The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1943
I love 1943. The synopsis goes by so quickly.
Casablanca wins Best Picture and Best Director for Michael Curtiz (talked about here). I rest my case.
Paul Lukas wins Best Actor for Watch on the Rhine (talked about here). Second worst Best Actor-winning performance (and probable worst Best Actor decision) of all time. Really terrible. Jennifer Jones wins Best Actress for The Song of Bernadette (talked about here). Makes sense, and was a solid choice, since Ingrid Bergman was nominated for the wrong film (not Casablanca). And Best Supporting Actor was Charles Coburn for The More the Merrier (talked about here). Great decision, although it breaks my heart to see Claude Rains lose.
Then there’s this category. Weak as hell, completely irrelevant, historically, and thoroughly forgettable in every way. The decision almost doesn’t matter.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1943
And the nominees were…
Gladys Cooper, The Song of Bernadette
Paulette Goddard, So Proudly We Hail!
Katina Paxinou, For Whom the Bell Tolls
Anne Revere, The Song of Bernadette
Lucile Watson, Watch on the Rhine
Cooper — The Song of Bernadette is a film about a young girl who is a terrible student. She means well, but she just isn’t very bright. She goes to a convent school and is one of the worst students. But one day, while playing in the city dump with friends, she sees a vision of the Virgin Mary. And she keeps going back there. And eventually it becomes a huge thing, since no one at first believes her, and there’s an investigation, but eventually she starts to convince everyone that she’s telling the truth. And then it comes out that the real reason she saw the vision is because there was toxic waste at the dump and she’s been getting slowly poisoned by it.
Gladys Cooper plays an elder mother superior of the convent Bernadette joins. She doesn’t like how she’s a celebrity of sorts, and makes life extra hard on her. She’s the old, bitchy nun. But then, when she sees how dedicated Bernadette is, and how she refused to complain about the severe suffering she’d been enduring (since she did catch radiation sickness/leukemia, and never told anyone anything, because she figured that’s what religious devotion was), she finally breaks down and shows affection toward her.
It’s an Oscar-type role. I didn’t particularly love the performance, but that’s because I’m predisposed against religious films. Plus I felt Cooper was better in Now, Voyager. I wouldn’t have been opposed to her winning, but for this film — I can’t vote for her.
Goddard — So Proudly We Hail is a film about nurses. All the female nurses that were just as much a part of the war as the men were. We follow three of them. Claudette Colbert is the main one, who marries a soldier and has to deal with not knowing if he’s alive or not. Veronica Lake is the tragic one, the one you know is gonna die. And Paulette Goddard plays the sexy one. The one who flirts with all the soldiers, not seriously, but then falls in love with one. That’s basically what she does. She gets to be funny and sexy and charming for most of the film. And that, to me, is worth a nomination. And honestly, given the weakness of the category, I might just throw out the performances and vote for the person. Which gives her a decent shot at a vote from me.
Paxinou — For Whom the Bell Tolls is based on the Hemingway novel. We follow a band of Spanish guerillas. In them is Gary Cooper, an American schoolteacher. He meets Ingrid Bergman, and they fall for one another. And they fight and stuff, and it’s long — honestly, this film was really boring to me.
Katina Paxinou plays the lead female of sorts of the guerillas. Akim Tamiroff is sort of the male leader, but she’s the stubborn female who is also there all the time and is really the boss of the group. She’s stubborn, and very much a strong character. It makes sense this would be here. Plus, Paxinou had never been on film before, and is a very unique looking woman. It makes sense that they’d buy into the character and vote for it (especially in this weak category). to someone in 1943, it’s almost like this character was written for her. Kind of like Christoph Waltz coming out of nowhere with Hans Landa.
Personally, I didn’t love the film, and while I did enjoy the performance, I don’t see it as a necessity to vote for it. I don’t care that she won at all, but, from my end — I didn’t love any of the performances that much, she’s not really an actor, and the category is completely irrelevant historically, so ultimately I’m probably just gonna pick whoever. She was good, though, Paxinou.
Revere — Double nomination. Revere plays Bernadette’s mother. She made a career out of “mother” roles. She won for her best one in National Velvet. Here, she was splitting votes with Gladys Cooper. It’s basically the same mother role she always played. Nothing new here at all. Good, but — she’d win for a better one.
Watson — Watch on the Rhine is a Bette Davis melodrama. It’s a war melodrama, but still, a melodrama. Bette Davis and Paul Lukas are a family that’s been living in Europe the past decade. They’ve responded to the Nazis by engaging in anti-Fascist activities. That has made him a wanted man. They come to America, looking for asylum. But then a dude comes who has been conspiring with the Germans, and threatens everything. And then the dude ends up having to go back to Europe to help a friend in trouble and has to leave his family behind. And then the end is the family not having heard from him and the son going out to look for him, and Bette standing behind, worried, but brave. You know how it is. Melodrama.
Lucille Watson plays the matriarch of the family. She really has nothing to do here. It’s one of those veteran roles that got nominated a lot in the first decade of the category. To me this is a blank nomination and not worth a vote at all.
My Thoughts: What a shitty category. Cancel the two Bernadette nominations off the top, take off Watson because I don’t like the film and I’m bitter about Lukas winning for it (not to mention the fact that she really has nothing to do in the film), and right there, you’re left with Paxinou and Goddard. And right there, I get why Paxinou wins. But me — I vote my own way. I don’t like For Whom the Bell Tolls. And I really like Paulette Goddard. Plus she made Modern Times and The Great Dictator. That’s worth an Oscar, to me. So I’ll vote for her. Why not? It’s not like the category made things any better.
My Vote: Goddard
Should Have Won: Honestly, no one.
Is the result acceptable?: Sure. No one really cares about this one.
Performances I suggest you see: So Proudly We Hail — good film. Worth a watch. Recommended.
The Song of Bernadette — good film. Worth a watch. Recommended.
Watch on the Rhine — don’t like it. But you should see it so you can see how bad a choice Paul Lukas was as Best Actor over Bogart.
For Whom the Bell Tolls — don’t like it. But it’s a big film, a major film, and a lot of money was put into it. So I have to mention it. But I found it very long and very boring.