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Oscar Snub? Supporting Actress 1987

Witches of Eastwick 25th anniversary week ends this weekend. I intended to do much more but we'll see what little can be conjured still.

Cherries, Oatmeal, Satan and her weak husband just make her sick!

Film Experience Trivia: Veronica Cartwright was the star of the very first episode of Craig's "Take Three" series right here (well, at the old location) in 2010. He spotlighted her work in three genre pieces (Alien in which she was originally cast as Ripley (!!!) , Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Witches of Eastwick) concluding that she is the sci-fi-horror scream queen. On Witches:

Cartwright's skill at creating profoundly memorable characters is none more evident than in Witches: you see the very bile rise up in Felicia's face; she vehemently means every word in her religious rants, summoning up as she does some kind of wicked, wrathful acting goddess. With cherry-scented vomit (or even hospital oatmeal) smeared ungainly across her mouth, and spitting hellfire sermons at everyone who'll listen, Cartwright was unafraid to eschew vanity to maintain supporting performance perfection. If the "Alien" lead was stolen away, a Best Supporting Actress nod was more so here. Remote-control fruit-based possession doesn't get any classier than this.

...she exited the film way too soon. 

There were surely people at the time who thought she over reached but when you're the god-fearing counterpart to Jack Nicholson's Devil, you have to go big.

SO, LET'S TALK OSCAR 1987. Here's how the year shook out for Best Supporting Actresses but did you agree with their choices?  

The Oscar List

I saw Moonstruck for the first time in 2 decades last year. My god it holds up. Dukakis, Cher, the screenplay, Nicolas Cage even? All fantastic.

  • Norma Aleandro, Gaby: A True Story
  • Anne Archer, Fatal Attraction
  • Olympia Dukakis, Moonstruck (WINNER)
  • Anne Ramsey, Throw Momma From the Train
  • Ann Sothern, The Whales of August


The Globe List
the same list but for the following

  • Ann Sothern, The Whales of August
  • Vanessa Redgrave, Prick Up Your Ears ( also won the prestigious NYFCC Prize)


Vanessa, like Shirley Maclaine, is an oft-nominated Oscar caliber performer who also happens to have a surprisingly large list of snubs (despite the oft-nominated part) suggesting that if they don't love her work in a given year, they don't feel welcoming.

Martha Plimpton in a very unsettling scene in "Shy People". Good movie that's hard to find now.The Indie Spirit List

  • Karen Allen, The Glass Menagerie
  • Kathy Baker, Street Smart (also won the NSFC Prize)
  • Anjelica Huston, The Dead (WINNER)
  • Martha Plimpton, Shy People
  • Ann Sothern, The Whales of August


I haven't seen Street Smart or The Whales of August but I remember liking the other three performances quite a lot. Sometimes I think I should watch The Dead again as an adult because I'm pretty sure I didn't fully understand it as a teen. I'm always hoping (in vain) that Martha Plimpton's current fame as a dramatic stage star and Emmy nominated comedic lead on Raising Hope will remind people of what a fresh compelling presence she was on the big screen in the 1980s. So talented that one.

The BAFTA List

  • Maria Aitken, A Fish Called Wanda
  • Anne Archer, Fatal Attraction
  • Judi Dench, A Handful of Dust (WINNER, Oscar eligible the following year but wasn't nominated)
  • Olympia Dukakis, Moonstruck

Though I've seen all of these films I'll admit to trouble recalling Aitken and Dench's work in those films. But I haven't seen them in 20 years so...


Other Key But Less Kudo'ed Supporting Actresses in 1987

the scene to end all scenes for foot fetishist everywhere. Maggie Han and Joan Chen in THE LAST EMPEROR (1987)

  • Veronica Cartwright, The Witches of Eastwick (Saturn Nominee)
  • Joan Chen, The Last Emperor
  • Paulina Poriskova, Anna
  • Margaret Whitton, The Secret of My Succe$s
  • Dianne Wiest, The Lost Boys and September 
  • Sean Young, No Way Out 


Sean Young's current reputation as a Crazy Person is a bit unfortunate considering that in the '80s (when properly utilized) she was just on fire.

