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Entries in With a Song In My Heart (2)

Tuesday
Sep032013

Morning Truth Tell: All Hospitals Need Thelma Ritter

Don't be alarmed but I spent last night in the Emergency Room*. It won't surprise you to hear that they continue to be horrible nightmare places.

 

One woman had been there for 9 hours when we walked in and had yet to be treated. She was crying her eyes out and dizzy with  'is this real life? will i ever leave this room?' kind of existential despair. It did not bode well for the rest of the visit.

Because few things are treated like emergencies in emergency room, you're left waiting for hours for any kind of human interaction let alone problem solving. Your mind has plenty of time to wander (harmless and unavoidable) and horribilize (harmful and likely when you're in pain). I kept thinking of Thelma Ritter's "Clancy" . Sometimes all you need is someone to hear your out, put a hand on your shoulder, and talk you through it. Someone to fetch a distracted doctor with a prescription pad at least. Nobody was doing that!!! Every hospital needs a Thelma Ritter. Thirty of them, even, but they're in short supply.

Live this truth. Be your best Thelma Ritter for a loved one who needs you this week. Offer a firm kind hand and listening ear. When needed set your internal timer to redirect their self-pity if it gets out of hand. Be that steadying Supporting presence. You won't win an Oscar for it, true, but public adulation isn't everything. Private gratitude is also golden.

*I am fine. As you may have figured, I was playing the poor man's Thelma Ritter role in this scenario. It's harder than it looks!

Saturday
Aug312013

Supporting Actress Smackdown '52: Colette, Jean, Gloria, Terry, and Thelma

Presenting the Return of Stinky Lulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown now in its new home at The Film Experience. The Year is... 1952 and our panelists are allowed 52 words per actress!

THE NOMINEES

Gloria Grahame, Jean Hagen, Colette Marchand, Terry Moore, and the perennial Thelma Ritter!

THE PANELISTS

Matt Mazur (Pop Matters) is a New York-based publicist who works on campaigns for independent, foreign language, and documentary films. His vast archive of actress interviews (including Sissy Spacek and Courtney Love) can be found here. Follow him @Matt_Mazur 

Nathaniel R (The Film Experience) is the founder of The Film Experience, a Gurus of Gold and CNN International Oscar pundit, and the internet's actressexual ringleader. Also loves cats. Follow him @NathanielR

Nick Davis (Nicks Flick Picks) tweets, blogs, and writes reviews and is a professor of film, literature, and gender studies at Northwestern University. His first book "The Desiring Image" was recently published. Follow him @NicksFlickPicks

Brian Herrera (aka StinkyLulu) convened the first Supporting Actress Smackdown and hostessed more than thirty before shuttering the series in 2009. He is a writer, teacher and scholar presently based in New Jersey, but forever rooted in New Mexico. Follow him @stinkylulu

And You! We also factored averages from reader ballots sent by e-mail!

Oh, hurry up!!!"

... get to the smackdown already. Geez. Okay Okay, here we go...

 

 

1952
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN

GLORIA GRAHAME as "Rosemary" in The Bad and the Beautiful
Synopsis: A southern wife accompanies her writer husband to corrupting Hollywood
Stats: 29 yrs old. 14th film. 2nd nom. 10 Minutes of Screen Time (8.4% of Running Time)

Matt: No disrespect to Grahame, one of this era’s finest actress, but she got the gold for the wrong movie; like many women before and after. This performance is a weird fit. While other directors gave her the space to explode, Minnelli tried to contain her sexual force. It's not Rosemary you remember... ♥♥  

Nathaniel: Grahame underlines the frisson of excitement in this marriage, suggesting that it comes from the playful mix of this woman’s outer propriety and inner friskiness. She even nails a tricky final scene moving from accusatory abandoned wife to complicit partner in failure. Yet the role is slight and the voice too chirpy. ♥♥♥ 

Nick: The first Grahame performance I haven’t loved. Admittedly, the role’s scope and nature constrain it.  I admire her against-type playing, and the character invites stiff attitudes and overdeliberate gestures. Still, however tiny, the part feels underexplored.  Her win feels like recognition of prior feats and her eclectic body of work in 1952 ♥♥ 

Reader Write-In Votes: "A truly bizarre winner, though not undeserving: beautiful, quiet work in shading this restless social butterfly. I wanted much more of her.." - Sean D. (Gloria average ♥♥½) .

