The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1972

This is the weakest Best Supporting Actress category I think I’ve ever seen. Seriously, it’s awful. There’s no one to vote for! But before we start looking for alternatives, let’s get the recap out of the way first.

The Godfather wins Best Picture, in a decision no one can deny. Marlon Brando wins Best Actor, which — of course. Bob Fosse wins Best Director for Cabaret (talked about here), which I don’t understand at all. Nor do I understand (though, I kinda do, sort of) Joel Grey winning Best Supporting Actor for the film (talked about here). I do, however, understand Liza Minnelli winning Best Actress for the film. She was by far the best decision in what was an incredibly weak category (1972 must have been a real bad year for female roles). So that’s 1972. 5 out of the 6 awards went to two films. And then there’s this category.

This is just awful. And, looking for alternatives, you can’t help but start with Talia Shire. How did she not get nominated for The Godfather? I think they nominated her for Part II as a way of making up for the snub here. Her being nominated would have really helped this category. That’s really the only glaring one I saw. Female roles seemed really weak this year. So I guess we’ll just deal with the piece of shit category.


And the nominees are…

Jeannie Berlin, The Heartbreak Kid

Eileen Heckart, Butterflies are Free

Geraldine Page, Pete ‘n’ Tillie

Susan Tyrrell, Fat City

Shelley Winters, The Poseidon Adventure

Berlin — The Heartbreak Kid is — actually, before I even talk about the movie, if, for some reason you were ever going to watch this movie, watch this version and not the Ben Stiller version. Dear god, please don’t watch that movie. Watch this one. And if somehow you see both, and prefer the Stiller version, kill yourself.

The film is about a dude who marries a woman — that’s the first three minutes of the film. It’s a nice, Jewish wedding. He marries a woman, played by Jeannie Berlin, and within a day of being married, already wants to leave her for another woman. The first half of the film is Charles Grodin marrying Jeannie Berlin. Then they go on their honeymoon. And within the first day, Berlin gets a terrible sunburn because she refuses to wear lotion, and while Grodin is out at the beach without her, meets Cybill Shepherd, who is on vacation with her family. And he becomes infatuated with her, and tries to get her to agree to be with him so he can justify leaving his wife. And the whole thing happens while Berlin is quarantined in their hotel room. And he is trying to romance Cybill Shepherd, which doesn’t go well at all. And eventually he leaves Berlin, on their honeymoon, so he can go and try to get Cybill Shepherd. And that’s the first half of the film.

Then the second half of the film is him at Cybill Shepherd’s house — Berlin is totally gone by this point — and he tries to get her father — Eddie Albert, Oscar-nominated — to agree to let him marry her. But that’s not where this performance is based, so we won’t go into detail about it. I did that on the Eddie Albert one for Supporting Actor.

So, Berlin is in the film for the first half, and, despite having a limited amount of screen time, is really fucking funny. She has a couple of great scenes. In a stronger year, she’d never contend, and would just be a pleasant nomination. Here — she’s got a legitimate shot to get a vote. That’s how weak this category is.

Heckart — Butterflies are Free — another comedy, interestingly. It’s a Goldie Hawn film, so, that should explain the kind of vibe going on in this one. It’s about a blind dude (Edward Albert, not to be confused with Eddie Albert) who moves into an apartment by himself. He’s lived his entire life with his mother (Heckart) and wants to live on his own, despite her not wanting him to. He makes a deal with her to not come check up on him for two months.

While at the apartment, he meets Goldie Hawn, his neighbor. She doesn’t realize he’s blind for the first, I’d say, ten minutes of their meeting. So then she starts asking him all about what being blind is like, and then take a liking to each other, and then have sex. Naturally. Then the next day, his mother (that’s Heckart) shows up, and she’s an overprotective woman who immediately takes a disliking to Hawn, because she thinks she’ll break his heart like his former girlfriend (who broke up with him at the beginning of the film). And Hawn tells Heckart she loves him, but afterward has problems living up to that, since she has commitment issues. And the middle third of the film is the mother trying to get Hawn to end the relationship, but then, after Hawn freaks out and goes to another man, Heckart immediately is like, “fuck that. You need to do this, son,” and becomes a supportive mother. She realizes her overprotectiveness has made her son too reliant on her and unable to deal with the problems of life. And then Hawn comes back at the end.