In other retrospective news... I'm never eager to call Oscar "racist" the way so many pundits do. The truth is that they can only choose from what's put in front of them in any given year. Roles for actors of color have never been as juicy nor as abundant as those offered white actors in English language fare and when they get plum opportunities they usually win attention. That said, if there's a "racial" issue with Oscar it's one that doesn't get any attention. For whatever reason, Oscar rarely ever nominates Asian actresses for anything even when they achieve international stardom or headline blockbusters of the arthouse or the multiplex (think Gong Li, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh) -- both of which are achievements that get European foreign-language actresses nominated on occasion. They don't even notice Asian actress when they're key players in movies that voters can't otherwise get enough of (Joan Chen right here or Ziyi in Crouching Tiger) I'm not saying Chen should have been nominated -- I haven't seen the movie in way too long -- but wouldn't she have been in other circumstances considering that she plays a drug-addled royal in a Best Picture winner?

Do you like Cartwright in Witches or do you wish she (and Jack) would tone it down? Which performances do you most wish you'd seen from 1987 that won attention? 


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Reader Comments (41)


Sorry for the offtopic, but you have to see this, Nathaniel. It's the third version of Snow White this year. But This is a little bit different: In the beginning of the XX, in Sevilla (Spain), with flamenco and there's bullfighters! Snow White with a "traje de luces" (bullfighter suit)!!!


I'm pretty excited with this "new" and "original" version of the classic tale!!!

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolcaji

Out of the 1987 oscar field, I'd say Dukakis remains easily the strongest - definitely a pick that's stood the test of time. It strikes me as a pretty weak group otherwise, although Anne Ramsey's fun doing her inimitable thing.

re: The Whales of August - a bigger let-down for an actressexual it is hard to imagine. Lillian Gish, Bette Davis, Anne Sothern - and they're all terrible. Gish is the only one who even has good moments, and with her and Davis, it seems pretty clear that their actual real-life infirmity is making performing a real struggle for them.

Good call on the Academy's odd racism when it comes to Asian actresses. Have there been any significant Asian actress nominees? Beyond Rinko Kikiuchi, I can't think of any...

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaika

The BAFTA List

Maria Aitken, A Fish Called Wanda
Anne Archer, Fatal Attraction
Judi Dench, A Handful of Dust (WINNER, Oscar eligible the following year but wasn't nominated)
Olympia Dukakis, Moonstruck

This Is Incorrect. Olympia won the BAFTA for Moonstruck.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

Anne Ramsey rapes the competition IMO.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKokolo

Judi Dench won the Bafta that year (http://www.bafta.org/awards-database.html?year=1988&category=Film&award=Actress+in+a+Supporting+Role)... She was a BAFTA favorite long before she was an Academy favorite.
I've always kind of liked the weirdness of the '87 Supporting Actress lineup. Annes Archer and Ramsey nominations in particular are kind of out-there.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Nat: I just don't get Olympia Dukakis in Moonstruck and I think Anjelica Huston (great actor in a JAMES JOYCE adaptation. How does Oscar, a bastion of high class entertainment, NOT bite on that?) and Joan Chen (Oscar bait movie and the second best perf in the movie (the best in show is the also unnominated (I'm guessing the Academy's actors just didn't like The Last Emperor in general) Peter O'Toole)) are the genuine surprise snubs in that category and Anne Ramsey in Throw Momma from the Train is the big surprise nom for the category thinking back on that year. As for Maria Aitken at BAFTA: Really? There's absolutely nothing to that character. It's just a generic nagging wife.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Sarah Miles in Hope and Glory, anyone?

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulien

Olympia is spotless in "Moonstruck". I love her in every single scene. Great winner.

Veronica and Jack are delightful to watch in "Eastwick", there's no other way to play those characters. She would definitely be in my list alongside Archer and Aleandro (snubbed in '85). I would also include the great Elaine Stritch in "September", an Allen film I watch often.

I have never seen "Shy People". As a Plimpton fan I know I should!

