The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1962
Love me some 1962. You get Lawrence of Arabia and you get To Kill a Mockingbird. And the great thing about it is — you know Lawrence was winning no matter what, so there’s really no argument to be had. We can just be happy for all the great movies.
Lawrence of Arabia wins Best Picture and Best Director for David Lean (talked about here). Gregory Peck wins Best Actor for To Kill a Mockingbird (talked about here). Perfect decisions, naturally. Best Supporting Actor was Ed Begley for Sweet Bird of Youth (talked about here), which is the lone poor decision for the year, but since it came in so minor a category it isn’t so bad. And Best Supporting Actress was Patty Duke for The Miracle Worker, which, she played Helen Keller. Obviously it was a good decision.
Bringing us to this category, which only had two choices, and I feel they made the right one.
BEST ACTRESS – 1962
And the nominees were…
Anne Bancroft, The Miracle Worker
Bette Davis, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Katharine Hepburn, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Geraldine Page, Sweet Bird of Youth
Lee Remick, Days of Wine and Roses
Bancroft — It’s The Miracle Worker. You probably should have seen it.
Anne Bancroft is Annie Sullivan. She is terrific here, and totally deserved the Oscar.
Davis — What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is a supremely fucked up film. It’s awesome.
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford (who had one of the biggest rivalries in cinema) play sisters. Davis was a child star whose career faded as she got older. Crawford (who was supremely jealous of Davis when she was famous) soon starts to have a career of her own. And now Davis is jealous of Crawford. And one night, there’s a terrible car accident. Crawford ends up paralyzed. We cut to years later, where the two women are much, much older. (They’re quite scary looking.) And Davis is slipping into psychosis and dreams of being a star again. She also torments her sister, because she thinks that she’s keeping her from fame (even though she thinks that she’s responsible for her condition).
And basically the film is Davis, really slipping into insanity, starving Crawford and doing shit like putting rats on platters and serving them to her — real fucked up shit. This film gave way to what’s known as the “psycho biddy” genre. And then the film ends with them on a beach, Crawford dying because she hasn’t eaten or drank anything in days, and Davis totally gone, completely insane. And we find out that it was Crawford, not Davis, who was driving the car that paralyzed her (we, and Davis, thought she was driving, because she was jealous of her sister, but instead we find out that it was Crawford, who was still jealous of Davis), and Davis goes, “You mean after all this time we could have been friends?”
It’s a great film, in a really fucked up way. Davis is fine here, but she’s really psycho in it. Definitely not a performance that should win an Oscar, but one that should definitely be seen. to me, this is a Mommie Dearest type performance. You don’t really like it, you just morbidly watch it and go, “Oh my god, I can’t believe this is happening.” She also won twice, so that completely eliminates any shred of possibility that I’d vote for her. (Seriously, you gonna vote for her for this and not for All About Eve?)
Hepburn — Long Day’s Journey into Night is based on the famous Eugene O’Neill play. I assume you heard about it, otherwise, what kind of education did you not get?
Basically, it’s a play about addiction. All the males are drunks and Hepburn is addicted to morphine. It’s a very famous stage role, and it makes sense that she was nominated here. It’s pretty by-the-book, the adaptation. Good, but to me, by this point, it’s too on-the-nose. Plus Hepburn had three more wins coming to her. The performance isn’t exactly something that needs to win, and she’d win after this. So there’s no way I’d vote for her here. Good performance, good film, but not vote.
Page — Sweet Bird of Youth is based on a Tennessee Williams play, and is about Paul Newman as a dude who heroically left his small town to go to Hollywood and make a name for himself. And he comes back, years later, having done basically nothing. All he really did was get small parts in stuff, and basically has become a gigolo for movie stars. All the aging actresses take him in, sleep with him for his youth and his looks, and he gets nowhere except free rides for a while. And he comes into town with Geraldine Page, an alcoholic movie star. He keeps her constantly drunk and passed out, and he’s hoping to get her to sign a contract with him that basically guarantees him a major part in a film with her. Meanwhile, in town, there’s Ed Begley as the town “boss,” and Newman has unfinished business with Begley’s daughter, and all of that goes on — it’s a big series of events. It’s a really good film. I liked it a lot.
Page does a good job here, but to me, she’s kind of a supporting character. The first half of the film — she’s barely in it, and most of the time she’s passed out. Then, while Newman is preoccupied with everything else, she sobers up and has a bigger presence over the rest of the film. But still, I didn’t really see enough her to vote for her. The nomination is fine, since she was good, but I can’t vote for her. No way. Good film, though.
Remick — Days of Wine and Roses is a great, great film. It’s jaw-droppingly good.
Jack Lemmon plays a publicist (I believe) who is also a social drinker. He meets Lee Remick and they fall in love. And together, they both descend into complete alcoholism. And then the film is basically about them becoming drunks, it getting really bad, then them trying to get sober, and then one of them getting sober but the other relapsing, and then it reversing, and — it’s a whole series of terribly realistic portraits of alcoholism. If you thought Jack Lemmon was a great actor — watch this fucking movie. This is, hands down, the best performance Jack Lemmon has ever put to film. I’m being totally serious.
And Lee Remick — she matches Lemmon step for step. To the point where, if Anne Bancroft wasn’t who she was, had the career she had, and played who she played — Lee Remick is a runaway winner in this category. Seriously. Put this performance one year later, and she wins in a fucking landslide. That’s how good Remick is here. And honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that her career wasn’t as illustrious as Bancroft’s, she’d have been my vote here. She’s seriously like a 1a to Bancroft’s 1. That’s how good this performance is. Wow.
My Thoughts: The two worth voting for here are Bancroft and Remick. They gave, by far, the best performances. If I had to pick which performance I liked better, the slight edge would go to Remick. But Anne Bancroft being who she is, and the career she had — that tips the scales in her favor. Plus she’s playing Annie Sullivan. So I vote Bancroft. Remick is a close second.
My Vote: Bancroft
Should Have Won: Bancroft, Remick
Is the result acceptable?: Oh yeah. Her and Remick gave the best two performances. And while I might give a slight edge to Remick, Bancroft is more deserving of an Oscar based on who she is, her career, etc. Plus Annie Sullivan is a great role. So absolutely.
Performances I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen The Miracle Worker, you’re dead to me.
You really should see Days of Wine and Roses. It’s amazing. It’s not essential in the general sense, but if you want to be friends with me, you need to see it. It’s an incredible film. See it. Don’t be a schmuck.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? — just see it. Trust me on this — just see it. You will not be disappointed. Holy shit, is this batshit insane.
Sweet Bird of Youth — good film. Liked it a lot. Paul Newman. Really well-done. Recommended somewhat highly.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night — solid film version of the play. Not for everyone, but good. Worth a watch. Recommended.