Posts Tagged ‘ Mara ’
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1962 was a strong year in the Best Actress category, with two seasoned veterans (Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis), two first time nominees (Lee Remick and Anne Bancroft), and one already established pro (Geraldine Page). It reminded me very much of this past year’s nominations with Streep and Close taking the veterans role, Davis and Mara as the first time nominees (for Best Actress that is; I know Davis was nominated already in Supporting for Doubt), and Williams as the pro.
The winner was predictably Anne Bancroft for her role as Annie Sullivan, the half-blind teacher who helps a young Helen Keller, in The Miracle Worker. And while it’s a fine, subtle performance, it’s a shame she didn’t win instead for her role as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate in 1967. That year it would go to Katharine Hepburn as a consolation prize for the death of her partner Spencer Tracy in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, but in reality, Hepburn’s performance as Mary Tyrone in Eugene O’Neil’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night should have won the Best Actress performance of 1962.
Hepburn’s character was a huge departure from her other nominated performances (most of her previously nominated performances were in some ways Hepburn playing Hepburn, but doing it beautifully). But Mary Tyrone, the morphine-addicted, depressed mother of Eugene O’Neil is a triumph in her trembling rage. One minute she’s the sweet girl of her youth and the next she’s smashing plates at the dinner table. The most chilling scene is the end, where Hepburn comes down from the attic dragging her wedding dress, believing that she’s a little girl about to enter the convent for the first time.
Another nominee that year who in her own right deserved to win was Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. Nowadays seen as gothic, gay camp, Baby Jane is a maudlin, macabre tale of an aging child actress losing her mind and imprisoning her sister (Joan Crawford) out of jealousy. One of the great things about Davis (and perhaps what makes her at times stronger than Hepburn as an actress) is that she was always willing to be “ugly” to the audience. And she lets it all go in this role, wearing white caked-on face paint, an awful blonde doll-like wig, and smeared red lipstick. Davis is intolerably cruel to her sister Blanche (Joan Crawford), but the audience still feels sympathy for the pathetic mess she has become. One of the best scenes in the film is when Davis puts a bow in her hair and dances around a mirror singing one of her old vaudeville songs and then finally seeing herself as an old, withered old woman, she screams in agony. Incidentally if Davis would have won, she would have been the first actress to win three Oscars. The honor would go to Hepburn instead.
The other two formidable performances that year were Lynn Remick (with her sole career nomination) as Jack Lemon’s alcoholic wife in The Days of Wine and Roses and Geraldine Page (with her third nomination out of five) as the boisterous film star Alexandra de Lago who courts playboy Paul Newman in Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Birth of Youth. Page is saucy as the over-the-hill actress who reminds one of Blanche Dubois, except with an impeccable wit and a better sense of style.
Remick on the other hand, starts off her role as a sober, mellow young woman and then takes on the alcoholic, brash tendencies of her husband (Jack Lemon). Tragically, while he gets sober in the end, she doesn’t. It’s a good performance and worthy of a nomination, yet not the one I would have bet money on that year.
Overall, 1962 offered some great roles for women, but in my opinion Hepburn deserved this Oscar more than Bancroft. I wish they could switch Oscars for these two roles and for the ones in 1967 when they would face each other again.
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