P.S. Yes, you must re-watch "The Dead". I also first saw it as a teen and it has no comparison with the effect it had on me more recently. Such a moving film.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I'll admit, the last time I saw Witches of Eastwick, it was on VHS... so I probably can't weigh in on VC.
The one performance from 1987 that I wish got more attention, though, is Paule Baillargeon in 'I've Heard the Mermaids Singing', but that would have been a big stretch...

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPat

My nominees would be

Karen Allen - The Glass Menagerie
Olympia Dukakis - Moonstruck
Faye Dunaway - Barfly
Vanessa Redgrave - Prick Up Your Ears
Elaine Stritch - September

Dukakis would be my winner

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterManolis

Volvagia aren't you in the Cher deserved Best Actress over her fellow nominees club, and you have the nerve to question the Academy's inclusion of Olympia? I won't straw man who was better, but clearly the ensemble of the piece is what they embraced.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

I can't believe Anne Archer was nominated. What the hell?!

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Laika-Miyoshi Umecki won Best Supporting Actress in 1957 and Jocelyn Lagarde was nominated for Hawaii (still one of the oddest Oscar nominations, since she had to learn English phonetically to star in the film and never made another film appearance-the only performer to be nominated for their only cinematic appearance).

From the looks of this, I'd imagine that it was Redgrave who was in sixth place, and not Cartwright. The Globe and NYFCC citations probably mean she was a just miss.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Sorry, don't get the Ramsey love. I'm all for a) comedic performances and especially b) dark, unlikeable comedic performances, but good god the woman just yells every line. (This is assuming I remember correctly - I haven't seen the movie in a very long time.)

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Bia -- you know how they are with the longsuffering wives. and also: characters who they feel narrative sympathy for. it's a double whammy even before you get to whatever the performance is like.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Can you correct your mistake Nathan? Olympia won the BAFTA.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

4rtful: Fellow nominees? Yes, I think Cher's the second best choice they could have made (of the nominees), but still would have much rather seen Close get it and she's my 5th place for the year overall as of now (below, in order from 4th to 1st: Nancy Allen for RoboCop, Robin Wright for The Princess Bride, Holly Hunter for Raising Arizona and the aforementioned Close for Fatal Attraction.) As for Dukakis, I just didn't understand the praise. She's warm and loving and has a very nice chemistry with Cher, but that's just not enough in my eyes to highlight the performance. Anne Archer, say what you will about that kind of role being an Academy stereotype, had a weight to her.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

You left out Elaine Stritch for "September" who deserved it over Dianne Wiest for the same film.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeff D.

Olympia Dukakis – Moonstruck*
Mia Farrow – Radio Days
Vanessa Redgrave – Prick Up Your Ears
Dianne Wiest – Radio Days
Susan Wooldridge – Hope and Glory

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

I recently saw the movie for the first time. Joan Chen does solid work in "The Last Emperor." She was the obvious standout in a movie with acting that was otherwise merely acceptable.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCash

Nancy Allen in Robocop isn't a leading role. Holly Hunter in Broadcast News is "for the ages" — the only fault I have with the Best Actress '87 line up is the inclusion of Streep. Not because of personal bias, she simply was supporting.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

Moonstruck is just a great classic romantic comedy - not a genre that's easy to do well - and, unlike many other '80s movies, it doesn't feel dated at all. Dukakis completely deserved that Oscar (and I know it's not all that popular an opinion, but I think Cher deserved hers, too).

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

joan chen is SO good in "The Last Emperor".... whenever i think of the film, i keep going back to the scene at the banquet where she's so strung out she's solemnly eating the flower petals from the arrangement on the table.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteris that so wrong?

I think Cher's a genuine actress who deserves respect and kudos. The year she was nominated for Best Actress her competitors did superior work, and were unfairly over looked for the cool factor and novelty of making Cher the victor.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

As Peggy Sue rightly says, Norma Aleandro's performace in Gaby is really great (and also recieved a GG nomination). But I have to admit that an important factor is that she was snubbed in 1985 for The Official Story, even though she won the NYFCC and Best Actress at Cannes. Aleandro is truly incredible to watch. In recent years she played the Meryl Streep role in "August: Osage County" and is now reprising her role in "Master Class". She's also on TV right now, playing the Dianne Wiest role in the Argentina version of "In Treatment" (you can see this on the Web, "En terapia").
Going back to the topic at hand, my ballot would be:

Norma Aleandro
Veronica Cartwright
Olympia Dukakis
Vanessa Redgrave
(I'd have to see the films again to decide on the fifth slot... Elaine Stritch, Joan Chen or Joan Cusack in Broadcast News).

