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« The Actress. A Book. | Main | Who is Jessica Chastain? »
Thursday
Aug252011

Your Fav' Sixties & Seventies Ladies

During Summer 2011  -- winding down at last! -- we've been asking TFE readers to choose the most memorable Best Actress nominated film characters. Which film characters have you taken into your hearts and headspace most fully? Who is always popping into mind unbidden? Below are the latest voting results for August's polls covering the 1960s & 1970s (previous results: 1980s and 1991-2010). We used five year intervals for voting and asked readers to choose the 5 most memorable characters from each group of 25 Oscar nominees.

If you're looking for these polls to provide a "face" of an era it looks like Julie Andrews wins the early 60s -- she was thoroughly modern back then! -- and Faye Dunaway takes over from there for a long run at the top (1966-1980) [* indicates that it was an Oscar winning role.]

1961-1965


  1. HOLLY GOLIGHTLY (Audrey Hepburn) Breakfast at Tiffany's
  2. MARY POPPINS* (Julie Andrews) Mary Poppins
  3. [tie] MARIA VON TRAPP (Julie Andrews) The Sound of Music and BABY JANE HUDSON (Bette Davis) Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
  4. ANNIE SULLIVAN* (Anne Bancroft) The Miracle Worker

Runners Up: Though the top five were never in question, DEANIE LOOMIS from Splendor in the Grass, ALMA BROWN* from Hud (who also tied) and DIANA SCOTT*, the "sunshine girl" from Darling each had deep pockets of swoony admirers.  The remaining two top ten'ers, further back in voting were MARY TYRONE from Long Day's Journey Into Night, and CESIRA* from Two Women.

Observations: The Julie Andrews characters flip-flopped for the first week of voting until Mary took flight and left Maria behind on the hilltop. Baby Jane tried everything to kick Maria off the mountain: writing letters to daddy, rat dinners, actual kicking; a very tight race that was for third place and in the end they tied. Aside from Audrey's win, there was little consensus.

Geraldine Page finds "pure hard gold" in boytoy Paul Newman in Sweet Bird of Youth

I was disappointed at the lack of substantial votes for Natalie Wood's preggers single gal in Love With the Proper Stranger and Geraldine Page's bitch goddess superstar in Sweet Bird of Youth (though the latter almost cracked the top ten) but voting was all over the place in this round. 

Weakest Showing: No actresses suffered the "no votes" problem in this half decade grouping, but ALMA from Summer and Smoke, JANE FOSSETT from The L Shaped Room and MARGARET HAMMOND from This Sporting Life barely found any favor.

1966-1970


  1. MRS ROBINSON (Anne Bancroft) The Graduate
  2. MARTHA* (Elizabeth Taylor) Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
  3. BONNIE PARKER (Faye Dunaway) Bonnie & Clyde
  4. FANNY BRICE* (Barbra Streisand) Funny Girl
  5. [TIE] ELEANOR OF ACQUITAINE* (Katharine Hepburn) The Lion in Winter and MISS JEAN BRODIE* (Maggie Smith), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

still in her prime.Runners Up: update. whoops. I misread the chart. Maggie Smith's Oscar winning haughty schoolmarm actually tied with Hepburn's Lion in Winter character in the last couple of days of voting. I had missed that! What a relief, Miss Jean Brodie, still being in her prime!] The remaining four players in the top ten are as follows: GLORIA BEATTY danced as fast as she could for 7th place for They Shoot Horses Don't They? Then with far fewer votes came, JENNIFER CAVALLERI from Love Story, SUSY HENDRIX from Wait Until Dark and CHRISTINA DRAYTON* from Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Observations: This was the closest the top spot has ever come to a tie with seductive Mrs. Robinson besting drunk Martha by just 2% of votes gathered. In other kindred spirit news, they're both fond of playing "get the guest".

This is also the closest your votes have ever aligned with the Academy's decisions as four of your top five actually winning the gold for their indelible creations and another top ten'er, too. The further back we go the more obvious it is which films are not readily available for home viewing and how much Oscar wins are worth for longevity. It's an easy way to draw people backwards to see old films. But about the availability of some films... I've said it many times but I'll have to keep saying it. Hollywood is a shameful place. It's an industry with gazillions of dollars in profits and far too few of those bucks get funnelled back into the art form to insure that films are preserved and/or available for the public. At the very least an Oscar nomination ought to mean that your film never disappears for good.

