The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1948

Outside of Best Picture, which I consider to be the single worst Best Picture choice of all time, 1948 is a great where with nary a bad decision to be fount. But since a year is judged by its Best Picture winner, 1948 seems worse than it is.

Hamlet wins Best Picture, which we all know I hate. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Red Shoes, Johnny Belinda and The Snake Pit were better choices there. All of them. Laurence Olivier won Best Actor for the film, and, as I said here, he actually deserved it, and it was a great decision (because Bogart wasn’t nominated). Best Actress was Jane Wyman for Johnny Belinda (talked about here), which I consider a top five decision, all time. Then John Huston, and his father, Walter Huston, won Best Director (talked about here), and Best Supporting Actor (talked about here), respectively, for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Both were terrific decisions.

And then we have this category. The only non-Best Picture decision I don’t like this year. It’s not so much because I don’t like Claire Trevor, her performance, or even Key Largo as a film. I just think Agnes Moorehead really deserved an Oscar, and I thought she was strong enough to win (as she always is). So I don’t see why she isn’t the vote here.


And the nominees were…

Barbara Bel Geddes, I Remember Mama

Ellen Corby, I Remember Mama

Agnes Moorehead, Johnny Belinda

Jean Simmons, Hamlet

Claire Trevor, Key Largo

Bel Geddes — A double nomination and I Remember Mama. This can’t really get any better.

I love I Remember Mama. This has become one of my favorite films of all time. It’s about a group of Scandinavian immigrants. And mostly, it’s about a girl remembering her Mama. Bel Geddes plays the girl who narrates the story. She’s got a big part in the film. She’s really great. But, to me, she wasn’t good enough to win here, despite my love of the film. If anyone was gonna win here, it was Irene Dunne. Geddes was good, but not for a win.

Corby — Ellen Corby plays an aunt of the family. Her big thing is that she’s getting married and doesn’t want to tell anyone about it because they’d laugh at her, but she’s in love. She doesn’t really have that big a part. She’s just kind of there. She’s fine and all, but if anyone in this category was winning from this film, it was Geddes. So Corby is just an empty nomination.

Moorehead — Johnny Belinda. What a film.

The film is abou a deaf girl, Belinda, who lives with her father and aunt. The father is Charles Bickford and the aunt is Agnes Moorehead. And the father thinks she’s dumb, and never taught her to communicate. But Lew Ayres, the town doctor, sees that she’s developed her own system of communication, and helps her to learn sign language. And she falls in love with him, since he’s the only person to every actually communicate with her in a meaningful way. And then she becomes a part of society, and is raped by the asshole of the town, and then there’s a whole thing about the town coming for the baby, and it gets melodramatic. It’s a really great film. They ground it so well early on that once they turn on the melodrama, you’re already hooked. It’s incredible.

Agnes Moorehead doesn’t really have an arc, per se, during the film, but she is there throughout, and when you see the film, you can see how good she is in the role. It’s a strong performance. And honestly, based on her past snubs, to me, she’s an easy vote here.

Simmons — Hamlet is Hamlet. You should know about it.

Simmons plays Ophelia.  She’s fine here. She doesn’t detract from the film at all. But, she’s just not a Shakespearean actress. She just isn’t. So this isn’t something she should win for. She doesn’t sell it the way Vivien Leigh would have (only problem there was, Leigh was too old by this point to play it).

Trevor — Key Largo is a great film that I’m sure most people have seen (or know they need to see). If you’re at all serious about liking movies, you know about this one.

Bogart plays a soldier going to tell the father of a fallen comrade that his son died. He feels really guilty about the man’s death, and doesn’t want to disappoint the guy’s father, who thinks he died a hero, so Bogart tells the father what happened, and makes it seem as though the son was the hero (even though it’s clear that Bogart was the one who was the hero).

Meanwhile, a gangster on the run from police, played by Edward G. Robinson, is at the hotel, and once people figure it out, they take over the hotel. And then Bogart eventually has to take them down. But, it’s a great, great film. Definitely worth seeing.

Claire Trevor plays Robinson’s mistress, a drunk. And she basically sits there talking nasty about him until he puts her down something awful. That’s really all she does. She sits at the bar, is a drunk, and has a few scenes with something to do. I never really saw why she won when I watched the film. I guess it’s because she is who she is. Which is fine. I’m still voting for Agnes Moorehead.

My Thoughts: It’s Moorehead. I really don’t see anyone else. Simmons was not exactly amazing here, Geddes and Corby cancel each other out (even though Geddes is the one to vote for. But even she wasn’t really good enough to win), and Trevor, to me, was good, but didn’t need the win. So this is Moorehead all the way. Again. And yet — again the Academy doesn’t vote for her. What is it with her and Claude Rains?

Also, this makes it a solid 4 for 4 on her. All four times she’s been nominated, I voted for her. Says a lot, doesn’t it? That she was in inherently winnable categories, yet never won. Idiots.

My Vote: Moorehead

Should Have Won: Moorehead

Is the result acceptable?: I guess it’s a matter of opinion. Both are well-respected actresses. I feel Moorehead had earned it more. So, to each his own. I say no.

Performances I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, you’re dead to me.

If you haven’t seen I Remember Mama, we can’t be friends. This is a movie I’d make you see. So see it.

Hamlet is really great. It’s only flaw is that it won Best Picture and shouldn’t have. Really strong adaptation.

Key Largo is a great, great film, and while not essential, you’d have a really hard time avoiding it, because literally, just about any set of films you do see, this one will pop up as one that you’ll probably also like because you liked those. So just see it. It’ll solve a lot of problems. It’s also great.


5) Simmons

4) Trevor

3) Corby

2) Bel Geddes

1) Moorehead

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