Best Actress, like Best Actor and to a lesser extent Director and Film has always, largely been a political Oscar. Many times it doesn’t matter which film it is that are have been awarded or nominated for- it matters more what films you may have done up until that point, which parties you have been going to, which charities you have raised money for, and who you know. I realize that sounds like conspiracy theory nonsense, it sure sounds like it, but the fact remains that few of the awards given in this category have been given solely for the performance in said film. That, my friends and enemies, is wrong, unfair, and I am here to ring the changes with my own idiotic choices. I’m sure there are countless films and performances I have missed, and this in the end comes down to personal preferences- you won’t see many winners here from films I don’t like. Having said that, there are plenty of performances I love in film’s I hate, and performances I hate in even my most beloved movies. There will be many unusual choices here, particularly from my own nominations, but from the actual nominations I like to think of myself as Quantum Leaping back and fixing in many cases what so clearly went wrong. So, all you pretty A-listers and red carpet hoggers should prepare to hand over your ill-deserved few inches of carved goodness to those who worked, sweated, and were forgotten.
Official Nominations: Maggie Smith. Genevieve Bujold. Jane Fonda. Liza Minnelli. Jean Simmons.
Although nowadays Maggie Smith is known for building nests in your neighbour’s trees and swooping down to gobble up stray worms and centipedes, back in 1969 she was winning an Oscar for her performance in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie. It is an excessively ugly film with many bizarre accents, topped off by the dead eyed stare of Maggie as she gives it her all. Genevieve Bujold is the best thing about Anne Of The Thousand Days, Jane Fonda gets a deserved nomination in the bleak, bizarre, and still shocking They Shoot Horses, Don’t They, and Liza Minnelli is just on the verge of irritating in The Sterile Cuckoo. Jean Simmons is the final pick, very strong in the unusually frank The Happy Ending.
My Winner: Genevieve Bujold.
My Nominations: Genevieve Bujold. Jane Fonda. Jean Simmons. Natalie Wood. Shirley Knight. Diana Rigg.
Not too many changes for my personal nominations this year – three existing and three new. Ted and Alice got nominations for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, so why not Carol? Natalie Wood stars as the liberal Carol who is okay with her husbands extra-marital antics so decides to have some of her own, before eyeing up a more dedicated commitment to swinging. Shirley Knight goes on a personal odyssey encountering various characters and reflecting the frustration and stress of someone who has not yet worked out what they want out of their own life. Finally, long before she was trading barbs and quips with royalty in Westeros, Diana Rigg was hanging out in equally dangerous snake-pits. Her performance in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is good, but it is in the same year in The Adjustment Bureau that she earns my nomination, a strong woman driven to personal and public gain through moral and dubious ventures.
My Winner: Shirley Knight.
Let us know in the comments who gets your pick as the Best Actress of 1969 – any of the above, or someone I have missed?
Katherine Hepburn picked up another win for The Lion In Winter, while Barbara Streisand picked up a nomination for her first movie Funny Girl. As proof that The Academy was just making it up as it went along, Streisand was actually joint winner this year. Patricia Neal does her best in The Subject Was Roses, Redgrave globe-trots rambunctiously in Isadora, while Woodward is a polar opposite in Rachel, Rachel.
Only Redgrave and Streisand make it over to my nominations and won’t stand a chance of winning versus my other three picks. Jacqueline Bisset made a pretty big impact in 1968 being nominated for a Golden Globe in the interesting surfer movie The Sweet Ride and appearing in the very good The Detective (based on a novel whose sequel would be adapted into Die Hard). However, it is her performance in Bullitt which earns her my nomination – she holds her own along side the veteran McQueen and ensures that the movie isn’t only remembered for him and the car chase. Also holding their own along side McQueen is Fay Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair, creating a smoldering partnership as the cool and intelligent Vicki. Claudia Cardinale also appeared in a bunch of movies in 1968, but it is undoubtedly Once Upon A Time In The West that she is remembered for – her performance (baked up by her theme) providing the heart and soul of the movie and is never less than captivating – make no mistake, this is a film about Jill rather than Harmonica or the others.
My Winner: Claudia Cardinale.
Who do you pick from the Official list of nominees, and who would be your choices of Best Actress of 1968 from those who were not nominated – let us know in the comments!
Official Nominations: Katherine Hepburn. Anne Bancroft. Faye Dunaway. Edith Evans. Audrey Hepburn.