Weakest Showing: "Mary Wilson" from Happy Ending received 0% of the votes. The film is not available on DVD. Morgan!'s "Leonie Delt" and "Rosy Ryan" from Ryan's Daughter just barely escaped this fate.

1971-1975


  1. SALLY BOWLES* (Liza Minnelli) Cabaret
  2. NURSE RATCHED* (Louise Fletcher) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  3. EVELYN CROSS MULWRAY (Faye Dunaway) Chinatown
  4. CHRIS MACNEIL (Ellen Burstyn) The Exorcist
  5. ALICE HYATT* (Ellen Burstyn) Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Runners Up: the rest of the top ten in descending order were BREE DANIELS* Klute, MABEL LONGHETTI A Woman Under the Influence, and KATIE MOROSKY The Way We Were, CONSTANCE MILLER McCabe and Mrs Miller and ADELE The Story of Adele H.

Jane Fonda as "Bree" in KluteObservations: This five year period surprised me the most of all the polls in terms of how well various women fared. Ellen Burstyn is a national treasure but I wasn't expecting either of her roles to show up in the top five, let alone both of them! It seems to me that her past star would not shine as bright without that shocking resurrection that was Requiem for a Dream (2000). Let that be a lesson to all actresses. Don't give up when you've crossed the senior citizen mark. An acclaimed golden years performance can restore major luminosity to to your earlier shining successes. Speaking of which, Jane Fonda could use one final hurrah performance herself to remind people of what an irreplaceable actress she is. I was personally very disappointed to see her Klute performance outside the top five (It was a narrow miss but it shocked me. I'd rank it among the ten best actress performances of all time). But the #8 rank for Barbra's famous romantic heroine from The Way We Were was the biggest lower-than-expect shocker and at the very least it suggests that Carrie Bradshaw was definitely not voting on these polls. 

Weakest Showing: Marsha Mason's "Maggie Paul" from Cinderella Liberty received no votes with the little seen these days "Gitl" from Hester Street nearly meeting the same fate.

1976-1980


  1. ANNIE HALL* (Diane Keaton) Annie Hall
  2. CARRIE WHITE (Sissy Spacek) Carrie
  3. DIANA CHRISTENSEN* (Faye Dunaway) Network
  4. LORETTA LYNN* (Sissy Spacek) Coal Miner's Daughter
  5. NORMA RAE WEBSTER* (Sally Field)

Runners Up: the rest of the top ten in descending order was composed of bad mommy BETH JARRETT from Ordinary People, Goldie Hawn's PRIVATE BENJAMIN, Bette Midler's MARY ROSE FOSTER from The Rose, delusional beige EVE from Interiors and "Yo, ADRIAN" from Rocky just barely knocked Gena Rowland's GLORIA and Ingrid Bergman's CHARLOTTE ANDERGAST of the ring to nab spot #10.

Observations:  I was surprised to see Mary Tyler Moore's legendary Bad Mommy performance in Ordinary People outside the top five but she was just one or two votes shy of making it a three way tie with the two biographical performances ahead of her. 

Marsha... no one is on the line!Weakest Showing: Marsha Mason's "Jenny Maclaine" in Chapter Two received no votes. I thought about voting for this character myself but there were too many other strong options. I used to just love that movie though I have only the dimmest recall of it now so I couldn't say "most memorable!". Mason was a very hot Oscar commodity for a few short years but none of her characters have done well in the polls indicating that her films have either not aged well for one reason or another or people just haven't seen them or, most likely, some combination of both. Is it time for some enterprising young director to take her on as a project: Marsha Mason revival!

This is a lot to process, I know. Any surprises, disappointments or observations you want to share? Have you been inspired to add any of these pictures to your rental queues?

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Reader Comments (40)

I love this series! Please continue it. Surprised that Bette Davis tied with Julie Andrews. Love the picture of Geraldine Page and Paul Newman. Oh, and you have it marked that Anne Bancroft won for The Graduate, and you say that four of the top five won, but Katharine Hepburn won for 1967.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike

This was a lot of fun! Thank you!