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

My top 3 supporting actresses for 1987 would be:
1) Anjelica Huston, The Dead
2) Kathy Baker, Street Smart
3) Theresa Russell, Black Widow

I liked all the women in The Whales of August, especially Gish, but I only saw it once, some years ago. Whenever Moonstruck is on, I always watch part of it, and I agree it's stayed very fresh. It's a great ensemble, and if there was a 1987 snub, it was for Norman Jewison as Best Director (again). I do flip to another channel when Olympia Dukakis is on. I think she's good but 5 or 6 times is enough.

Huston, on the other hand, is endlessly watchable.
And I remember Morgan Freeman praising Kathy Baker in Street Smart. He said the reason his pimp character was so frightening was because Baker was so terrified of him, and how he appreciated her generosity and skill.
Theresa Russell's turn as a con artist in Black Widow is irresistible fun. She has 4 con disguises and she shows off her versatility, verve, and bite. The movie is unsatisfactory in that she doesn't get away with it (as in The Bride Wore Black). Russell should have been the lead, not the dullish movie star of the time she was paired with.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

/4rtful -- I would correct it if were a mistake but according to both BAFTA and the IMDb, Olympia Dukakis was only a nominee for Moonstruck and not a winner.

But I'll give you that past years of BAFTA are a bit confusing because basically their prizes for both the 1987 and 1988 film years are mixtures of 1987 at the Oscars. and since IMDb lists the years as when they were honored rather than for which year it gets even more confusing ;)

June 15, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

4rtful: Huh? I always cut the action scenes OUT of action movies in trying to suss out who's a lead. Nancy Allen's in around 25-30% of the total scenes, but RoboCop's constructed of 30% action scenes, 20-25% satirical commercials and about 45-50% plot. If you don't do that seperation with action films, she's only ARGUABLY supporting. Once that separation's done, the argument is threadbare (at best) because her role is to keep RoboCop holding onto his humanity. How much humanity a cyborg can retain is the second big theme of the movie, beyond the satire on rampant commercialism, so her role (a reflection of the film's emotional core) is really freaking MASSIVE when you get down to it. Oh, and I think she has the charisma to seal the deal on her status.
4rtful again: Holly Hunter in Broadcast News FOR THE AGES? Huh? The film is not terrible (B-) but I might buy the "for the ages" call more if she was against a performance less wooden than the one William Hurt gave in that film. I love William Hurt in a History of Violence, so please don't take this to mean I hate William Hurt's acting in general, but, he was almost at The Factory levels of woodenness in Broadcast News.
Marcos: I'd think it's between Stritch and Chen. Everyone but the central trio of three leads in Broadcast News (Hunter, Hurt and the misnominated in Supporting Actor Albert Brooks) has a cameo sized role.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I agree on Streep is supporting and i would have placed her there if she was campaigned that way

my 5 supp actresses ramsey easy wins,never get dukakis.


June 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermark

Sorry Nathan Baby the BAFTA wiki entry is entirely screwed up because it says she won and she's confirmed in all their listings.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

Hunter's Broadcast News performance is not only my favorite from the nominees, but my favorite Holly Hunter performance.

Robocop's an ensemble movie with Peter Weller as its central lead. Every other actor in the picture would be a worthy candidate for the supporting categories, Nancy Allen filling out the only viable female performance.

