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The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1945

1945 is a quiet, but solid year. The Lost Weekend is a strong film based on the nominees, but not very flashy in the history of Best Picture. Solid choice though, I feel. Billy Wilder wins Best Director for the film, which was a great decision, since not only did he direct the Best Picture winner, but he was clearly overdue for Double Indemnity, which he should have won for the year before this. Ray Milland also won Best Actor for the film (talked about here), which was a great decision, again based on the category.

Best Actress this year was Joan Crawford for Mildred Pierce. I haven’t totally made up my mind on that category, but the result is acceptable, whether I end up voting for her or not. And Best Supporting Actor this year was James Dunn for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which was a terrific, terrific, and well-deserved decision.

So that only leaves this category, which — oh man, do I love this one. Like, a lot a lot. This has a lot to do with why I consider this a quietly strong year. The Supporting categories are really, really strong.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1945

And the nominees were…

Eve Arden, Mildred Pierce

Ann Blyth, Mildred Pierce

Angela Lansbury, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Joan Lorring, The Corn is Green

Anne Revere, National Velvet

Arden — Mildred Pierce (double nomination!) is actually a really strong film. I know there’s that HBO mini-series and stuff, but I like this version. Because this version is both melodrama and film noir. How many films pull off that combo?

The film is framed around the shooting of a dude. They find Mildred Pierce (played by Joan Crawford), wandering around dazed, saying she did it. And we flash between the cops questioning her to how we got there.

And the film is basically about Mildred and her daughters. Her oldest, played by Ann Blyth, is a little cunt. I’m pretty sure that’s the technical term for it. She hates her mother and doesn’t respect her at all. And the younger one is pretty cool, but she dies. And Mildred divorces her husband and tries to go start a restaurant on her own. And at first, she starts working in one to support the family, which Blyth berates her for, and gets help from Eve Arden, who plays a sassy waitress. She helps Mildred on her quest and becomes a close friend (and eventually runs the day to day operations of Mildred’s eventual restaurant). And then Mildred meets this other dude — the one who ends up dead — and he helps her out, and they’re together. But then Blyth steals him, and eventually shoots him. It’s a whole sordid series of events.

It’s actually a really good movie. It just works. It’s almost like From Dusk Till Dawn. You think you want more of one half and less of the other half, but if you changed either half of the movie, it wouldn’t work as well as it does.

First time that comparison has ever been made, I guarantee you.

Arden is solid here, but it’s pretty clear that, if anyone from this film was gonna get a vote, it’s Blyth. It’s really obvious when you watch the film. It’s like watching The Godfather and saying you’re gonna vote Clemenza in Best Supporting Actor over Michael. One of the two clearly has the bigger and better arc. That’s just how it is here.

Blyth — I like when the double nomination is back-to-back, alphabetically. Saves time.

Bltyh, as I said, is the only one worth voting for from this film, and is actually good enough for a vote. To me, she’s top two here.

Lansbury — It’s curious. Lansbury was nominated for her first film, Gaslight, and then her second and third films were this and National Velvet. That’s almost a Teresa Wright-type track record.

I guess she got nominated because she was an up and coming ingenue and they pushed to get her noticed. That’s what this seems like. You notice a lot of this in the 40s.

Anyway, the film, which you should know about — it’s very famous — is about Dorian Gray, who gets a picture painted of him, and he notices that the picture doesn’t age. It seems to have this quality that rubs itself onto him. So he ends up staying the same age for many years. However, it turns him sour. He becomes a bad person, and every evil deed he commits makes the picture turn more and more hideous. It’s a very fascinating film. It’s very, very well-done, too. I thought this would be generic. But this was a really strong film.

Lansbury plays a girlfriend of Dorian’s, who he actually falls in love with. But the portrait seems to make him do the exact wrong thing. And just as he’s about to run away with her, he suddenly decides to break up with her, and this makes her kill herself.

Lansbury was good here, and of course — it’s Angela Lansbury. That’s always going to merit some consideration. But honestly, to me, this category is between Ann Blythe and Anne Revere. Lansbury comes in a distant third for me.

Lorring — The Corn is Green is a surprisingly simple Bette Davis melodrama. She teaches at a school in a small town. One coal miner wants to learn to read. She teaches him. He eventually passes a literacy test. That’s basically the film. It’s pretty simple.