It’s actually a pretty entertaining film. Not wonderful, but good. A nice little 70s comedy. Heckart is pretty good. And I can see why they voted for her, she’s a vet, and this category sucked. And I guess you could vote for her, but, I’d probably rank her a #2 at best. But I can see why she won.

Page — Geraldine Page is an actress, nominated 8 times for Oscars, and I’d honestly never vote for her once. Maybe once, but even there, it’s because the category is weak. I never understood why the Academy loved her so much. But that’s another story. Let’s talk about Pete ‘n’ Tillie.

This film is interesting. It’s unlike almost anything I’ve ever seen. It’s almost like something I’d write. Which threw me for a loop. Like, “Wait, someone actually wrote something the way I would? That’s fucked up.” Maybe that’s why nobody remembers this film today.

The film starts at a party, where Tillie, played by the wonderful Carol Burnett, is introduced to Pete, played by Walter Matthau. And basically the entire first meeting between them is her not being interested in him and him making overt advances toward her. Like, he’s telling her all this stuff he doesn’t like, and just stating his opinion as though that’s the end of the discussion, then is like, “I want to go get Chinese food. Let’s go out and get Chinese food.” And the whole thing is fascinating, how these two are interacting. And you wonder, “He’s not that likable, and she’s pretty boring. How can this go anywhere?” But, slowly, over the conversation, Matthau starts to win you over. He’s funny, witty, and is charming in an abrasive kind of way. And eventually she agrees to go out with him, I think just to shut him up.

Or rather, I think what happens is, he invites himself over to her house for a drink, even though she clearly wants to go to bed, and then she finds a cigarette case in her house, which he uses as an in to come back (even though he doesn’t smoke). And he gets her to agree to go out with her, and then, after the date, she starts to realize she actually kind of likes him. It’s the most unorthodox, yet somehow realistic, romance I think that has ever been put to film. I really think everyone ought to see this, because it’s the kind of film that you realize isn’t that great, and yet, you just keep watching it because you’re oddly fascinated in what’s going on.

So then they get married. This happens literally between scenes. You think they’re coming home from the date, and you realize they’re on their wedding night. It’s very sudden. So now they’re married. And we show them married, and having a kid. And then the film shifts 180 degrees. This is a film that takes you to such a different place by the end than it was at in the beginning, that you know these characters have changed.

But, they’re married, and have a young son, and Matthau is a wonderful father. He is a committed family man, and his only real vice is that he has lots of affairs with women. And Burnett doesn’t like this, but lives with it, because he keeps coming hom, is a good father, and can’t bring herself to divorce him. And then you think — okay, that’s the main point of conflict within the film. But then it takes another turn. Midway through, they find out their son has a brain tumor. Don’t worry, it’s not melodrama. It’s crazily realistic. And Matthau is unable to really cope with it, so he keeps acting like everything is normal and suppresses emotion. And they both live with this, telling the son he’s gonna be okay, meanwhile he only has like three months to live. And they make sure he enjoys his last few months.

Then, after he dies, they divorce, because that’s just what happens. And then the last scene is them separated, meeting years later, and then Matthau again charms her and gets her to come back with him. It’s really a fascinating, fascinating film. Another one of those hidden gems I’m glad I discovered.

As for Geraldine Page, she is barely in this movie. She shows up at the beginning as the harpy friend who tries to set them up. And Burnett finds her annoying, but is friends with her. And she’s in the movie for like two minutes at the beginning and then disappears. He real screen time is at the very end, and even then it’s kind of slight. She shows up later on, and has one scene at the post office, I think it is, where she’s filling out a form, and they ask her what her name is, and since she’s got a thing about that, faints instead of answering. Then later on, her and Carol Burnett get into a cat fight, seemingly for no reason, but it is pretty knock down, drag out. But that’s really all she does. She does a good job with the scene and the character. But, I wouldn’t vote for it. In a year like this, though, I can see why she got nominated. This actually was my second favorite film on this list, so, that’s something.

Tyrrell — Fat City is a film I just hated. This was hell to watch. It’s a John Huston film too. It’s just weird. I don’t what happened here, but I just did not like this at all.

