a Dench or Straight that makes this nomination supportable. A good few minutes, but there are more substantial performances to be nominated even within her film.
She’s great in this, and one of the things I always remember about the film. Dangerous, comedic, unglued and perfect. I love it, but I don’t know if it’s enough of a part for a nom, definitely not for a win. Though she does what Miles does well in supporting parts—vivid, interesting characters that I always want more of.
ALEX Not the best of the five, but definitely my favorite. Finally some fun: loud, bitchy, scary, all that fire and music, compressed in just a couple of minutes. Her effort to make it memorable pays off big time..
STINKYLULU Miles's work in the role of Cass is vivid – lively and vigorous and powerful. Miles's fearless and fearsome work in this sequence of short scenes conveys the depth of a complex, scary and sad story that we never get to see. It's indelible actressing at the edges, and a formidable accomplishment besides.
TOTAL: 14s

SLAYTON York maintains a firm hold upon the disparate elements of Alice’s unstable personality, but she somehow lacks the glue to put these pieces together into a cohesive whole. It is a fascinating yet incomplete performance.
ALEX It’s hard to pick sides. Theatrical is a soft word to describe it, but as it is in the spirit of the character, I can totally accept it. If she’s meant to be pitied, then she’s done her job..
BRAD Such a cynical film. Ugh. York’s fragility is not immediately obvious, though perhaps her delusion is, and so her crumbling is interesting for that reason. Her best work for me is not in the breakdown, but in the complex and thrilling scene with Sarrazin in the storage space.
RICHARD She’s human, yet a caricature. Mysterious, yet utterly transparent. York’s performance is an enigma to me. I see who Alice is, and why she does what she does, and yet she’s still difficult to understand. She leaves an indelible impression.
STINKYLULU York creates the glamorously aspiring Alice as a fascinating, flawed mess, while also investing the character with an ominous, intriguing fragility. And when the tightly wound Alice finally snaps, York’s performance contributes a necessary delicacy to this tough, tough film.
BROOKE York's masterclass achievement has two great scenes to work with, a diva-worthy entrance and a reverberating mad scene. To her immense credit, when the movie seems to forget her character, she remains vivid, subtly hinting at Alice's loose grip on sanity.

TOTAL: 24s

Oscar chose...
Goldie Hawn
in Cactus Flower
sees things somewhat differently...

Best Supporting Actress of 1969!

BUT, lovely reader, what do YOU think?
Please share your thoughts in comments.


Cal said...

Interesting. I hadn't even heard of Catherine Burns or Last Summer until this Smackdown so thanks for drawing it to my attention.

Of the nominees, I've only seen York and Miles. I agree with the general consensus there. Miles' performance I barely remembered whereas I appreciated how York gave her character just the right amount of presence -- even though I'd probably have given her four stars rather than five.

Good Smackdown! Will try and catch up with the ones I'm missing.

Criticlasm said...

Interesting. I was worried that Burns would win, but I guess I was the only one who didn't love her. Intresting spectrum on this one, and not what I expected. I wonder now if Burns and York split the vote. OR, everybody just loves Goldie.

Well, she didn't win for Private Benjamin, so this was an Oscar forecaster of her career, rather than a later acknowledgement...

Slayton said...

I knew York would win, although I had sort of hoped for Burns. An interesting year overall. B&C&T&A was hilarious, Cactus Flower was very cute, Last Summer was excellent, as was Midnight Cowboy and TSH,DT?. So many good films from this year.

StinkyLulu said...

And they're all blondes.

Anybody know if that's happened before or since?

par3182 said...

I'm so glad Susannah York won the smackdown (big thanks to Brad for denying Catherine Burns - "a child trying to act like an adult" is a perfect description)

I'd rank 'em -

(big gap)

Slayton said...

I think the "child trying to act like an adult" thing was exactly what Burns was trying to do. It fit the character perfectly.

StinkyLulu said...

I think that's what Brad's saying (Brad?): the choice of "child acting like adult" is a good strategy but Burns doesn't really make the choice work.

As for me, Burns never permits me to forget she's acting (here, as an adult acting like a child acting like an adult). Her distinctive physicality helps at times to create and sustain the performance's illusion, but the stagey, Britishy accent that wafts in and out ruins most of her dialogue scenes. I never once believed she was a pretentious, insecure teen from Cleveland, only that she was a NY stage actress playing a pretentious, insecure teen from Cleveland. That was my main stumbling block for me regarding this performance.

Alex in Movieland said...

Wow, the result surprised me as I was sure Burns would win it by far. Both love and hate went all over the place.
Although I hated Last Summer, I can still say she was the best of the five and not just for the big monologue scene, but also when she learns how to swim. I didn't see the actress trying, just an interesting character I believed in.
But controversy's nice.

Vertigo's Psycho said...

I'm glad Hawn at least grabbed the "show" spot. I have no problem with her win, as I think Hawn's remarkable in Flower, doing amazing things with the lightweight material.

Those unconvinced Hawn doesn't deserve the moniker of "Oscar Winner" should check out her amazing turn in The Sugarland Express- her talents definitely extended beyond "light comedienne" mode (although I'll never understand why Oscar voters normally rank comedy performances below dramatic ones when nomination time rolls around- even Jack Lemmon, who scored Oscar nods time and again for his dramatic turns, once stated comedy was harder to pull off).

Criticlasm said...

yes--that's what I was saying. It just felt act-y to me, and not in a seamless child trying to act like an adult and being self-concious, but the actress looking for some truth and trying to fool me. It's a wierd line to describe, but what it managed to do was make me doubt she was telling the truth the entire movie, which I don't think was the point. I was honestly waiting for her mother to call her at some point and for Barbara Hershey to answer the phone. That doubtfulness of the veracity of the character threw off the role for me. I can see that on stage it would probably be a riveting monologue, but for some reason the showiness of her performance threw off the balance for me. I can totally see how it would work on stage, but it points out one of the subtle differences between "truth" in stage and film acting.

Eric Marshall said...

Thank you. I agree with you: Susannah York SHOULD OF won the Oscar that year. I saw "They Shoot Horses" and I can tell you that her role was the real deal-not Hawn's (Goldie's performance and "Cactus Flower" was a sign that the 60's was ending in chaos). The Academy made a huge mistake by giving the Oscar to Gig Young instead of York. Take for example that scene in which York's character cries when she can't find her dress. She should of won it there. There's good reason she lost: York was in a string of forgettable films during the
1960's ("The Seventh Dawn", "A Man For All Seasons", "Duffy", "The Killing of Sister George", "Sebastian", "Battle of Britain", and "Oh What a Lovely War"). To add insult to injury York may never recieve another Oscar nomination again.