Joan Lorring play’s the dude’s girlfriend, who can’t stand him doing this. It’s like the girl who is like — it’s like hanging around the town you grew up in with the local schmucks. And they’re your friends and all, but, you have ambitions. And then you go to college, and they’re going to the bar. And you come back, and they’re like, “Look at Mr. Fuckin’ College. What’s the matter? Don’t know any fuckin’ Shakespeare?” And they sort of resent you bettering yourself, either because of secret insecurities or just plain ignorance. That’s kind of what Lorring does here. She resents the attention Bette is getting out of him, and schemes to get him to stop. She tells him she’s pregnant in order to get him to marry her and get him to stop taking lessons. She’s actually pretty evil.

It’s a good performance. She’s just not in the film enough to win, plus — Ann Blyth was better evil this year. Sorry.

Revere — National Velvet is the simplest and purest of films. It’s so fucking good.

Elizabeth Taylor is a young girl who wins a horse in a contest. She decides she wants to race it in the big race they have over there. Grand — whatever it is. And Mickey Rooney, a retired jockey, comes to help out. He stays and helps her train the horse. And the film is about her training the horse and working to get into this race. And then she ends up riding the horse in the race, and — well — just watch it, it’s fantastic.

Anne Revere plays Taylor’s mother. And she plays the mother figure throughout the film, but her big moment is when Taylor believes she won’t have enough money to enter the race, and Revere, who won a bunch of money swimming the English channel when she was just a girl, goes and gives it to her in order to enter the race. She was saving the money so she could do something nice with it, but she decides that seeing her daughter follow her dreams is more important than whatever she was gonna do with the money. It’s making me cry just thinking about it.

I was watching the film at the beginning, going, “How come Revere won this award?” And then as it got closer to the moment, I realized, “Oh, they’re setting it up. She’s gonna give her the money. If she gives her the money, this award is hers.” And then she gave her the money, and I was like, “Done. She wins.” I just go for this sort of stuff. So, Revere is my vote. All the way.

My Thoughts: Anne Revere is the only person worth voting for here. I’ll explain why with two reasons. First, through process of elimination. Joan Lorring is off. She’s good, but it’s too marginal a role, and just too evil to really matter. She’s a woman who dedicates herself to fucking over her boyfriend just to spite the woman he really loves. She’s great, but, it’s not something you vote for. She’s not tops in the category.

Then, Angela Lansbury, she was fine, and the role was filled with pathos, but it wasn’t very major, and, if you’re going for pathos, no one’s gonna beat Anne Revere in this category. This wasn’t Lansbury’s year.

Then, Eve Arden and Ann Blyth. Vote split. Not really, since Ann Blyth was clearly the vote if there was one. But, she was young, and played an evil, spoiled child. So, she could have won, and would have been okay to win, but, I don’t think the Academy would have voted for someone so unlikable. That’s all why Revere won from an Academy perspective. That’s one reason.

From my perspective, it’s just a role you go for. I remember watching her in the film, thinking, “Yeah, she’s good, but I’m not sure why she won.” And then, about midway through, I realized what they were building toward. And then I said, “If she does what I think she’s gonna do, she’s totally my vote.” And she did it. And I was sold right there. There’s no way you can deny the role of a mother who takes her savings and gives them to their child to follow their dream. It hits too many heartstrings. She’s my vote. Easily.

(I will accept Ann Blyth as an alternate, but no one else, to those of you also voting for this.)

My Vote: Revere

Should Have Won: Revere

Is the result acceptable?: Oh yeah. Anne Revere was the quintessential mother figure in 40s films. Jane Darwell was Ma, but Anne Revere was ‘dear Mother’. And that’s something that earns awards. She greatly deserved one of these, and this was the perfect role for her to win for. It was a wonderful decision.

Performances I suggest you see: National Velvet is a perfect film. I love it so much. It’s just so great. Such a simple story. Girl, has a horse, wants to train it to race in a big race. Very simple, and yet, Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney and Anne Revere make this movie. It works so fucking well. See this movie. I bet you’ll like it.

Also, Mildred Pierce is a good film. It’s a melodrama disguised as a noir, and is just a weird hybrid film. That makes it interesting. Plus, you get to juxtapose it to the way they did it in the HBO miniseries and see just how different you can get with the same source material. Either way, it’s a solid film. Worth checking out.

And The Corn is Green, isn’t that great, but it’s a Bette Davis melodrama, and that’s worth mentioning. If you’re into that sort of thing, see it. If not, you don’t need to see it at all. It’s not that great.

And The Picture of Dorian Gray, I guess, if you like Oscar Wilde and the novel, you might want to check it out. Otherwise, I don’t really care for it one way or the other.

Rankings:

5) Lorring

4) Lansbury

3) Arden

2) Blyth

1) Revere

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