The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1975
1975 is a pretty basic Academy year. No need to get complicated with it.
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest wins Best Picture, Best Actor for Jack Nicholson (talked about here), Best Actress for Louise Fletcher (talked about here), and Best Director for Milos Forman (talked about here). All are great in their own way, though I didn’t think Best Director was absolutely necessary, even though it makes sense. And Best Supporting Actor was George Burns for The Sunshine Boys (talked about here). Great veteran Oscar.
So that leaves this category. Whoa, is it weak. Really weak. Fortunately, they made the best decision, so it worked out.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1975
And the nominees were…
Ronee Blakley, Nashville
Lee Grant, Shampoo
Sylvia Miles, Farewell, My Lovely
Lily Tomlin, Nashville
Brenda Vaccaro, Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough
Blakley — Nashville is perhaps Robert Altman’s best film, in that it’s the perfect example of the type of films he made.
There’s really no way to explain the entire plot of the film, since it’s largely plotless. It takes place over five days leading up to a political rally. And we follow a bunch of people (like, over twenty) throughout those five days. I’m only gonna deal with the specific performances nominated, because there’s just too much to talk about otherwise (and the film is essential, so you just need to see it).
Ronee Blakley plays a beloved country singer, who is the biggest singer in country music, but is also really emotionally fragile and messed up. We first see her, fresh off a nervous breakdown, performing. Then she gets heat stroke and is hospitalized again. And in the hospital, she has a fight with her husband, which sends her teetering toward another breakdown, which starts to manifest during another performance later on in the film, where she starts rambling on stage. And then the next day she goes on at the big convention, and is shot by dude in the crowd.
Blakley is fine in the role. I wouldn’t vote for her, but I’m sure some people would. To me, she and Tomlin split votes, so they cancel each other out.
Grant — Lee Grant is one of those actresses who was probably going to win one of these eventually. This was the perfect scenario for her, since she was really the only person to vote for.
Shampoo is a film about Warren Beatty as a hairdresser who is sleeping with a bunch of women. He’s dating Goldie Hawn, but also sleeping with Lee Grant, who is Jack Warden’s wife. And Warden’s mistress is Julie Christie, who is Beatty’s ex-girlfriend. And Beatty is trying to get funding for his salon from Warden, and — well, a lot of interesting things happen.
Lee Grant is Warden’s wife, and she’s having an affair with Beatty. And she is really good in this film. She does a really good job with it. In another year, she probably wouldn’t win, since the role might not be substantial enough for a win, but in this category — it’s good enough to vote for her. It’s really, really weak. And I know they’d have given her one some other time, so I’m just gonna vote for her here and get it over with. This category is terrible.
Miles — Farewell, My Lovely is based on the great Raymond Chandler novel with Philip Marlowe. It starts with him encountering this big, hulking dude in a bar as he’s looking for his old girlfriend. And Marlowe, if you read the books, is a very passive hero. He just takes things as they come. And he ends up agreeing to help this dude, and goes about it, and gets embroiled in a whole weird series of things that all end up coming around and being related — it’s a pulp detective novel.
Robert Mitchum plays Marlowe, and does a good job with it. Sylvia Miles plays the widowed wife of the man who owned the club where the dude’s girlfriend worked. And she’s now a drunk, and Mitchum tempts her with booze to get information out of her. And at first she gives him some stuff, but it’s not really useful, and it’s pretty clear she’s lying. But then later on, she gives him some stuff, and then is later found murdered because of it. It’s not a very big performance. It’s one of those where, Sylvia Miles has been nominated before, so anything she does is gonna get some attention. That’s why she was nominated. Plus the category is really weak. I wouldn’t vote for it, but it’s a nice performance.
Tomlin — Double nomination.
Tomlin plays a white gospel singer who has two deaf children. She is married to Ned Beatty, and they have fights over her caring more about the children than him. Her big scene is with Keith Carradine, a womanizing country singer who tries to pick her up. And at first she’s not really into him, but then he sings a tender song and she decides to go back with him, and then they sleep together, and there’s this great scene where they’re in bed afterwards, and he’s already calling the next girl he’s going to sleep with to make plans with her.
Tomlin does a good job in the film, but again, her and Blakley cancel each other out. I like her, but I just can’t vote for her.
Vaccaro — Once is Not Enough is one of the worst films I saw during this Oscar Quest. Hands down, one of the worst.
Kirk Douglas is a movie producer who can’t get anything made, and he marries a lesbian, and then his daughter goes and sleeps with a douchebag — it’s like a terrible soap opera. And it looks like one too. No joke, ten years later, this would have been on The Young and the Restless. The fact that the film has that woman’s name in front of it tells me it had to have been based on one of those steamy romance novels women love to read.
Brenda Vaccaro plays a woman who is very plain-spoken, and is looking for dick. That’s basically her character. She wants to get fucked, and she tells it like it is. So that, as you can tell, breathes a bit of life into the film. But not much. I refuse to vote for this performance based on the sheer lack of quality of the fun. Refuse.
My Thoughts: It’s Grant. It’s really not that complicated. The Nashville nominees cancel each other out (though I liked Blakley’s performance more), Vaccaro had no shot at all, and Miles couldn’t compete with Grant. Grant’s an actress that had one of these coming for a while, and this was a perfect storm of a situation for her. She was the choice. She was absolutely great in Shampoo. I vote her.
My Vote: Grant
Should Have Won: Grant
Is the result acceptable?: Absolutely. Best decision in the category and a very deserving actress.
Performances I suggest you see: Shampoo is a great film. Pretty well-known, culturally, and also very good, and very funny. Highly recommended.
Nashville is listed on AFI’s top 100 films of all time and is constantly listed among the best films, so that pretty much makes it essential.
Farewell, My Lovely is a great film. A nice adaptation of the Chandler novel. Mitchum is terrific. Highly recommended, this one, for fans of noir, Chandler novels, Robert Mitchum, and just good detective stories. Which I imagine is a lot of people.