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Tuesday
Feb142012

Tues Top Ten: Best Best Supporting Actress Winners

"I Simply Cannot Do Alone" might well be the theme song all lead actors should sing to their stellar supporting castI felt a list coming on so I didn't fight it. Neither did I fight the order as I slotted them in, though you know how this goes if you've ever made such insane list. The order might change with a moodswing and it would definitely change (perhaps drastically) if I had an opportunity to rewatch all these pictures back to back. 

Ten Most Deserving Best Supporting Actress Oscar Wins

Runners up: I'm crazy about Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker and Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon but they're both unarguably leading roles so I'm not voting for them. My apologies in no particular order to Ruth Gordon, Wendy Hiller, Catherine Zeta-Jones and, oh, dozens of people. Never mind. Moving on! (The one winning performance I'm most frustrated to have not yet laid eyes on is Gloria Grahame's in The Bad and the Beautiful (given the hosannas I read about it... even right here.)  

10 I want to offer the tenth spot to either Mercedes Reuhl in The Fisher King (1991) or Dorothy Malone in Written on the Wind (1956) though I haven't seen either performance in aeons. Both are sometimes regarded --even by me -- as performances that are so over the top they're buzzing about King Kong's head like tiny airplanes. But given that the films they're in are as colorful and eccentric as the Empire State Building is tall, they're truly excellent and memorable contributions to their movies if you ask me. 

She's got poise. The way she holds her head at just the right angle. That takes training. That takes years of training. I see what Willy sees. Willy's got big ideas, Jack."
-in All The King's Men 

09 Mercedes McCambridge, All the King's Men (1949)
She slices right through the thick air of political grandstanding. Modern and mercurial, I sometimes like to imagine McCambridge dropped right into today's pictures. Imagine her starch and steel freed up by looser contemporary mores. She'd be even better about complicating her movies. 


Where did April come up with that stuff about Adolf Loos and terms like "organic form"? Well, naturally. She went to Brandeis. But I don't think she knows what she's talking about. Could you believe the way she was calling him David? "Yes, David. I feel that way, too, David. What a marvelous space, David." I hate April. She's pushy."
-Holly's interior monologue in Hannah and Her Sisters 

#8 through #1
Tilda, Rita, Dianne and More after the jump

08 Dianne Wiest, Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Even in voiceover Dianne Wiest is an A+ actor. "Holly" is one of Woody Allen's best character creations and Wiest rises to the challenge with both the comic surfaces and the dramatic interiors. She's endlessly sympathetic even while being entirely aggravating.

Isn't he wonderful looking?"
-Horny "Stella" in A Streetcar Named Desire 

07 Kim HunterA Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
It's a stone cold classic movie for a reason. Well, dozens of them, actually, but the five most obvious being playwright Tennessee Williams and the quartet that embodied his creations so definitively for the screen: Karl Malden, Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh... and this Oscar winner right here, Kim Hunter. More on this performance in our "Best Shot" episode about this movie

06 Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton (2007)
Terrorized limb-chewing survival and performance anxiety form a deadly cocktail in this hypnotic performances. Tilda's in-character rehearsalsas a lawyer in way over her head are like performances inside and about the performance from this ever fascinating actress. I still can't believe she won!

05 Maureen Stapleton, Reds (1981)
"I'm thrilled, happy, delighted... sober" Maureen Stapleton quipped to big laughs when she won the Oscar for her relentless activist, the communist Emma Goldman. We're thrilled, happy, and delighted that she won too though you can get drunk on that grand performance in just one scene.

You tell him that Chino found about them. And shot her!"
-Anita rages in West Side Story 


04 Rita Moreno, West Side Story (1961)
If we were crafting a list of the ten greatest performances in movie musicals  [editors note: heyyyyy *lightbulb* ] well, she'd probably make that one, too. Anita's gonna get her kicks tonight ♫ She'll have her private little mix tonight ♫

03 Mo'Nique, Precious (2009)
"Who who who else was gonna love me?" With a performance that seismic, everyone, that's who. It's hilarious now to think of all the Doubting Thomases who thought she might lose the gold because she didn't "campaign" sufficiently. Sometimes the Oscars are decided on merit. Not often enough, mind you, but it has occurred. 

