The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1964

1964 is a year that you can’t do anything about, so it’s better to just enjoy it. My Fair Lady wins Best Picture, and as much as people love Dr. Strangelove, it was never gonna beat My Fair Lady. It just wasn’t. George Cukor finally wins his well-deserved Best Director statue for the film, and Rex Harrison also wins Best Actor for it (talked about here). I’m cool with the Cukor win, and the Harrison one too, just because I know that Strangelove never really had a shot at anything.

Best Actress this year was Julie Andrews for Mary Poppins, which is cool. The category didn’t really have a definitive winner, and Julie Andrews was gonna win one at some point anyway. Worked out just fine here. And Best Supporting Actor was Peter Ustinov for Topkapi (talked about here). I’m cool with it. The category was really bad. So it’s fine that he won.

And that’s pretty much 1964. Overall, good, as long as you realize what was and wasn’t possible. And then this category, which — meh, it sucked. I don’t really care what happened here. To an extent. I still have an opinion, though.


And the nominees were…

Gladys Cooper, My Fair Lady

Edith Evans, The Chalk Garden

Grayson Hall, The Night of the Iguana

Lila Kedrova, Zorba the Greek

Agnes Moorehead, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte

Cooper — My Fair Lady is My Fair Lady. You should know what it’s about.

Gladys Cooper plays Professor Higgins’s mother. She doesn’t really have much to do in the film — it’s one of those things where they were gonna nominate the film in every category they could, plus she’s a veteran, so it was a perfect storm that lead to a nomination. But she’s barely in the film. She doesn’t show up until after the intermission, and really only has two short scenes, in the film. She really doesn’t do all that much at all. But it’s a performance where, when you see it, you enjoy it. You root for her. She’s prim and proper, but she makes cracks at her son (who could use some deflating of his ego), and ultimately takes a liking to Eliza, and then cheers her on when she leaves him .So I understand the nomination. I just can’t vote for her. She’s barely in the film.

Evans — The Chalk Garden is an interesting little film. It’s based on a play. And it shows. Haley Mills, the little Parent Trap girl, is grown up a bit here and plays a little monster. She’s an evil little girl who’s driven away all of her nannies. And her grandmother, played by Edith Evans, is worried bout being old or something like that. She keeps trying to grow stuff in an old garden where stuff just won’t grow anymore. But anyway, Deborah Kerr comes in as a mysterious governess, and Mills tries to drive her away, but it doesn’t work. So then she tries to find out about her background. And she keeps prying and prying and prying until she finds out that Kerr was once sentenced to death. And this causes great anguish and pain, and Kerr then leaves the house, and — well we’re only concerned with Edith Evans here.

Veteran nomination. Cranky old lady. No more, no less. Adequate, but never going to win. There are dozens of these nominations in the category over the years. None has won (unless you count Ethel Barrymore, but that one wasn’t a cranky old lady performance as much as it was a morose dying old lady. Her other ones were much more cranky). Not gonna start here.

Hall — The Night of the Iguana is a weird little John Huston film he made with Richard Burton. Burton is a preacher who, in the first scene, goes a bit nuts and starts ranting and raving on the pulpit. He loses his job. Then we cut to him, two years later, as a drunken tour guide for a shitty travel company. He drives hot, sweaty, cranky tourists to sites nobody cares about. And on one of his tours, Grayson Hall is there with her daughter or niece or something. And she’s like 16, and it basically Lolita. She tries to get Burton to sleep with her, and her wants to. And Hall is very strict and tells him he better not try anything. And eventually he hijacks the bus and takes it to an old hotel run by his ex-wife/lover Ava Gardner. And while they’re there, he struggles with temptation — drink and 16-year old. And some other stuff happens, and then he decides to stay and run the hotel with Gardner.

It’s a pretty good movie. A bit weird for most. Not bad, though. Grayson Hall is really good as the strict mother who knows what Burton will do and tells him not to. She’s very good, and in a category like this, really stands out. However, I can’t vote for her.

