The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1965
As I said the last time I covered 1965, it’s a year I feel like I should feel stronger about. But for some reason I don’t. To me, it’s just there. The Sound of Music was a great choice for Best Picture, and it makes perfect sense that it won. Doctor Zhivago wasn’t quite the masterpiece that Lawrence of Arabia and Bridge on the River Kwai were, and, as much as I love Darling, it probably shouldn’t have beaten The Sound of Music. Robert Wise winning Best Director for the film is a fine decision, and made the most sense.
Best Actor this year was Lee Marvin for Cat Ballou, and, as I said here, I really don’t like that at all. I love Lee Marvin, but Richard Burton really should have won for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (and maybe Rod Steiger for The Pawnbroker too). Best Actress was Julie Christie for Darling, which I love, despite how stacked that category was (Elizabeth Hartman and Samantha Eggar were fantastic as well. Plus — Julie Andrews). And Best Supporting Actor was Martin Balsam for A Thousand Clowns. That category was one of the weakest of all time, and I love Martin Balsam and A Thousand Clowns, so, while I don’t love the performance as an Oscar-winner, I like the decision.
Which brings us to this category. Honestly, despite the fact that she won already, this is a really easy decision. Shelley Winters was fucking amazing here.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1965
And the nominees were…
Ruth Gordon, Inside Daisy Clover
Joyce Redman, Othello
Maggie Smith, Othello
Shelley Winters, A Patch of Blue
Peggy Wood, The Sound of Music
Gordon — Inside Daisy Clover is a dark, dark comedy about Hollywood.
Daisy Clover is a young girl on Coney Island. She’s played by Natalie Wood. And she lives with her mother — Ruth Gordon, and they live in a trailer and work in a stand on the boardwalk all day. And Gordon sits and drinks and plays cards, while Wood dreams of being a big star. And eventually she manages to get a demo tape to the right man, and is signed to a contract. And the whole thing feels like this great fairytale.
But then she gets to Hollywood. And the harsh reality sets in. They change her background, her name, and her appearance. They force her into all these things she doesn’t want to do, and groom her into a star. And eventually she becomes a huge star, and is terrible unhappy. And her only happiness is brought by Robert Redford, a male rising star. Only he’s in the closet. He has an affair with Wood, but he’s actually gay. And basically we see her get to the top, and gradually start falling, and there’s this great scene at the end which manages to be both comic and tragic at the same time, where Wood tries to kill herself, but is unable to. Like, she puts her head in the oven, but not enough gas comes out, and there’s a series of phone calls and visitors, and it’s just such a great scene. And finally she ends up blowing her house up, essentially deciding she doesn’t give a fuck anymore.
I really, really liked this film. Some people think it’s over-the-top, or campy, but I think it’s pretty great. That’s really all I have to say. Everyone should see it and decide for themselves.
Ruth Gordon does a good job as Daisy’s mother. She’s not on screen all that much, but she does a good job with what she has. Thing is, though, she’s one of those memorable characters, but she doesn’t have that extra — that extra something that takes a good performance and makes it something you vote for. To me, I’d only vote for her if there was absolutely no one else. But there is someone else. So that works out. Plus she won three years after this. That’s another reason I don’t really want to vote for her here.
Redman — Othello is Othello. You should probably know about it. It’s pretty famous.
Redman plays Emilia, Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s servant. She’s basically silent for the film. She barely says a word. I mean, she has some stuff to do at the end, where she realizes what her husband did, and then is killed. But, really, she doesn’t do all that much here, and probably was nominated because she is who she is.
Smith — Maggie Smith plays Desdemona, who is clearly the performance in the film that deserved the nomination. She’s Othello’s wife. Keep in mind, she’s white, he’s not. This is a big deal in the play. Especially with her father. And Iago basically convinces Othello that she’s cheating on him, and Othello starts being cruel to her, and eventually kills her. It’s a fun play. Very upbeat.
Maggie Smith is fine in the role, but, she’d win two Oscars after this for vastly better performances. So I see no reason to vote for her, plus Redman’s performance cancels this one out.
Winters — A Patch of Blue is a great, great film about racism. The film is about a blind girl, played beautifully by Elizabeth Hartman, who lives with her grandfather, a drunk, and her mother, a prostitute, played by Shelley Winters. And Winters fucking hates her. All she does all day is get together with her friend and berate Hartman. She’s really fucking cruel to her. And Hartman makes some money putting together beads for a dude who sells necklaces, and she sits in the park putting them together.
And one day, she bumps into Sidney Poitier, and spills her beads. And he feels bad for her, and starts talking to her and helping her out, and they develop a friendship. And since he’s the only one to ever be nice to her, she falls in love with him. And he develops feelings for her, but he’s worried because he’s black and she doesn’t know that. And a lot of the film is their relationship developing, with Poitier not knowing how to tell her that he’s black. And eventually Poitier decides that they face too much resistance and that they can’t be together. So what he does is, first, he gets her away from Winters and brings her to his place, and then he calls up a blind school that is willing to take her in. And he convinces her to wait a year. And if she still feels strongly about him, then they can look into getting married. And he sends her away on the bus.
Don’t get too hung up on the synopsis. Just watch the film. It’s one of the most real, tender romances I’ve ever seen. It’s so beautiful. And the racism angle is so artfully done. You get the great story first, and the message behind it never feels forced. The film makes it so the audience thinks what they should be thinking, but not because of direct statements. It all comes so organically. I cannot speak highly enough of this film. This is one of the best films I discovered because of this Quest. Hartman, Poitier and Winters are beyond incredible here.
Winters — I feel she easily blows the rest of the competition out of the water with her performance. She really only had one other performance to contend with (Gordon’s), and to me, she outdoes that with ease. This is her category all the way.
Wood — The Sound of Music is The Sound of Music. You should know about it.
Peggy Wood plays the mother of the convent Julie Andrews is at, who convinces her to take the job as the governess, because she’s causing mayhem there (hence, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?”). Then, later, Andrews comes back, upset, and Wood sings “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” convincing her to go back and face her problems. And later she also hides the family from the Nazis. That’s pretty much all she does. She’s not really in the film all that much, and her singing voice is dubbed, so for me, why bother voting for her when half the performance was done by someone else? (Isn’t this the same reason Audrey Hepburn wasn’t nominated for My Fair Lady?)
My Thoughts: To me, this is all Winters. The Othello nominations cancel each other out, Wood barely did anything in the film, and Gordon, while good, was not good enough to win, and she won in 1968. Winters was incredible in the role, and she’s a clear-cut winner here. No need to complicate things with extra thought.
My Vote: Winters
Should Have Won: Winters
Is the result acceptable?: Hell yeah. Hands down the best performance in the category. She was fantastic here.
Performances I suggest you see: The Sound of Music — if you haven’t seen this, you don’t love movies.
A Patch of Blue is a fantastic, fantastic film. This will be one of the top films I list at the end of all this when I list which films I’m glad I discovered because of this Quest. I cannot begin to tell you how great this is as well as simply watching the film can. This film is so good that if I had a list of essential films that aren’t classically essential, I’d put this on it. It’s amazing.
Inside Daisy Clover is a fantastic film. A lot of people don’t like it for various reasons, but I think it’s tremendous. I like how dark it is, and I thought it was really good. I recommend this highly to everyone. If you love Natalie Wood, you’ll like this film. Trust me on that. It’s good.