There are women who reach a perfect time of life when the face will never again be as good, the body never as graceful, as powerful. It had happened that year to Julia."
-V.O. to Vanessa's entrance as "Julia" in Julia (1977) 

02 Vanessa Redgrave, Julia (1977)
From my review: "Even an actor less gifted than Redgrave might have won gold in the title role: the movie fawns on the character and where movies fawn, awards often follow. But Redgrave continually elevates the movie that is so eager to put her on a pedestal. When it speaks of her beauty and grace she doesn't empty out her face as so many actors do when a movie requires them to become an abstract vessell for the audience. Instead, she lets a goofy sideways grin flash. When Jane Fonda works the traditional tears and drama in the film's climax, Redgrave refuses the sentiment of the scene repeatedly. Throughout the movie she seems a little wild-eyed. Redgrave understands that it takes more than just Goodness to fling yourself into martyrdom the way Julia does. You need a bit of madness for that level of commitment."

  


01 Dianne Wiest, Bullets Over Broadway (1994) 
Has any double Oscar winner ever displayed as much range within their two statued roles? The only thing "Holly" and "Helen Sinclair" share besides their author (Woody Allen) is their vessel. She's only one of the greatest actors of all time. Next up for Dianne: The Corrections with Ewan McGregor

"DON'T SPEAK". No, actually do. Speak a lot, if you will, in the comments. Surely you have a lot to say about this massive topic.

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (78)

The best non-winning nominee was probably Maureen Stapleton for Interiors. Golden performance.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

Helen Sinclair - hands down number one for me. Without beating a dead horse, Meryl in Kramer vs Kramer is just devastating and I'm surprised she's not here. I also thought Anjelica Huston was fab in Prizzi's Honor especially that entrance at the party in the pink and black gown.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

The best non-winning nominee was probably Maureen Stapleton for Interiors. Golden performance.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

@brandz - my vote for that is Joan Allen in Nixon

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

jean hagen in <I>singin' in the - oh, wait....

in that case, broadway legend helen sinclair is the right call

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

Sandy Denis in Who's Afraid belongs here...

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael B

Couldn't agree more on number one! Dianne Wiest is just awesome!

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBensunce

Remember what I told you about my cat? "Don't Speak?" She does it all the time. :)

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKurtis O

Haven't seen Bullets Over B'way, Precious, or Written on the Wind.

I really want Olympia Dukakis in Moonstruck on the list, though.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

Mo'Nique!!

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMs. Gosling

Sandy Dennis is my choice. And as much as I love Mercedes Ruehl in The Fisher King, Juliette Lewis deserved that Oscar. Such a brilliant portrait in adolescence in the unlikeliest of films.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSam Brooks

Wait! Where's Renée Zellwegger? (I kid, I kid...)

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDusty

I'd also like to throw a shout out to Rachel Weiz in The Constant Gardener.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoFo

I can vouch for Ruehl's performance in The Fisher King, which is as moving and wonderfully heartfelt today as it was twenty years ago. (How wild it is, by the way, to have two Mercedes in the top ten.)

I also love Maggie Smith's and Mary Steenburgen's Oscar-winning performances. For me though, the best non-winning performances were Angela Lansbury's in The Manchurian Candidate and Teri Garr's in Tootsie -- best of their respective decades.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Maggie Smith! "What's wrong with my hair? I asked for a simple rinse and that ditzy queen gave me crayon."