StinkyLulu: If I were evaluating The Bad and the Beautiful on "Top Chef" or "Chopped", I might praise Gloria Grahame’s Rosemary for bringing a much needed brightness to the dish. Grahame plays this soon-to-be-sainted flibbertigibbet with easy verve but I fear Grahame’s work here is as glancing as the character:

Gloria wins 10½ ❤s 

JEAN HAGEN as "Lina Lamont" in Singin' in the Rain
Synopsis: A silent star attempts to make it in talkies by stealing another woman's voice
Stats: 29 yrs old. 8th film. 1st nomination. 31 Minutes (30% of Running Time)

Matt: She does it all: vocal work, physical comedy, unlikability, stupidity, scheming, hiliariously failing at everything. Flawlessly.  Bonus points go to any actress playing an actress, let alone the kind of woman who has the cojones to poke fun at not only herself, but really her entire profession. How she did not win this Oscar…? ♥♥♥♥♥ 

Nathaniel: Her vocal comic invention is so thorough you can even hear the diction training sloshing around its agonizing surface but never sinking in. Lina’s silent “ACTING” is delicious, too but Jean’s is even better. Her Lina is always off-tempo, playing catch up, waiting for a line no one has written for her. ♥♥♥♥♥ 

Nick: Pretending to hate Gene Kelly requires three-star acting at least. And Hagen’s vocal ingenuity is obviously beyond.  She’s also a savvy modulator, underplaying annoyance throughout Kelly’s opening interview, deferring her delicious explosions of resentment until character-appropriate moments.  Once she gets going, she steals some of the very best scenes in American movies: ♥♥♥♥♥ 

Reader Write-In Votes: "Lina Lamont was robbed, just as Lina's soul sister Norma Cassady (Lesley Ann Warren) was exactly 30 years later." - Paul Outlaw. (Hagen average ♥♥♥♥♥ ) 

StinkyLulu: In what might have easily been a single (nasal) note of a “dumb” role, Jean Hagen deftly surprises with clever twists to unsuspecting vowels, syllables and studio executives alike. Yet, even with few glimpses into Lina’s heart, Hagen’s skill permits our delight in always knowing exactly who Miss Lina Lamont truly is.  ♥♥♥♥♥

Jean wins 25 ❤s, a perfect score 

 

COLETTE MARCHAND as "Marie Chalet" in Moulin Rouge
Synopsis: a street-walker moves in with the famous artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec but just can't settle down
Stats: Debut Film. 27 yrs old. Debut Film. 1st Nom. 27.5 Minutes (23% of Running Time)

Matt: Too many clichés: hooker with a heart of gold, scheming hooker with weak john, French slut, tragic waif… but Marchand does a decent job of navigating complicated waters and still managing to be memorable in a Moulin Rouge full of oddballs. But she's no Nicole Kidman, let me put it that way. ♥♥ 

Nathaniel: She had me at “monsieur!”, all gangly swinging arms, restless body, and giraffe-with-attitude neck. Marchand’s physicality is so heady it almost doesn’t matter that her scenes are but moodswings on loop. Her pride in poverty and self-consciousness with wealth is insightfully rendered. Like Henri we pine for her when she’s gone: ♥♥♥ 

Nick: To its credit—and not much is—Huston’s film acknowledges an essential garishness in the Moulin Rouge and Toulouse-Lautrec’s depictions. This context somewhat justifies Marchand’s frequently coarse performance; her drunken truth-telling scene with Henri and Babare thrives on that quality.  Too often, though, she’s simply rigid and off-putting.  I prefer Suzanne Flon  ♥♥ 

Reader Write-In Votes: "This film is a little slow in spots, but the best scenes are the ones with Marchand and Jose Ferrer together. You feel for her prostitute character, a common role but Marchand adds her own spin." - Sean T. (Marchand average ♥♥)

StinkyLulu: Feral, frightening and sometimes quite funny. Colette Marchand’s Marie Charlet remains a more presence than a person. (Katherine Kath does much more with much less as La Goulue.) While her palpable emotion does reliably energize this frequently languid film, Marchand’s performance lacks the precision needed to stir and sustain a deepening investment: ♥♥♥

Colette wins 12 ❤s  

 

TERRY MOORE as "Marie" in Come Back Little Sheba
Synopsis: a flirtatious college girl rents a room from an unhappy couple while struggling with fidelity to her longdistance boyfriend
Stats: 23 yrs old. 14th film. 1st nomination. 28 Minutes (28% of Running Time)

