A brief situational history: last year at a very crowded luncheon for the eventual Best Picture winner The Artist, I spotted the actress Carol Kane in the crowd. I'm not, as it happens, terribly shy about approaching actresses I admire at these things; they're there to mingle. But Oscargeek guilt and actressexual self-admonishment settled in before I could. "You've never seen Hester Street. Until you have, you may not speak with the Carol Kane!"
Our recent collective viewing of Dog Day Afternoon, reminded me of how much I love her face. The main attraction is, of course, those huge deer in headlight eyes. The small features around it are mere accessories and the whole doll-like delicacy is framed by a tangled mess of curly blond hair.
[More on Hester Street and Oscar '75 after the jump]
In Hester Street, which I've finally just seen, the effect is even more dramatic. Her Married Lady orthodox wig has been rolled over her head like a pastry helmet.
We don't meet Kane's Gitl until 20 minutes into the picture. We've spent the first twenty following womanizing Jake (Steven Keats) around his Jewish immigrant neighborhood (i.e. Hester Street) until the bomb is dropped that his wife and son (he's a married man ?!?) are coming to America to join him.
Gitl looks wide eyed and confused waiting for him in that crowded room. Sadly her expression won't change as quickly as she thinks given that she barely recognizes her husband who is now a very changed man with little patience for her Old World ways; he's an American now.
Immigration: For what purpose are you bringing her to America?
Jake: For the purpose she's my wife!"
Hester Street is a fine portrait of a identity-based community in miniature with its tight 90 minute running time but even though it feels very small and streamlined it accomplishes quite a lot. It also manages to be a lightly charming portrait of emancipation, a sort of proto-women's lib period tale just in time for the volatile 1970s and a fish out of water drama and a fable about Reinvention in America. Gitl, is you see, not as naive as she initially appears. When she says "enough", you know she believes it.
1975 must have been a great year for Carol Kane with this underseen mini-gem and a stone cold classic Dog Day Afternoon both in theaters and impressing Oscar voters. I'm mystified that Hester Street is so rarely screened an undiscussed these days -- you even get Emmy favorite Doris Roberts in a crucial entertaining supporting role as a busybody neighbor -- so put it on your rental queues whenever you're filling out a retro Best Actress night.
Oscar's Best Actress 1975
- Isabelle Adjani, The Story of Adele H (previous article)
- Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest *winner*
- Glenda Jackson, Hedda
- Carol Kane, Hester Street
- Ann-Margret, Tommy
It's an odd Oscar vintage, yes? Only three of the nominees were Golden Globe nominated (Fletcher & Jackson in drama & Ann-Margret in comedy) indicating a year without much in the way of consensus... at least for Best Actress. The Globe lineup was much much starrier with Babs, Goldie, Christie, Faye, and Liza (a terrific and randy star turn in the little seen Lucky Lady) in the drama / comedy sets. It's worth noting that Oscar's Best Picture lineup was, as is typical, films about men... but for Nashville which didn't have any female leads per se.
How fluent are you in Oscar '75? In Carol Kane? (At this writing Adjani would have my vote with Carol taking silver but I've yet to see Glenda Jackson in Hedda.)