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

My Top 20 (in random order)

Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton"
Mercedes McCambridge, "All the King's Men"
Marianne Jean-Baptiste, "Secrets and Lies"
Jo Van Fleet, "East of Eden"
Miranda Richardson, "Damage"
Rita Moreno, "West Side Story"
Maggie Smith, "California Suite"
Linda Hunt, "The Year of Living Dangerously"
Mo'Nique, "Precious"
Sandy Dennis, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"
Beatrice Straight, "Network"
Dianne Wiest, "Hannah and Her Sisters"
Kim Stanley, "A Streetcar Named Desire"
Judy Garland, "Judgment at Nuremburg"
Anne Baxter, "The Razor's Edge"
Anjelica Huston, "Prizzi's Honor"
Lily Tomlin, "Nashville"
Judy Davis, "Husbands and Wives"
Maria Ouspenskaya, "Dodsworth"
Thelma Ritter, "Pickup on South Street"

Honorable Mentions: Juanita Moore, "Imitation of Life", Patty Duke, "The Miracle Worker", Lynn Carlin, "Faces", Sylvia Miles, "Midnight Cowboy", Cloris Leachman, "The Last Picture Show", Meryl Streep, "Kramer vs. Kramer", Oprah Winfrey, "The Color Purple", Viola Davis, "Doubt"

I still have about 40 left to see before I will have seen every nominated and winning Best Supporting Actress performance.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoel

I haven't seen 11 of the winners, so this is flawed, but my votes in order are: Redgrave, Moreno, Wiest (Hannah), Swinton, Dennis, Duke, Mo'Nique, Ashcroft, Bainter, and then a slugfest between Wiest (Bullets) and McCambridge.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

I meant to add that I loved everything you said about all of these, especially those lines about Redgrave in Julia. And any reminder of Wiest's perfect line readings in that car is always welcome!

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

I'm seeing many good performances, but I do miss the great ones: Hattie McDaniel, Sandy Dennis, Ruth Gordon, Cloris Leachman, Linda Hunt and Anjelica Huston would beat anyone from your list for me, and Josephine Hull, Margaret Rutherford, Olympia Dukakis and Anna Paquin would vie for the remaining four spots in my Top 10 with Dianne Wiest (Hannah) and Mo'Nique.

So let's just say I seem to prefer your taste in lead actresses.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

My top ten in order of the year awarded:

1. Mary Astor-The Great Lie
2. Claire Trevor-Key Largo
3. Kim Hunter-A Streetcar Named Desire
4. Jo Van Fleet-East of Eden
5. Dorothy Malone-Written on the Wind
6. Vanessa Redgrave-Julia
7. Meryl Streep-Kramer vs. Kramer
8. Linda Hunt-The Year of Living Dangerously
9. Dianne Wiest-Hannah & Her Sisters and Bullets Over Broadway
10. Olympia Dukakis-Moonstruck

I followed Nathaniel's lead and didn't consider Patty Duke, Tatum O'Neal and added Rachel Weisz in The Constant Gardener because those are leading performances.

I also haven't seen a few of the winning performances: Ethel Barrymore in None but the Lonely Heart, Josephine Hull in Harvey, Lila Kedrova in Zorba the Greek, Anna Paquin in Tjhe Piano and Monique in Precious.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Marisa Tomei 'cause it was so refreshing to see a truly GREAT comic performance reword!
(even if she beat Miranda Richardson in a truly GREAT dramatic performance...)

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

This list nails all the very best- I'd only add Sandy Dennis in 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' and Meryl in 'Kramer vs. Kramer,' and I'm not even sure where I'd add them but I think they belong. And Ruth Gordon in 'Rosemary's Baby'! My vote is staunchly in favor of goddess alien Tilda Swinton for the best winning performance ever.

I hesitate to open the whole "best ever nominated" can of worms, tons of missed opportunities there. I'll just give the one I truly care about the most: it's deplorable Thelma Ritter doesn't have an Oscar, and she should have won for 'Pickup on South Street.' And a conversation of best would have to include as well Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate, Lily Tomlin in Nashville, Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives, Julianne Moore in Boogie Nights, Meryl Streep in Adaptation, and many others.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSean D

Horrified that Sandy Dennis didn't make the list. Above and beyond the greatest Supporting Actress win.