Matt: Let’s have a moment of real talk: there is no one on earth paying attention to anyone other than mesmerizing Queen Shirley Booth in ...Little Sheba. Moore does what she is asked: be pretty enough to drive Lancaster into a mad rage. But there’s not much character there so she’s left struggling. ♥ 

Nathaniel: She does engaging work as a cock-tease testing her boundaries with a local stud. She’s smart, too, about how the young switch on and off with adults in a room. I like the way Marie sizes up her strange landlady (less so her landlord). But the character never feels fully explored or resonant. ♥♥ 

Nick: Between Booth’s asphyxiating affectations and Lancaster’s stolidity, Moore’s relaxed effervescence is a welcome mediator. Her richest scene comes when that aplomb gets tested by Richard Jaeckel’s abruptly aggressive advances; her panicked response is clearly to him, not to sex itself.  Nonetheless, this isn’t complicated acting.  Standard for Moore and bordering on generic ♥♥

Reader Write-In Votes: "I can't remember many movies from the 50s that had a young sexually-active character and performed well by Moore. I certainly can't see the negative of the performance" - Travis. (Moore average ♥♥).

StinkyLulu: Marie feels more plot device than character, an inciting incident taken to human form. Yet Terry Moore animates her catalytic presence with startling believability. Her Marie is a simple, smart, capable girl who fully enjoys playing at being bad — and who (unlike those around her) somehow knows when to say when.  ♥♥♥♥ 

Terry wins 11❤s


THELMA RITTER as "Clancy" in With a Song in My Heart
Synopsis: a nurse accompanies a famous singer on a USO Tour in World War II
Stats: 50 yrs old. 9th film. 3rd of 4 Consecutive Noms (2 More Followed). 28 Minutes (24% of Running Time)

Matt: One dynamic performance hidden within a limp noodle film makes it a little more al dente. Her stalwart nurse ("Clancy" -- how perfect is that name?), is not afraid to tell it like it t-i-is. As is Ritter’s custom, she packs in an astounding amount of detail, using the tiniest bits of dialog to reveal something key. ♥♥♥♥ 

Nathaniel: Gold from dross! Though half her role consists of gazing admirably at Hayward’s lipsynching (blech), Ritter seizes every opportunity to make the other half dance, managing heaps of personality while narrating and offering sly subtext like  embarrassment at her friend/ patient’s self-pity. I live for that improv dancing… “I’m more the type!” ♥♥♥♥ 

Nick: Ritter hews to type as a wisecracking helpmeet whose humor and lucid counsel profit the other characters. Still, she’s the Dijon mustard this ham sandwich needs, her candor and tangy delivery tempering all the sanctification.  Ritter presents a prickly, compassionate, occasionally reproachful nurse, not a blandly colorful worshiper in a biopic pew: ♥♥♥ 

Reader Write-In Votes: "Ritter fills the role with emotion, and - more importantly compared to Grahame and Moore - feels like a necessary and irreplaceable role/performance for the film. " -PoliVamp (Thelma average ♥♥♥) 

StinkyLulu: As “Flatbush Florence Nightingale” Clancy, Thelma Ritter gets to do Thelma Ritter. Always cracking wise as the film’s in-house heckler and audience surrogate. Stalwart. Salt-of-the-earth. With just that dash of saltiness. But even with costume changes and a couple of tiny tearful moments, there’s no arc or special insight here. Just Ritter. ♥♥

Thelma wins 16 ❤s  

OSCAR vs. SMACKDOWN


The Academy pied Jean Hagen right in the kisser and handed the coveted Best Supporting Actress statue to Gloria Grahame as "Rosemary" in The Bad and the Beautiful. As Matt notes: 

In 1952, it made all-too-terrible sense for Grahame to win given her solid work in three other films besides this Minnelli classic: The Greatest Show on Earth, Macao, and Sudden Fear. She worked with literally everyone that year. She is fantastic in Fear and Macao, moreso than in Beautiful.

 But our panelists "cannnn'stann'it!" and rewrite Oscar history to hand a landslide win to that 'shimmering star in the foimament' Lina Lamont.

Soak it up, Jean!

Thank you for attending the Smackdown!  Throw pies, shade or applause at your favorites. (If you're new to the Smackdown, here's the old archives at StinkyLulu)

Previous Smackdown Goodies
Stinky's Preliminary Thoughts, Introducing... the 5, and The Oscar Ceremony Itself

NEXT SMACKDOWN SUNDAY, SEPT 29th 
The Supporting Actresses of 1980 
Brennan, Le Galliene, Moriarty, Scarwid, and Steenburgen comin' atcha!
Panelists TBA