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

whatever happened to Faye Dunaway - she shows up three times. a great movie star - but then BAM - she was basically over & out with "Mommie Dearest." Surely she could have taken better roles in the 80's / 90's. i wonder why...was she too glamorous? could she have taken on "Doubt," "The Grifters," "Ordinary People"....etc....

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy

Seriously people, go look up Klute. Great movie.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRJ

Mike -- blargh. brain fart. corrected.

RJ -- yes.

Jimmy -- i know! Her 60s and 70s filmography is more like a history of cinema than a typical actress filmography ;)

August 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Seeing Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn so close to one another on the 1966-1970 list begs the question: How close were they to yet another tie?

(And at the risk of repeating what I commented before on the poll itself: If only more people had seen gems as 'Séance on a Wet Afternoon', 'The Whisperers' or 'The Shop on Main Street'...
And I will never get what people like about 'The Sound of Music'.)

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

Mason's partially not making an appearance because it's so hard to get a hold of her nominated films-Chapter Two and Only When I Laugh, neither of them are available on Netflix.

And I 100% agree that an Oscar nomination (personally, I think in any category) should require that they are in some DVD or Blu-Ray currently. It'd make it a lot easier for fanatics like myself who try to see them all to get through them, at the very least. :)

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Oh, and nearly as memorable (for me, anyway) as Mrs. Robinson is the look on Bancroft's face when Geraldine Page beat her for Agnes of God. One of the truly great Oscar reaction shots.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I didn't vote for a lot of these performances because I haven't seen them. When I see 70s films they're usually "man" movies which means that unless Faye Dunaway or Diane Keaton isn't there I don't really know, you know.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtfu11

John T -- that would certainly up the stakes... i mean AMPAS itself should fight for that. If you're trying to keep yourself relevant how about *that* for an honor... the nomination means your film will never go out of print.

MrW -- thanks for the question I actually went back to check. It wasn't close at all (big gap between spots 4 & 5 in terms of percentage of ballots... BUT looking back i realized i had shafter Miss Jean Brodie who rallied in the last two weeks of polling and eventually tied with Eleanor of Acquitaine for 5th place. Yay. still in her prime.

/3rtfull -- all the more reason to rent the winning ones you haven't seen.

August 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Now that's good news for Miss Jean Brodie...

@ John T: When it comes to reaction shots, nothing will ever beat the twin bafflement of Ellen Burstyn and Joanne Woodward upon hearing Susan Hayward announce they lost to Glenda Jackson for 'A Touch of Class'. I'll never tire of seeing that video. Again and again.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

What about Barbra losing to Glenda Jackson for Touch of Class? She's still pissed. Was she there at the Awards? I've seen Touch of Class, and I have to agree with Barbra (and Ellen & Joanne).

What's in a name? That's what I was thinking when I looked over this list. So many of these performances have the character's name right in the title: Coal Miner's Daughter, Annie Hall, Carrie, Funny Girl, Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, Mary Poppins, etc.

I'm not surprised something like Klute doesn't register. What does that name mean anyway? I've seen the movie and can barely remember. I think it's Donald Sutherland's character.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

John T, yes! I so miss the candid annoyance of the grid of losers (Best Actress '72 - '76 are gems). 60's nominees often looked either bored or about to be guillotined when their names were announced. Today's stars are too self-aware.

Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson is currently my favorite Best Actress-nominated performance. Undeniably sexy and commanding, I found her to be quite sympathetic...a haunting portrait of unrealized ambitions.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMicah

Thanks so much for doing this HUGE project. I really enjoyed it.

So may I presume to summarize a little...

Based on these results...an good argument could be made that ACROSS the past 50 years these are the top, most memorable female characters in cinema: Holly Golightly, Mrs. Robinson, Sally Bowles, Annie Hall, Lt. Ellen Ripley, Clarice Starling, Sophie Zawistowski, Clementine Kruczynski, Marge Gunderson, and Miranda Priestley.

I actually think it's true for most of the characters above - I'm not sure Clarice would be there if it weren't for Hannibel Lector and I'm not sure Clementine Kruczynski will survive the test of time - but the rest of them...sure...