Mary Astor is also top ten worthy.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOwen

While Hunter, Ruehl, Jolie and Stapleton are close behind, the top 10 of what I've seen (and admittedly I haven't seen 24 of the winners):

10. Eva Marie Saint
9. Meryl Streep
8. Rita Moreno
7. Brenda Fricker
6. Juliette Binoche
5. Catherine Zeta-Jones
4. Dianne Weist (Bullets)
3. Patty Duke

And my top two regularly switch: a cocky but lost Jennifer Hudson, doubtlessly benefiting from being a new actress playing someone whose confidence outweighs her knowledge of the world, who creates some of the most beautiful moments in modern cinema; and Maggie Smith displaying her incredible acting skills in the most brilliant take on Oscar nominees behind the curtain that I've ever scene. Both performances destroy me every time.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Sigourney Weaver in "The Ice Storm." Not nominated; should have won.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke

Love that both Dianne Wiest's made the list!
But nobody has mentioned Goldie Hawn or Brenda Fricker? Tsk, tsk.

And Tilda's pit stains will always remain one of Oscar's most pleasant surprises.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPat

Whoa! Has only one person in this comments section seen GWTW?

Hattie McDaniel all the way!

Or if not all the way, at least in the Top 10..

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergoran

"I still can't believe she won!" (regarding Tilda).

Hear, hear. I was shocked in the best possible sense when Alan Arkin read her name. I thought without a doubt they were going to give it to Ruby Dee as a sort of "career tribute". Tilda Swinton's Oscar win is not only one of the most worthy best supporting actress wins ever but I would argue one of the best acting awards ever. That last scene with George Clooney, as she is making up lie after lie after lie and trying to assemble some sort of dignified validity even though she knows she is fucked is just pure acting genius. It's such an internalized performance and completely without vanity--the sweaty armpits, the tight, rigid business suits, her face clear with very little makeup--and Karen is such an actor herself that oftentimes we never really see her insecurity and ambivalence about the horrible things she's inflicting on others, but due to Tilda's gifts as an actress we can feel that internal strife she's having within her soul. It's such an honest, non-showy, but complex role free of histrionics and I am so happy the Academy saw what an accomplishment it was and rewarded her.

I have often thought that if we lived in an alternate universe and Tilda HADN'T won that year that if her brilliant, subsequent performances (Julia, I Am Love, Kevin), would've had many critics, audiences, and industry insiders banging the drum for her to win a Lead Oscar? It's so strange that they have continuously ignored her since Michael Clayton, especially due to the monumental respect she has within the film community.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

my ton 3 in each category:
best actress:1.meryl streep(sophie's choice) 2.holly hunter(piano) 3.charlize theron(monster)
best actor:1 marlon brando(on the waterfront) 2.robert deniro (raging bull) 3.daniel day lewis (there will be blood)
best supp actress:1. Dianne Wiest ( Bullets Over Broadway) 2.meryl streep (kramer vs kramer) 3. Mo'Nique( Precious)]
best supp actor: 1.jack nicholson (terms of endearment) 2. joel gray (cabaret) 3.heath ledger (dark knight)

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteramir

And Nat, what you wrote about Vanessa Redgrave's performance was so beautifully put. Such a mysterious and compelling performance (sad that that win still has so much notoriety attached to it due to Redgrave's politically slanted speech...because it's such a GREAT performance).

I'd also add that Angelina's win for Girl, Interrupted was one hell of a performance, too. What a sexy, fiery, "hey Hollywood, here I am" breakthrough role. Bittersweet, too, because it reminds me of a day where Jolie was a little more adventurous in her film career. I'm happy for all she's accomplished with her family, humanitarian efforts, etc., I just wish she would sink her teeth into another wild, dramatic performance and rip it to shreds like she did in Girl. I get the feeling she's not really into acting anymore.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

The variety of opinions here is so exciting!

Hope nobody tells (the ghost of) Shelley Winters that both of Dianne's wins made the Top 10 and not a single person in 26 comments has mentioned either of Shelley's.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Catherine Z.Jones mention WAY too many times...

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

I agree with Brooke re Sigourney Weaver in The Ice Storm. Should have been nominated.

I also have a soft spot for Anna Paquin's performance in The Piano - amazing.

And, Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Liaisons broke my heart

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichard

I'll mention Shelley--but only for "A Patch of Blue." Ruth Gordon in "Rosemary's Baby" is a favorite. And I'll stick up for Anna Paquin in "The Piano" any day.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterzig

LOVE that Redgrave made it so high

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMayukh

knew Helen Sinclair would be number one, such a wonderfully hammy performance.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike F

My #1 is Dianne Wiest for Hannah. And then comes Mo'Nique and Linda Hunt.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdinasztie

Beyond some of those already mentioned here, I have to give a shout-out to Estelle Parsons in Bonnie and Clyde and Lee Grant in Shampoo.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

These are my Top 10:

01. Patty Duke as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker
02. Linda Hunt as Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously
03. Sandy Dennis as Honey in Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?
04. Jane Darwell as Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath
05. Lila Kedrova as Madame Hortense in Zorba, the Greek
06. Josephine Hull as Veta Louise Simmons in Harvey
07. Juliette Binoche as Hana in The English Patient
08. Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar named Desire
09. Rita Moreno as Anita in West Side Story
10. Cloris Leachman as Ruth Popper in The Last Picture Show

And yes, I have seen them all! :-)

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFritz

These are my Top 10:

01. Patty Duke as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker
02. Linda Hunt as Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously
03. Sandy Dennis as Honey in Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?
04. Jane Darwell as Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath
05. Lila Kedrova as Madame Hortense in Zorba, the Greek
06. Josephine Hull as Veta Louise Simmons in Harvey
07. Juliette Binoche as Hana in The English Patient
08. Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar named Desire
09. Rita Moreno as Anita in West Side Story
10. Cloris Leachman as Ruth Popper in The Last Picture Show

And yes, I have seen them all! :-)

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFritz

These are my Top 10:

01. Patty Duke as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker
02. Linda Hunt as Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously
03. Sandy Dennis as Honey in Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?
04. Jane Darwell as Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath
05. Lila Kedrova as Madame Hortense in Zorba, the Greek
06. Josephine Hull as Veta Louise Simmons in Harvey
07. Juliette Binoche as Hana in The English Patient
08. Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar named Desire
09. Rita Moreno as Anita in West Side Story
10. Cloris Leachman as Ruth Popper in The Last Picture Show

And yes, I have seen them all! :-)

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFritz

(2010) -- Melissa Leo, The Fighter
(1976) -- Beatrice Straight, Network
(1996) -- Juliette Binoche, The English Patient
(1966) -- Sandy Dennis, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
(2009) -- Monique, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter//3|RT

I haven't seen all of the winners and I find it difficult to rank things, but:

Mo'Nique, Vanessa Redgrave, Cate Blanchett and Maggie Smith quickly scream into my mind.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

In the lead category, I'm usually all over one actress, but in this one I can change of opinion in a heartbeat. I mean, just look at 1988, 1992 or 1998...

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Damn, you missed some of my personal faves (Sandy Dennis, for one) but this is a great list. Love the mention of Kim Hunter especially, that performance doesn't get brought up nearly as often as it should.

Glad to see the Category Frauds of Tatum and Patty rightfully ignored.

OMG WHERE'S RUTH GORDON? ;)

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark

I love Dianne Wiest and think her win for Hannah is one of the most deserving ever, but I don't get the fuss over Bullets Over Broadway and over her performance in it. Or rather I get it, but just can't be in that camp myself. "Shrill" was the word I was thinking of while watching the film.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJan

LOVED this piece but I'm not ready to have an opinion myself. Some day..

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

LOVED this piece but I'm not ready to have an opinion myself. Some day..

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

This list really reminds me of all the performances I wish had won:

Amy Adams, "The Fighter"
Shohreh Aghdashloo, "House of Sand and Fog"
Toni Collette, "The Sixth Sense"
Angela Lansbury, "The Manchurian Candidate"
Virginia Madsen, "Sideways"
Marisa Tomei, "In the Bedroom"

However, I guess that's a list for another time. Much like James T, there is too much for me to catch up on to have a fair opinion myself, though I'm glad to see Mo'Nique and Dianne Wiest's "Bullets over Broadway" turn make it.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

I would've put Angelina Jolie in the Top 5...she was unforgettable as Lisa.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBia

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