I love Robocop, the best film of its decade, but Nancy Allen isn't awards worthy. I have no idea what you're reacting to in the performance, or what scene clinched it for you, where you see the Best Leading female performance of that year.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

Veronica Cartwright is also our best small screen actress. She does something interesting in every appearance. She been associated with nearly every quality show of the last 25 years, starting with Tanner '88. She was especially memorable in ER and stellar as Jack's mother in Will & Grace.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereric l

Faye Dunaway (Barfy)
Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck)
Anjelica Huston (The Dead)
Martha Plimpton (Shy People)
**Elaine Stritch (September)**

Something in me really wants to throw Carol Kane a nod for The Princess Bride, but I know she doesn't really deserve it, as much as I want her to.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Great article, and I always enjoy reading about anything to do with the 1987 race. The 1987 Oscars are very close to my heart: the first AMPAS ceremony I watched, and probably the year in which I agree with the most winners.

The 1987 BAFTA nominees were Judi Dench in 84 Charing Cross Road, Vanessa Redgrave in Prick Up Your ears, Dianne Wiest in Radio Days and the winner, Susan Wooldridge in Hope and Glory. (I was a geeky kid watching the ceremony live on TV. Cher presented Sean Connery with Best Actor for The Name of the Rose at the BAFTAs a few weeks before she presented him with the Oscar for The Untouchables!) Nathaniel: The nominees you quote are from the year after. (Fatal Attraction and Moonstruck were both BAFTA-eligible a year later than at the Oscars.)

In Oscar's Supporting Actress category, I've seen three: Archer, Dukaskis and Southern. I can't remember The Whales of August very well, but I think Archer is terrific (in an underrated movie). But Dukakis earned this fair and square. She is so believable as the mother in that family. And her line readings are superb (as I think they had to be, because it would be easy to get Shanley's Moonstruck dialogue wrong).

Much as I like The Last Emperor, I've never thought of Joan Chen for this category - perhaps because I think of her role as leading. (I know, I know, she's only in half the movie, but when she's in it, she seems to be co-lead - she is playing an Empress, after all!) I think you're absolutely right regarding the Academy's repeated failure to nominate Asian actors. I don't know if it's racism or if for some reason Asian actors just aren't 'on their radar' for some reason, but I think it has to change one day. (John Lone would have deserved a nomination for The Last Emperor - and, while we're at it, a supporting nomination for Year of the Dragon. He did get Globe nominations for both.)

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Anjelica Huston should have won her first Oscar for The Dead (and a second for Enemies: A Love Stroy, and a third for The Grifters).

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

I love that an article on the 1987 supporting actress race has generated so much conversation. I sort of touched on it above, but the nominations for Anne Archer and Anne Ramsay are so fascinating to me, I can't quite explain why. With Archer, it might be love for Claire the Clown, a winning performance in the first grown-up movie I really loved, that makes me happy she got an Oscar nomination for something - and the fact that her perf in Fatal Attraction seems so unspectacular to me beside Glenn Close's crazy. I would have loved to read a StinkyLulu Smackdown on this year to see what other people can show me in this performance. Same thing with Ramsey. I love that Throw Momma could get a nomination for her, but I have trouble really SEEING it... Where did that nomination come from?

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

volvagia -- i'm sorry but it's CRAZY to remove action sequences from action films to think about such things as narrative. If you remove musical numbers from musicals than Judy Garland has really never been a leading lady. LOL.

Mike -- I loved Archer as Claire the Clown too (the only performance of hers I've loved) but even in that film her work just pales to some of the other women.

edward -- you're right on the years. I must fix.

4rtful -- i'm not sure what you mean by "confirmed in all their listings" because on their official site, Olympia definitely isn't listed as the winner.

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Anyone else notice the deathgrip Dukakis has on that Oscar?

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Nathan Baby BAFTA "wiki entry"

June 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

My ballot would have looked something like this:

***Anne Ramsey, Throw Momma from the Train
Olympia Dukakis, Moonstruck
Bette Davis, The Whales of August
Mia Farrow, Radio Days
Frances McDormand, Raising Arizona

Though McDormand isn't on screen much at all, she's one of my favorite parts of Raising Arizona, and Mia Farrow is the standout of one of Woody Allen's most underrated gems. Additionally, though Ann Southern is fun in Whales of August, it's the frail Bette Davis that stayed with me the most. All in all, 1987 is one of my favorite years for film.

June 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercoffeysr

My ballot:



Olimpia Dukakis (MOONSTRUCK)
Anjelica Huston (THE DEAD)

June 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMirko
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