The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1947
1947 is a year I constantly criticize for being weak because almost none of the Best Picture nominees were really strong enough to win. So while Gentleman’s Agreement is a great film and a good Best Picture choice, I always feel like it’s a bit of a let down, because, what if the category were stronger?
Elia Kazan won Best Director for the film (talked about here), which makes perfect sense and is a good decision, and Celeste Holm also won Best Supporting Actress for the film (talked about here), which makes sense but is the result of a shitty category. Best Actor was Ronald Colman for A Double Life, which I guess I can live with, him being respected and all (even though Gregory Peck gave the best performance and Colman being a bit — emotive). And Best Supporting Actor was Edmund Gwenn for Miracle on 34th Street (talked about here). He played Santa Claus. End of story.
So now we have this category, which we’ll just save time and leave it at — this is the biggest Best Actress upset of all time and is one of the worst Best Actress decisions of all time (as high as #2). It was horrible.
BEST ACTRESS – 1947
And the nominees were…
Joan Crawford, Possessed
Susan Hayward, Smash-Up: The Story of aWoman
Dorothy McGuire, Gentleman’s Agreement
Rosalind Russell, Mourning Becomes Electra
Loretta Young, The Farmer’s Daughter
Oh, and did I mention? This category blows. (This year blows.)
Crawford — Possessed seems like a film whose sole reason for being nominated is because there weren’t enough nominees and Joan Crawford is who she is. Like some of those Sissy Spacek and Jessica Lange nominations in the 80s.
The film is about Crawford, who is found wandering the streets, babbling, and how she got that way. She’s emotionally unstable and is working as a nurse in a rich home. She’s in love with a neighbor, who despises her. Then the woman she cares for in the house drowns, but she stays on caring for the kids. Then the neighbor dude comes back and she tries for him again, but he still hates her. Then, the dude she works for proposes to her, and she accepts, as sort of a second prize. Then the oldest daughter of the family takes a liking to the dude that hates Crawford, which leads to Crawford going crazy. She hears voices and shit. Then she kills the dude. Then the people that find her (it’s a flashback story) decide she was crazy and wasn’t responsible for the killing, and everyone agrees they’re there to help her. That’s the film.
It’s not very good. I mean, I didn’t like it. It seemed pretty generic. A melodrama couched under noir sensibilities, kind of like Mildred Pierce. And Crawford winning there was really the one she should have won for, not this one. So that pretty much pushes her to #5 her. I didn’t much care for this at all. I consider the Crawford and Bette Davis performances terribly over the top most of the time.
Hayward — Jesus, another melodrama.
Susan Hayward perfected these types of films over her career. But not at this point. She perfected it in 1955 and won the Oscar in 1958. This one is kind of like (don’t focus on the actors in question, but rather the roles in question) Nihcolson’s Five Easy Pieces performance. It’s good, but not there yet.
The film is about Hayward as a nightclub singer. She marries another singer and gives up on her career. Then she becomes an alcoholic. Because he gets famous, and then doesn’t have time for her, and she starts drinking. This is so by-the-numbers it’s boring. There was nothing here that was even remotely interesting. A waste of 100 minutes, I found.
Hayward’s performance is melodramatic enough. I’m sure it was considered better then than it is now. Here? Well, actually, I think she might be enough to bump Crawford up to #4. At least Crawford was histrionic. Here, it was just — boring.
McGuire — Gentleman’s Agreement is a film you should probably know about. It’s an exposé on anti-semitism couched in a film that is about an exposé on anti-semitism.
Gregory Peck is a writer who goes undercover pretending to be a Jewish man to trace the amount of anti-semitism that goes on in the country under everyone’s noses. And it deeply affects his personal life, as people begin to treat him differently. And Dorothy McGuire plays a woman he meets and starts seeing, and eventually falls in love with. And she at first doesn’t think much about what he’s doing, but slowly starts to realize that even she allows anti-semitism to happen by not correcting people when they make off-color jokes, or not wanting to upset her sister’s family, who won’t let a Jewish couple (with whom she is friends) rent an apartment in their development.
It’s a really great film and McGuire is really good in it. To me, she’s a second choice here, and without Rosalind Russell being in this category, she’d be the best and most likely to receive my vote. But I just can’t. For me it’s Russell all the way.
Russell — Mourning Becomes Electra is based on the famous play of the same name. And the film and play are a bit long and convoluted to try and explain. The film is almost three hours long. But, if you really want to know, what it’s about, you can probably find a synopsis on Wikipedia or something.
I’ll tell you, the film is actually pretty engaging, even at the long run-time. What makes it engaging are the two lead performances of Rosalind Russell and Michael Redgrave. They’re both terrific here, and, if you doubt that Rosalind Russell should have won this award for this performance — watch the film. Just watch it.
She’s the vote here. No contest.
Young — The Farmer’s Daughter is such a fairy tale that, in hindsight, of course they gave it this award. One performance is so dreary and depressing, and the other is light and gay and happy. That’s the Academy for you.
The film is about a Scandinavian girl who goes to work in the house of a political family and falls in love with their eldest son. And pretty soon she shows some political promise herself, the way she torpedos the campaign of a dude who she knows to be the wrong man for the job. And then she eventually gets backed to run herself and actually wins the election. It’s a rags to riches story, and it’s actually a pretty good film. Don’t expect amazing things, but it’s totally watchable and actually pretty entertaining at that.
Young’s performance is also good. Thing is, though, no matter how likable she was here, she still didn’t outperform Rosalind Russell. Rosalind Russell acted circles around her, and the reason Young won instead of Russell was because her film was more uplifting and her character was more likable. That’s it. She should not have won, at all. The end.
My Thoughts: This is a no-brainer. Russell all the way. Not only had she earned this two-fold by this point, her performance is incredible. And even if you think the performance wasn’t quite up to snuff — there’s no way you can tell me Loretta Young’s performance was any better. It’s too saccharine. If anyone was gonna win over Rosalind Russell, it should have been Dorothy McGuire, and, all things being equal, which one of those two actresses should have had an Oscar more? So, to me, this was Rosalind Russell’s year, and is one of the biggest travesties of all time that she didn’t win.
My Vote: Russell
Should Have Won: Russell
Is the result acceptable?: Hell no. This is probably the second biggest upset in Academy history. Everyone says that Rosalind Russell should have won here. And if you watch the performances, you can see just how much bette she was than Loretta Young. This is definitely one of the top five (probably even top two) least acceptable Best Actress decisions of all time (#1 will always be 1970). Really, really terrible. This is like Sandra Bullock winning for The Blind Side. It makes you want to gag.
Performances I suggest you see: Gentleman’s Agreement is an amazing film. It’s really great. And it’s a Best Picture winner. You should see it. If you don’t see it, you hate Jews.
Mourning Becomes Electra is a decent film, but — it’s based on the play. It feels like a play. It’s not a film I can watch a lot, but the performances are really great and it’s a good film. So it is worth seeing. Check it out for the performance, so you can see why she should have won.
The Farmer’s Daughter is an okay film. I mostly recommended it because, one, it’s not a bad film and is totally watchable, and two, you need to see just how unacceptable this decision was. Watch this performance against Rosalind Russell’s and you’ll see why this is considered such a bad decision.