An interesting blend of old and new both in the actresses chosen and the films they represented – with Edith Evans receiving her third and final nomination as the eccentric and downtrodden Mrs Ross in the ever bleak The Whisperers, a fine performance but not a film that you’d want to go through more than once. Katherine Hepburn picked up her second win in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner as the supposedly liberal parent forced to examine her inward and outward beliefs, while Audrey Hepburn is excellent in a rare horror related role as the tormented, blind Susy. Anne Bancroft symbolizes the age gap if not necessarily a generational one as Mrs Robinson in The Graduate, while Faye Dunaway blasted her way on to the scene with an unforgettable performance as Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde. Worthy nominees and worthy winners for all.
My Winner: Faye Dunaway
My Nominations: Anne Bancroft. Faye Dunaway. Audrey Hepburn. Catherine Deneuve. Jane Fonda.
I’ve dropped Evans and Katherine Hepburn for my nominations and added Finda and Deneuve. Fonda excels in the enjoyable but not always successful Barefoot In The Park, while Deneuve gives a stunning performance as the titular Belle De Jour who fantasizes about darker, fringe sex games.
My Winner: Faye Dunaway
Who is your pick for the Best Actress of 1967? Let us know in the comments!
Official Nominations: Elizabeth Taylor. Anouk Aimee. Ida Kaminska. Lynn Redgrave. Vanessa Redgrave.
Like much of the latter half of the 60s, 1966 was an important year for Women, the major moment being the founding of the National Organization for women. In the Media and in the Arts, Women were blurring and breaking boundaries and crossing divides – Janis Joplin was the voice of a new generation while the likes of Nancy Sinatra and Cher were going toe to toe with The Beatles and The Stones. Many of the year’s highest grossing, well-received and most important movies featured actresses in defining performances and symbolizing the wind of change sweeping across the Western World and beyond.
Liz Taylor gives a Daniel Day Lewis turn by performing as Martha in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? – the antithesis of every other role she had played until this point, piling on the pounds, and ultimately makes the film more energetic and enticing. Taylor earned her second Oscar with her performance, no doubt helped by the on and off-screen antics between her and Burton. Anouk Aimee was already well known to critics thanks to 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita, but with A Man And A Woman she was able to take centre stage as the sympathetic widow and mother Anne. In a film where the beauty of the visuals threatens to overcome the story and the cast, Aimee holds her own. On an entirely different note, The Shop On Main Street sees Ida Kaminska as an old shop owner under threat from Aryanization during WW2. Her performance, coupled with the grim nature and resolution of the film were enough to get the film considerable notice in the US. The final two nominations go to the Redgrave sisters, Lynn and Vanessa for Georgy Girl and Morgan! respectively. The two British films share quite a few similarities, but the characters each play are near opposites with Lynn playing a naive, ‘pure’, imaginative young woman and Vanessa as a bored housewife seeking divorce. Both characters however are objects of extreme desire for the male characters, and hilarity ensues.
My Winner: Elizabeth Taylor.
My Nominations: Elizabeth Taylor. Francoise Dorleac. Virginia McKenna. Anne Bancroft.
Only Taylor makes it over from the official list this year. Dorleac gives another forgotten, energetic performance in Cul-de-sac which was another stepping stone towards what should have been a greater level of stardom before her untimely death. Most people only remember Born Free for its song and visuals, but that is doing a disservice to McKenna’s performance as Joy Adamson. Finally, Anne Bancroft stirs up trouble at a Chinese Christian missionary as the newly arrived, anti-religion Doctor Cartwright, a role which she joyfully sinks her teeth into.
My Winner: Elizabeth Taylor.
Who is your pick for the Best Actress of 1966? Let us know in the comments!
Official Nominations: Julie Christie. Julie Andrews. Elizabeth Hartman. Simone Signoret. Samantha Eggar.
The big shock this year was that Julie Christie pipped Julie Andrews to the post, though I believe this was the right decision. Andrews basically gives the same performance in The Sound Of Music as she gave in the previous year’s Mary Poppins while Christie gives a rollercoaster showing in Darling, portraying the ups and downs of fame and life in 60s Britain. Her performance is often harrowing, frequently innocent, equally knowing, and says a lot about the unfortunate celebrity culture which still thrives today. Add to this the fact that she also stars in Dr.Zhivago this year and we have a definitive 12 months for the actress. Elizabeth Hartman gives an honest, touching performance in A Patch Of Blue as a blind teenager who falls in love with Sidney Poitier’s character. At the time she was the youngest ever (22) nominee for the award. Rounding up the nominations are Signoret for Ship Of Fools and Eggar for The Collector. Signoret gets a deserved 2nd nomination for her gloomy addict, while Eggar earned her only nomination as a kidnap victim in Wyler’s effective thriller. It’s a tough call between all of the nominees, excluding Andrews.
