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« RIP Harris Savides | Main | Secret Messages: "Come at once if convenient..." »
Friday
Oct122012

Oscar Horrors: "Goodbye, Little Yellow Bird"

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.

More Oscar Horrors 
Monster's Inc - Animated Feature
Pan's Labyrinth - Art Direction
Them! - Visual Effects
American Werewolf in London -Makeup
Addams Family Values  -Art Direction

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Reader Comments (7)

1. Great write up.
2. I'm sorry, but that gravestone with Angela Lansbury's face looks creepy as hell (no pun intended). Even though Ms. Lansbury is almost 87, she's alive and well and hopefully will stay with us for many years to come.
3. Speaking of her Birthday, I hope Nathaniel will find a way to celebrate it somehow.
4. Were's her Honorary Oscar, indeed?

October 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWill

Angela Lansbury by Terry Richardson for your specs collection: http://www.terrysdiary.com/post/31984961202/angela-lansbury-as-me-shot-for-the-gentlewoman

October 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWill

I love this performance & film. Some spooky scenes!

October 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMrJeffery

I remember the guy who played Dorian was cuh-reepy, in a good way of course. I don't recall that he did anything before or after that though. I wonder what the story is behind that?

And Angela must have been very young indeed when she got these Oscar nominations. Amazing to think that someone working during World War 2 is still alive and getting just as much work now. Inspiring!

October 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

Dave-Hurd Hatfield (who played Dorian) would go on to work in random television guest stints and choice supporting parts in biblical epics. He also would remain relatively young looking for the remainder of his life, much like Dorian (and would eventually own the famous painting of Young Dorian in the movie).

October 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Dave, Hurd Hatfield was seen in Nicholas Ray's King of Kings.

Angela is so lovely in the spooky TPODG, and so bitchy in Gaslight. What a great one-two punch to launch your film career with. Give her the damn honorary Oscar.

Never seen National Velvet, but my favorite Anne Revere performance is in The Song of Bernadette. Just wonderful.

October 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Thanks to her 2 back-to-back nominations, Angela Lansbury has become the youngest 2-time Oscar nominee ever by the age of 20. A record that she still holds for almost 70 years.

October 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWill
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