Kedrova — Zorba the Greek is a positively delightful film. If you ever need to get happy and remember how wonderful life is — put this movie on. It’ll make you smile.

The film is about a British dude who goes to Greece to see his roots. There, he meets Zorba, a peasant, who is quite the character. He shows this dude how to live, and takes him around. And they go back to operate a mine that the dude inherited and Zorba goes with him. And while in the town, Zorba starts sleeping with Kedrova, who plays a local hotel owner. She quickly falls in love with him, because he has that effect on people. And Zorba is treating it as a fling, but the dude liesto Kedrova and says Zorba’s gonna marry her. And then she gets sick and dies, but Zorba stays by her side throughout. More happens, but this is where our involvement ends for this article.

It’s a fine performance. I am completely cool with it winning because it gives the film some love. But — well, you’ll see my opinion on the matter down at the bottom. We’re almost there.

Moorehead — Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte is a psycho biddy film, sort of like an unofficial sequel to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Bette Davis plays Charlotte, whose fiance ends up dead the night of their engagement. Now she’s an old recluse, living in her house with her housekeeper, Velma (wonderfully played by Agnes Moorehead). She’s looked at as a murderer, meanwhile she’s this horribly fragile woman living in seclusion. And her cousin, played by Olivia de Havilland shows up, along with Joseph Cotten, and very slowly, Davis starts to go crazy. She hears voices, and hears the title song (written for her by her fiance) sung throughout the house. And gradually it comes out that de Haviland and Cotten are doing this, in order to inherit the house and sell it or something like that. And Velma finds out about it, and she’s killed, and then Charlotte finds out, and the final moment is her dropping a large statue on the two of them as they embrace. It’s a pretty fucked up film. It feels like it has a layer of grime on it. Deliberately.

Moorehead, as I said, plays Velma, and she’ s so wonderfully crude here. You see this and compare it to her performances in Citizen Kane or Magnificent Ambersons or The Seventh Cross or Mrs. Parkington, and it’s a 180° difference. It really is. She does a tremendous job, and, to be totally honest — this woman was deserved an Oscar from 23 years before this. I don’t understand how she doesn’t win no matter what.

My Thoughts: Okay, this is pretty bad. But I’m going to use my natural flawless logic on this one.

Agnes Moorehead. Done.

This woman could do anything, could play anything, and be convincing doing it. And the fact that she never won an Oscar was about as big a travesty as Claude Rains never winning an Oscar. So she automatically becomes my vote. Now, my rationale for this, aside from the fact that she was really great as Velma:

Evans was never going to win. Crotchety old woman/veteran nomination. They never win. Cooper, slightly better, but essentially the same thing. Hall — good, but doesn’t have the stature of Agnes Moorehead. And Kedrova — I like Moorehead better. So Moorehead’s my vote, and the Academy fucked up by never giving her an Oscar.

My Vote: Moorehead

Should Have Won: Moorehead

Is the result acceptable?: I really don’t care enough to say no. But the fact that Agnes Moorehead never won an Oscar is not acceptable.

Performances I suggest you see: My Fair Lady. Essential, no matter how you cut it. You must see this.

Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte is an interesting film because — it’s a psycho biddy film, just like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, and those always hold a certain amount of interest. It’s pretty batshit crazy. I think people should see this just because it’s so off-the-wall.

The Night of the Iguana is a pretty good film, but not for everybody. It’s John Huston and Richard Burton, and I recommend it only if you think you’re gonna like it or like either of those two men. Otherwise, you probably won’t care for it.

Zorba the Greek is just so damned lively. He’s such a great character. I don’t love the film, but it sticks in my brain so damned much. I have to recommend this film because he’s just such a character. It’s a good film. Definitely worth checking out.


5) Evans

4) Kedrova

3) Hall

2) Cooper

1) Moorehead


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