It’s about Stacy Keach as a boxer trying to get back into shape. He meets Jeff Bridges and sees that he has potential. Then he gets him to meet his former manager, and starts dating Tyrrell, who is a drunk, and then decides he wants to start boxing, then wins his first fight back, then has a scene in a bar with Bridges where they just sit there and don’t say anything. And that’s the end of the film. I have no idea what this was about at all. Someone must think this is a brilliant example of a film where nothing happens. I’m not one of those people. I don’t get it at all, and, for those who do, I’m sorry, I just didn’t. If you did see this film and liked it, please, enlighten me as to what I’m missing.

I don’t want to get too down on the film, because I don’t think it’s a piece of shit. I just didn’t like it. That’s all it is. So if you want to read about it for real, don’t go by me. I’m not the right person.

As for Tyrrell, she’s there. I really don’t care about the film or the performance at all, and she’s my #5. That’s just how it is. I don’t think anyone would really vote for her having seen all five of these performances.

Winters — And, The Poseidon Adventure. This is easily my favorite film on this list. It’s so fucking amazing. Again, watch this version and not the Wolfgang Petersen/Kurt Russell version. This one. Much better.

You know the film. Bunch of people on the boat for a New Year’s eve party, big storm, boat turns upside down. And the film is about the people deciding to either sit and wait for help or go and try to climb to the bottom of the ship. And Gene Hackman is leading a band of people to get to the bottom, even though he’s not totally sure if the boat is upside down. And they all go up to the top/bottom, and — it’s a disaster movie. Don’t listen to me talk about it, watch it. It’s amazing. One of the best disaster movies of all time, if not the best. Seriously. Incredible.

Shelley Winters plays an overweight, former swimmer, who’s traveling with her husband to see their grandson for the first time. And once the boat capsizes, she figures she’s done for, because she’s overweight and can’t move like the rest of them can. And then, at the end, when they get to a place with water, she uses her swimming skills to hold her breath for the necessary time it takes to get across. And she does it — huge redemptive moment — and then promptly has a heart attack and dies, like she was expecting to. It’s a brilliantly done scene. They really make you feel for her. It’s perfect.

Honestly, I believe the only reason — the only reason — she didn’t win here is because she won twice in this category. I guarantee you that’s what it is. And that’s the reason I’m not voting for her. Because I only voted for her once of the two times. If it were one win, she’d be my vote all the way. Two wins — I don’t really want to give her the third. I don’t know why, but, I just don’t. She’s easily #1 on this list, though.

My Thoughts: Tyrrell and Page are right off from the top. Winters is off because she won twice. That leaves Berlin and Heckart. Of those two, I enjoyed Berlin’s performance more, but can see why they voted for Heckart. And since it doesn’t matter who wins because this category is such a huge blank, I’m voting for Berlin. It really doesn’t matter.

My Vote: Berlin

Should Have Won: There is no preference here, at all. There should have been a pulse here more than somebody should have won. Talia Shire should have won this, in all honesty.

Is the result acceptable?: Absolutely. What better year to go with the veteran nomination? The category is so weak it barely registers. Let her win. Why give Shelley Winters a third one when you can give it to another veteran in a role that sounds like it would win this category?

Performances I suggest you see: The Poseidon Adventure. Don’t think. Just watch it. You won’t be disappointed. I guarantee you. It’s impossible to not enjoy that movie.

Next, Pete ‘n’ Tillie is a wonderful, wonderful film, and one of the best hidden gems on this entire Oscar Quest. Hidden gem. Do you need any more of a recommendation?

Butterflies are Free is also very enjoyable. Not for everyone, but enjoyable. Recommended if you’re looking for films to watch.

And The Heartbreak Kid is also enjoyable. Worth a watch if you’re into comedies. Or, if you think about watching the Ben Stiller version. Watch this instead. It’s good, and interesting. Not great, but worth a watch.


5) Tyrrell

4) Page

3) Heckart

2) Berlin

1) Winters

One response

  1. Joe

    Tyrrell’s performance is easily the strongest of the line-up. And she should have won over the dismal Heckart

    My rankings

    5- Winters
    4- Heckart
    3- Page
    2- Berlin
    1- Tyrrell

    May 4, 2014 at 9:10 am

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