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Entries in Agnes Moorehead (9)

Wednesday
Mar162016

Mercedes McCambridge Centennial: "Charlie's Angels" & "Bewitched"

Today is the Centennial of one of the most singular character actresses of the 1950s, Mercedes McCambridge, born in Joliet Illinois on this very day in 1916. We hope you've enjoyed our mini retrospective. We previousy discussed her sensational debut in All The King's Men (1949) her final Oscar nomination for the Texas epic Giant (1956) and her sorry fate in a teensy part in the Airport disaster series. (In the past, ICYMI, we've amply discussed The Exorcist in which she did truly legendary voice work as well as the fiery abandon of must-see western Johnny Guitar.) 

In The Concorde... Airport '79 article, Tim talked about the disaster genre's often ...um... disastrous treatment of aged film stars in cameos. But discarded stars of Old Hollywood also frequently collected paychecks through TV guest spots. On the small screen there was the same roulette wheel chances at success. In fact McCambridge was more frequently spotted on TV than in film, switching between both for her entire career after her launch in radio in the 1930s. Many early TV shows are impossible to see now but let's discuss her downright fantastic guest spots on Charlie's Angels (1978) & Bewitched (1968).

Murder mysteries and witchcraft -- and a chance to discuss two classic camp series (oh you know you want to!) follow after the jump....

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jun282015

Smackdown 1948: Jean, Barbara, Claire, Ellen, and Agnes Moorehead

Presenting the Supporting Actresses of '48. A young writer, a drunken chanteuse, two spinster aunties, and a girl who never gets to the nunnery.

THE NOMINEES

1948 is so basic. A typical Best Supporting Actress shortlist looks almost exactly like this: an actress whose paid her dues finally getting a plum opportunity (hello usually uncredited Ellen Corby in I Remember Mama finally stepping into the limelight), a rapidly rising star (Jean Simmons in Hamlet, not her first attention grabbing role in the late 40s), a fresh ingenue in a popular picture (Meet Barbara Bel Geddes in I Remember Mama), and if you're lucky in a good year a couple of revered character actresses to class up the shortlist joint (Agnes Moorehead in Johnny Belinda and Claire Trevor in Key Largo). And within that mix you'll usually have a protagonist demoted to "supporting" and Best Picture heat helping at least a few of them find a seat at the table. All of that is true for 1948. What isn't so typical is a supporting actress winning on a picture's sole nomination and that happened here. Key Largo has aged well but Oscar didn't have any time for it back then outside of Trevor's drunk despair. The other three pictures had 24 nominations between them!

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

Here to talk about these five turns are screenwriter/author Abdi Nazemian ("The Walk in Closet"), film blogger Catherine Stebbins (Cinema Enthusiast), freelance journalist Joe Reid, film critic Tim Robey (The Telegraph), and your host Nathaniel R (The Film Experience). In addition to this write up we recorded a companion podcast  where we flesh out some of these thoughts and expound on the movies themselves.

Without further ado...

1948
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN 

 

BARBARA BEL GEDDES as "Katrin" in I Remember Mama
Synopsis: A teenager who dreams of being a writer finds source material in her immigrant mother
Stats: Then 26 yrs old, 2nd film, first and only nomination. 72 minutes of screen time (or 54% of running time). 

Abdi Nazemian: She carries much of the emotional life of the film, but I found the film unbearably sentimental (this from a man who loves Andy Hardy movies and Little Women). She lacks the unique quirks that young actors like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney brought to the same kinds of roles, and gives us a bland portrayal of adolescence. Of all the nominated actresses, she was given the most screen time, and did the least with it. 