Also, and I know you know this, but only one woman has appeared in the top 5 four (4) times: Meryl Streep!!! Three actresses have appeared 3 times: Ellen Burstyn (I agree - this is a surprise to me!), Julie Andrews (she really was a superstar), and Faye Dunaway (by golly she should be given some more great roles!!).

And I want to point out the 5 actresses who made the list 2 times because I think that's very interesting too. Anne Bancroft (Annie Sullivan surprises me!); Sissy Spacek (how cool - I think she's so special!); Glenn Close (we'll see how Albert Nobbs does); Nicole Kidman and Kate Winslet.

I'm sure you're gonna do some fun stuff with this information and I can't wait!

Thanks again!

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

I can't believe how ridiculously underseen A Woman Under the Influence must be. Sorry, but that's a titantic performance and character.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Billybil, I don't think it's Clementine that has the risk of "not lasting the test of time", it's Priestly. (Yes, Miranda's a cold piece of work, but the film housing her is so...plain, which is the last thing you can say about Eternal Sunshine.)

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

yep, just as I said before, Gold, Silver & Bronze for the 1976-1980 period belongs to Capricorn ;) the 4th place is a Cap as well.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

Volvagia - I understand your point about Clementine vs Preistly but Steep creates such a strong impression in the role I think it might endure despite the film's weaknesses. Certainly Holly and Sophie don't come from very impressive films either.

And I TOTALLY agree about WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE. I think that performance is one of the greats of all time - so heartbreaking, so unglamorized...I HATE that she didn't win the Oscar that year!

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

Had I a rockin' screenwriter and some directorial experience (4 years of high school drama class won't cut it), I would LOVE to bring back a seasoned veteran to the forefront. Calling Marsha Mason, Diane Ladd, Estelle Parsons, Sally Kellerman, Gena Rowlands, and Jane Alexander!

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoel V

I'm really disappointed with the trajectory of Faye';s career...she's one of the great American actresses. I mean, can anyone even compare to her early work...she's in three films judged as classics that will have resonance for many, many years to come.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Nathaniel, I,too, was disappointed in Natalie's low score for LWTPS ...it is really my favorite performance of hers... she was far less 'actressy" in it than other pictures.

However, the movie was not an iconic one as the others were.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Dunaway was a fine actress ... but I understand she was impossible to work with both directors and others stars that is made a shipwreck of her career.... I am sure she has many regrets about this!!!!

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Unfortunately Alexandra del Lago won't get her big comeback here... but I can't complain, my ladies did much better than in the other ones...

Reaction shots in the 70s were amazing! Everyone seems kind of pissed or bored (or both). And so many absents!

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I didn't know about this poll. If I'd known before, I would've voted for Natalie Wood, for sure. She was brilliant in both Splendor in the Grass and Love with the proper stranger. I have a hard time deciding which one is my favorite performance.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

And Nat...Bree Daniels in your top 10? Even if limitied solely to leads, here's what I think mine would look like, in no particular order:

Linda Hunt, The Year of Living Dangerously (sorry, Sigourney was the "support")
Diane Keaton, Annie Hall
Gena Rowlands, A Woman Under the Influence
Brenda Blethyn, Secrets + Lies
Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven
Claudia Cardinale, Once Upon a Time in the West
Marilyn Monroe, The Misfits
Deborah Kerr, The Innocents (1961 is an amazing year for Actresses)
Louise Brooks, Pandora's Box
Ingrid Bergman, Notrious
(11-15 are, in order:
Julianne Moore, Safe
Falconetti, The Passion of Joan of Arc
Lili Taylor, The Addiction
Setsuko Hara, Tokyo Story
Faye Dunaway, Network)

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Interesting how I think we sometimes vote for the movie rather than the performance (as w/ Oscar.) I think Fonda was better than Dunaway or Fletcher, but the latter were in better films. Same with Better Midler; I LOVED that performance, but the movie not so much.

And don't worry about Ole Marsha. Just let's do a film version of The Film Experience, and I'll play myself, flightingly dropping in here and there. Oscar city!

