In 'Oscar Horrors' we look at those rare Oscar nominated contributions in the horror genre. Daily all October long. Here's Andreas on an actress who is still very much with us and where is her Honorary Oscar, we ask?
HERE LIES... Angela Lansbury's chanteuse "Sibyl Vane," sent to an early grave by her love for Dorian Gray and trampled by National Velvet in March 1946
For The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), Angela Lansbury received her second Best Supporting Actress nomination in as many years. (Her previous one was for Gaslight, another Victorian horror-melodrama. Talk about carving out a niche!) She plays a working-class British girl in both films, but Sibyl Vane is the polar opposite of her snippy maid in Gaslight: demure, wholesome, and tender.
These qualities captivate the still-redeemable Dorian, as does her signature song "Little Yellow Bird".
Good-bye, little yellow bird.
I'd rather brave the cold
On a leafless tree
Than a prisoner be
In a cage of gold...
Lansbury's delivery transforms the song into a leitmotif of innocence, a status it retains long after her character's death. For although the actress herself departs the film about 40 minutes in, she leaves a huge impression. This is a true supporting performance, affecting the whole rest of the film despite scant screen time. Dorian Gray is a chilly movie, preoccupied with the smooth surfaces of Dorian's mansion, and Lansbury supplies it with warmth. Her heartbroken face pierces Dorian's hardening soul, and her melancholy song haunts him all throughout his later debaucheries.
Even when he's corrupted through and through, Dorian Gray can't escape the "Little Yellow Bird." That's the lingering power of Angela Lansbury's onscreen vulnerability. With that gentle face, opening into a smile like a flower into bloom, she changes what could've been a throwaway ingenue role into something bigger—into the emotional core of the film. The Oscar may have ultimately gone to Anne Revere for National Velvet, but Sibyl remains unforgettable, a pure songbird devoured by Dorian's caprices.