Catherine Stebbins: One of these days I’ll figure out why I’m always so drawn to Bel Geddes. She has a lot of screen time as Katrin, given the unenviable task of holding up the film’s relentless episodic nostalgia. She is narrator, observer, worshiper, and an adult playing an adolescent. Katrin constantly looks at her mother, whether in the background or foreground, with reverent awe. Bel Geddes plays this with a partial cognizance that Katrin is in the gently reenacted memories of her past. ♥♥♥

Joe Reid: I can see how, if you were swept up in the homey charms of George Stevens' film, you'd want to throw accolades at Bel Geddes, who plays such an observant window onto the life of her saintly mother. Her hushed voice-over gets to the gauzy-memoir nature of the story effectively, but I'm not sure the performance ever gets much farther than doe-eyed wonderment.  ♥♥

Tim Robey: Saddled with just about the hoariest framing narration in film history, and doing little to lift it out of sanctified goo, Barbara has a near-impossible task here – making the terminally precious Katrin and her “gifted” (read: soporific) memoirs interesting. She can’t win, but we still need something more than a voice like tree sap to get us through this. In overegged close-ups she’s weirdly divorced from real-time engagement with her scenes, and every co-star seems faintly embarrassed about what to do with her. 

Nathaniel R: In the movie's crowded frames, you can often see just her hair or the back of her head; unfortunately her full closeups aren't that much more expressive, generally landing a single emotion. The narration is even stiffer like she's reading to a very small child from an immobile body cast. (The direction and screenplay all but force this stiff repetitiveness though, so it's not all on her) She aces warm awestruck looks at goddess Irene Dunne, but... I mean... who doesn't?  

Reader Write-Ins: "She is telling THEIR story, which she happens to be in. Therefore she is bland, quiet, blending to the background so others can showcase themselves." - Tom (Reader average: ♥♥¼)

Actress earns 10¼ ❤s 

four more actresses after the jump


Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun252015

Introducing... The Supporting Actresses of 1948

It's your last day to vote on the Smackdown! Send in those ballots

Since your collective interest in pre '70s film years is often less robust, consider this an attempt to pump up your excitement levels with a teaser for this weekend's Smackdown. How are our contestants introduced in their movies, how soon, and is it clear from scene one that they'll be Oscar-nominated?

We'll take them in the order in which they appear in their movies, starting with "The End." Wait, what? Oh never fear it's just an ol' hoary framing device for our first contender, who's just finished writing the stories we're about to see unfold onscreen at the very beginning of her movie. 

Meet...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jul092014

Magnificent Moorehead, son

 

This post is brought to you by guilt at giving her such a poor rating in last week's Smackdown when she's such an eternal favorite.

Wednesday
Jul022014

Podcast Part 2: A Smackdown Conversation w/ Melanie Lynskey

ICYMI  Part One of this Podcast & The Smackdown Itself

Starring: Actress Melanie Lynskey, the original creator of the Smackdowns Brian Herrera (aka StinkyLulu), and your regulars Nathaniel R,  Joe Reid and Nick Davis

Smackdown 1964 - A Companion Conversation Pt. 2
00:01 Back From Intermission & Joe freaks out over Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte
04:05 Bette Davis and Baby Jane
07:30 Agnes Moorehead totally divides us
13:30 The Night of the Iguana and its repressed lesbian
16:30 Melanie talks subtext, chemistry and shares an acting pet peeve
20:50 Nathaniel demands a remake and we cast it
24:00 Ava Gardner and Richard Burton GIF-ables
31:20 Not Nominated: Glynis Johns, Irene Papas, and Gloria Foster
34:10 A parting question for Melanie Lynskey

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments.

THANKS AGAIN TO OUR GUEST MELANIE LYNSKEY 
Her new film Happy Christmas (co-starring Anna Kendrick, Joe Swanberg, and Lena Dunham) is currently available OnDemand and iTunes and opens in limited theatrical release at the end of July.

Anna Kendrick & Melanie Lynskey in Happy Christmas (2014)

(It's funny and endearing. Writer/Director Joe Swanberg really loves his characters and his actual baby son is one of the best babies you'll ever see in a movie -- so much personality!)

Smackdown 64 Companion. Part 2