Christie makes my list of nominations too, a list which features some obvious choices and some debatable ones. Catherine Deneuve gives one of the best performances of the decade in Repulsion where she subtly appears as shy, withdrawn, terrified, haunted, confused, and murderous. The film and the performance was arguably the most important at bringing her to a worldwide audience. Natalie Wood does a Hilary Swank 30 years earlier, shocking the US with her honest portrayal of a tomboy broken by stardom in Inside Daisy Clover, although most of the film’s commercial failure came from Redford’s homosexual character. It’s another relationship and film which the world was not ready to witness. Patricia Neal (in a year when she basically was dead for almost a month) starred as more than John Wayne’s love interest in In Harm’s Way, one of the last old school war epics. My final nomination is sure to shock some, but I feel it is justified given the long-lasting notoriety of the film. Satana effectively makes Faster Pussycat, kill kill! work. She is the driving force behind the plot, the energy, and most of the film’s best moments. She created the character from scraps of information, and makes a grindhouse absurdity almost believable. Improvising most of her best dialogue, she commands the screen and should have gone on to bigger, better things.
My Winner: Catherine Deneuve.
Let me know who you think was the Best Actress of 1965!
Actual Nominations: Julie Andrews. Anne Bancroft. Sophia Loren. Debbie Reynolds. Kim Stanley.
This was quite a controversial year for the Best Actress category, primarily due to the Audrey Hepburn snub. Hepburn missed out on the nomination after it was revealed that she had not performed the singing in My Fair Lady (actually done by Marni Nixon) and as she had replaced the more favourable stage actress Julie Andrews. To add insult to injury, Andrews was the official winner this year as Mary Poppins. An obvious winner, it is one of her most memorable roles and to her credit she does bring exuberance to the character and makes her more appealing than the original book version, but much of the success is of course down to the writing, the one-liners, and the music. The film itself is so twee that it just isn’t my thing. Loren stars as the deceitful, clever prostitute Filomena in Marriage- Italian Style and is as sultry and colourful as you would expect while Reynolds is funny and spirited as Molly Brown in an uninspired musical. Bancroft is inspired as the complex Jo in an often difficult, ambitious, and ambiguous Pinter penned film which seems ripe for a cultural re-examination. My win however goes to Kim Stanley for another British film- Seance On A Wet Afternoon. A modern twist on Lady Macbeth, with her own desires primarily of importance, her character is both wicked and tragic, and Stanley portrays both sides without flaw whilst commanding her household and the screen in a domineering fashion.
My Winner: Kim Stanley.
My Nominations: Audrey Hepburn. Julie Andrews. Anne Bancroft. Kim Stanley. Sophia Loren. Honor Blackman. Nobuko Otowa. Tippi Hedren.
Making it over from the official nominations are Andrews, Bancroft, Stanley, and Loren who are all worthy nominees and winners. I’ve added a few newbies to the nominations- Tippi Hedren as the steely, mysterious Marnie, Honor Blackman as one of the first Bond Girls who was more than just a damsel in distress (and because any character called Pussy Galore deserves, nay, necessitates attention). Nobuko Otawa for her chilling performance as the murderous woman in Onibaba, and finally, putting right what once went wrong, Audrey Hepburn for her film stealing performance in My Fair Lady which alone makes watching the film for a non-musical fan bearable.
My Winner: Audrey Hepburn
Did I miss you pick for the Best Actress of 1964? Let us know in the comments!
Again this wasn’t a very strong year in the Best Actress category and I’ve found it difficult choosing a winner because none of the performances wowed me. Neal won the award this year even though her scenes were minimal. My win goes to Roberts whose tragic character and tear-jerking role in Thi Sporting Life was eerily close to her own life.
My Winner: Rachel Roberts.
My Nominations: Elizabeth Taylor. Tippi Hedren. Julie Harris. Brigitte Bardot.
It’s fairly obvious that Liz Taylor gets my win this year, not that I’m a huge fan, but that if a 5 minute reel of film footage ever gets sent into space featuring our greatest stars and moments, you can be certain that Taylor as Cleopatra would be featured. It was the role she was born to play and it is impossible, pointless to imagine anyone else in the role. My close runner up is Tippi Hedren, who I am a huge fan of, both as an actress and a woman. She is as perfect as a ‘Hitchcock female’ as you could imagine, and is silky, sly, sexual, yet mysterious, endearing, and engaging in The Birds. Bardot gives one of her most famous efforts in Contempt where she is luscious and strong, while Harris plays an unusual horror heroine wonderfully in The Haunting.
My Winner: Elizabeth Taylor
As always, give your vote in the poll below, and let your voice be heard in the comments section!