The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1967
What a let down 1967 is. Here’s a year where Hollywood made a break from tradition. The films were modern, realistic, gritty, violent, sexual — all the things classical Hollywood wasn’t. And then they chose In the Heat of the Night as Best Picture, which is like — music people will think up more examples of this than I can — when a new style of music is up and coming, like grunge or punk or something, and there are all those underground bands that really drive the movement forward, and are the backbone of it, and then the most corporate, watered down version of that movement becomes huge and has all the hits and is labeled as having started it. That’s what this is like to me. Here’s a category with three different films that perfectly capture what 1967 was about. And In the Heat of the Night wins Best Picture. Why not just fucking pick Doctor Dolittle and be done with it? Seriously. Fortunately, the other three choices did well elsewhere.
Best Actor this year was Rod Steiger for In the Heat of the Night, which I understand. Wouldn’t vote for it, but I understand. He was due. Totally cool with that. Best Supporting Actor was George Kennedy for Cool Hand Luke (talked about here), which I love. Best Supporting Actress was Estelle Parsons for Bonnie and Clyde, which I also love. And Best Director was Mike Nichols for The Graduate (talked about here). So essentially you have Hollywood spreading the wealth, but giving the top prize to the most controlled entity of the bunch. Terrible.
And then there’s this category. Most people would agree that the best choice was not made. However, on the other hand, you can’t really be too upset at the decision, because all of the principals contending for a vote all had (or later won) Oscars. So, while we’d all vote differently, it’s not that bad. And that’s good. One less thing.
BEST ACTRESS – 1967
And the nominees were…
Anne Bancroft, The Graduate
Faye Dunaway, Bonnie and Clyde
Edith Evans, The Whisperers
Audrey Hepburn, Wait Until Dark
Katharine Hepburn, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Bancroft — “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me… Aren’t you?”
You probably should know what The Graduate is about. It’s pretty famous.
Anne Bancroft is Mrs. Robinson, one of the most iconic characters in cinema. She’s good here. Whatever the performance doesn’t do, the iconic nature of the role makes up for. She’s clearly a finalist.
Dunaway — Bonnie and Clyde. They rob banks. It’s also pretty famous. You should probably have seen it.
Dunaway plays Bonnie. She’s fucking amazing here. Definitely also a finalist.
Evans — Hey, look at that, the only performance on here that’s not a finalist.
The Whisperers is about Edith Evans as an old woman hearing voices in her house. She’s got this fantasy existence where she thinks she’s rich. And her son has stolen some money and hidden it in her apartment, and she finds it, and thinks she really is rich. And basically we see her going around, thinking she’s rich meanwhile the dudes come looking for the money, and — it’s a bit of a strange film. I didn’t particularly enjoy it that much.
Evans is okay here, and I understand why she got nominated, but she shouldn’t have won. She had no shot here at all, and I would never vote for her in this category in a million years.
Audrey Hepburn — Wait Until Dark is a film about a blind woman whose apartment is infiltrated by thieves looking for a doll that contains some drugs or something. So what they do, while her husband is out of town, is come in, and concoct an elaborate scheme to search the apartment without her knowing. It’s a wonderfully great and tense film. You need to see it. You’ll love it.
Hepburn is great here, but she probably should have been nominated for Two for the Road instead. Either way, two strong performances puts her as a finalist as well.
Katharine Hepburn — Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. A liberal couple’s daughter comes home with a black fiancé, and they have to deal with this. It’s pretty big. You probably should have seen it.
Hepburn plays the mother. She’s really great here. Also definitely a finalist.
This is a category where you have to navigate several ‘good enough to win’ performances and figure out which one to vote for, so there’s really not much to say about the performances, because they’re all strong.
My Thoughts: This is actually pretty tough. We’re gonna have to narrow this one down.
First off is Edith Evans. No way. Veteran nomination, and the film was just too weird for my tastes.
Second off — oh man, I hate this — is Audrey. Why? because, while she was great in Wait Until Dark, I can’t vote for her for that performance. I know she was also in Two for the Road this year, and if she were nominated for that, I could use the strength of that performance, along with the fact that she was great here too, to boost her consideration for a vote. But, this way, it comes down to the fact — do I really want a Best Actress winner to be from Wait Until Dark? And I don’t. So she’s off. (This is exactly what happened to Ingrid Bergman in 1943.)
Third off — ooh, this is tough. I’d say it’s Hepburn. Maybe the two Oscars she won after this is skewing my vote, but, that’s how it is, I guess. I understand how the voting Academy wouldn’t know what she’d do after this, and felt the need to reward her. In the moment, in 1967, this is a terrific decision. It really is. But, since I have hindsight, I can use it. So, using it, that takes her off.
Now, that leaves us between Faye Dunaway and Anne Bancroft. Both deliver iconic performances here. Really iconic. Mrs. Robinson and Bonnie Parker.
Here’s the thing — my reason for voting is selfish. I say Dunaway is the vote. Both had Oscars — that is, Bancroft won in 1962 and Dunaway would win in 1976 — so it’s even there. And really, the performances I consider about even. Though, honestly, I’d give Dunaway the edge there. I thought she was terrific in the film.
Normally, that would be enough, but, honestly, the edge really was secondary to this reason, and I’m a proponent of full disclosure. My reason behind the Dunaway vote is — if she wins here, then she doesn’t necessarily have to win in 1976 for Network, and in that case, Talia Shire could win for playing Adrian in Rocky. See what I mean? Totally selfish. I know that scenario would almost never happen, but you know what? It helped me make my vote here — a vote that probably would have happened anyway. So who’s the idiot now?
My Vote: Dunaway
Should Have Won: Dunaway, Bancroft, Katharine Hepburn
Is the result acceptable?: It’s amazing. All four of Katharine Hepburn’s Oscar wins, you’d think that on one of them, you can point to — “Aaahh, see! She beat someone else that should have won!” But no. Not once. The first time, there were only three nominees, and she was the best choice. The second time was this. The third time was the year after this, where she tied Barbra Streisand, who was the one who should have won, so that worked out. And the fourth time — the other two performances worth voting for were Marsha Mason and Diane Keaton. Keaton had one, and Mason, while I think she should have won, I can see why they voted for Hepburn. So, out of four times, she never really fucked anyone else over. Weird how that worked out.
As for this one — I explained it all up there. Everyone else would win (or had) Oscars. So this actually is a really good decision, in its own weird way.
Performances I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde or Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner — you’re dead to me. Seriously, come on, what movies are you watching if you haven’t seen these?
Wait Until Dark — not essential for the canon, but essential for me. See how thrillers used to be made. Back when they were good. If you don’t see this one, we’re not friends.
4) Katharine Hepburn
1) Audrey Hepburn