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha Mason

Awesome! I reallllyyyyyy want to do supporting actress in this style. :P

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

I feel compelled to comment after seeing that Carol Kane's Gitl from Hester Street was near the bottom for '71-'75.

It's a tragedy that so few people know about or see that gem of a movie -- and it's also one of Kane's few leading performances, which makes it that much more valuable! As a feminist film and as a representation of the American immigrant experience, it's very much worth watching.

August 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterAndreas

I can't recall but I think I might have voted for all of Glenda's and Vanessa's performance or at least half but what's so interesting is that I feel I could have voted for at least half of the nominees and not be lying. The sixties for me are just all about iconic performances. And that top 5 from the latter half of the decade is just impossible to argue with (even if my top 3 would be Eleanor, Marta and Fanny). I wonder, perhaps, if the performances from this era seem more iconic because they've had so long to simmer.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

PS. I too wish there'd have been more for Natalie and Geraldine's Princess. In that brilliant line-up I'd have given Geraldine that Oscar hands down (even against Katharine H. the love of my life). It's my favourite Tennessee film incarnation.

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

Rowlands in Influence is one of the greatest performances ever captured on film. Without question.

On that note Nat, as we all know you never tire of lists, ;)
Why NOT pick the nine other lucky ladies to joine Fonda on your top female performances of all time?

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

I've tracked down all of the obscure performances, mostly on VHS, about 5-10 years ago. I didn't end up voting for many of them because picking most memorable *character* favoured the iconic roles like Annie Hall and Mrs Robinson that have seeped into the culture. Or characters like Holly Golightly that you see everywhere, or Mary Poppins, thanks to the musical coming to Australia. Still, it was a fun thing to do and I'm curious to see what you'll do with it (if anything).

August 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

"Same with Better Midler; I LOVED that performance, but the movie not so much."

I agree. Messy, repetitive movie, but Bette's performance is just STUNNING. Literally. Definitely had my vote.

August 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

I'd just like to agree wholeheartedly on the sentiments for Love With A Proper Stranger. Easily my favorite Natalie Wood performance, but I think it would get a lot more love, whether in this poll or in general opinion, if it were finally restored and released on DVD. What on earth is up with that?

August 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTB

This was fun! I may not agree with many choices (Maria Von Trapp? C'mon) but I'm glad that many of my favorite performances and characters still live in the public mind.

I take this opportunity to ask for a Jane Fonda movie comeback. I miss her so much!

August 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSeisgrados

I'm heartbroken that Martha didn't win.Liz's performance would probably be my number one most iconic performance ever. But I'm very happy with Faye Dunaway and Julie Andrews doing so well.

August 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNina

I'm so glad to see more people championing Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under The Influence. Everyday more people see her work and realize nobody has ever been that great. Now, move on, people: Opening Night, Gloria, Love Streams, Minnie and Moskowitz, Faces... The, you'l discover John Cassavetes was the most personal and intimate director his generation.

August 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

These comments are a joy to read truly. But I do hope people realize that it's meant to be a poll on memorable characters rather than great actressing. Perhaps I confused the issue with my Klute comment ;) it can sometimes be hard to separate the two but sometimes they're distinctly different things.

August 26, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I was going to say that I was the one vote for Gitl (Hester Street) but I just read Andreas' comments, so there must have been two of us. (@Andreas - have you read the short story the film is based on, Abraham Cahan's "Yelk and the Imported Bridegroom"?)

I'm surprised too that Katie Morosky didn't rank higher (The Way We Were), but perhaps that's because the film and the character were so iconic to me when I was growing up.

These lists are great because they're sort of a primer for where I need to fill in the gaps in my actressing education; but it nonethless seems to me that 1970-75 was an especially rich period for great female characters?

August 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

Natthaniel I was so glad to see your comment about the poll being about memorable characters not best performance I was just thinking the same thing. It pained me to see the great Jean Simmons not receive any votes, mine included, but when I voted I did it for the ones who had stayed with me the most and while she was extraordinarily fine in The Happy Ending neither the character nor the film were something for the ages.

And I totally agree about Jane Fonda someone get that woman back in front of the camera in a part worthy of her talent that she can sink her teeth into. Why no film version of the stage play she's been doing? Come on Hollywood!!

August 27, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6
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