My current Top 5

My current Top 5

5/19/2019

Best Actress Ranking - Update

Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

If five performances from the same year are included, the winning performance is higlighted in red.

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)
6. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
7. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
8. Jill Clayburgh in An Unmarried Woman (1978)
9. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
10. Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful (1985)

11. Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise (1991)
12. Katharine Hepburn in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
13. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
14. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)
15. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
16. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
17. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
18. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
19. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top (1959)
20. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)

21. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
22. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
23. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
24. Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
25. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
26. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
27. Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
28. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie (1998)
29. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
30. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)

31. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
32. Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada (2006)
33. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
34. Anne Baxter in All about Eve (1950)
35. Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown (1997)
36. Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)
37. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
38. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
39. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
40. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)

41. Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952)
42. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
43. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
44. Marsha Mason in Chapter Two (1979)
45. Jane Wyman in The Yearling (1946)
46. Martha Scott in Our Town (1940)
47. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
48. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
49. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
50. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)

51. Jeanne Crain in Pinky (1949)
52. Eleanor Parker in Detective Story (1951)
53. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
54. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
55. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
56. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
57. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
58. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
59. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
60. Ruth Chatterton in Madame X (1928-29)

61. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)
62. Bette Davis in The Star (1952)

Jeanne Crain as Patricia 'Pinky' Johnson in Pinky

Jeanne Crain's performance is another one I already covered in detail, so I just refer you to my old review.

5/15/2019

Best Actress Ranking - Update

Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

If five performances from the same year are included, the winning performance is higlighted in red.

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)
6. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
7. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
8. Jill Clayburgh in An Unmarried Woman (1978)
9. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
10. Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful (1985)

11. Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise (1991)
12. Katharine Hepburn in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
13. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
14. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)
15. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
16. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
17. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
18. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
19. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top (1959)
20. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)

21. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
22. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
23. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
24. Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
25. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
26. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
27. Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
28. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie (1998)
29. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
30. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)

31. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
32. Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada (2006)
33. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
34. Anne Baxter in All about Eve (1950)
35. Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown (1997)
36. Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)
37. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
38. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
39. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
40. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)

41. Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952)
42. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
43. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
44. Marsha Mason in Chapter Two (1979)
45. Jane Wyman in The Yearling (1946)
46. Martha Scott in Our Town (1940)
47. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
48. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
49. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
50. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)

51. Eleanor Parker in Detective Story (1951)
52. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
53. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
54. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
55. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
56. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
57. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
58. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
59. Ruth Chatterton in Madame X (1928-29)
60. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)

61. Bette Davis in The Star (1952)

Lee Remick as Kirsten Clay in Days of Wine and Roses


Lee Remick seems very often to be the typical „fifth“ nominee – an actor or actress who often gets lost in the competition of four more well-known performers and performances (other examples that come to my mind are Martha Scott in Our Town or Eleanor Parker in Caged). 1962 saw Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Geraldine Page and Anne Bancroft battle it out in the Best Actress category, with signature work from nearly everyone involved and Lee Remick often seems to just be along for the ride…But very often, the “fifth nominee” does in no way need to hide between more famous co-nominees (Luise Rainer is basically the “fifth nominee” in 1937 and she deservedly won), as great performances don’t only come in movies that are more remembered today and are not only given by well-known performers. But even if Lee Remick might be the fifth nominee from today’s point of view, I actually think that she had a much better chance at the gold than most think today. Apparently, Bette Davis herself found Lee Remick’s performance astonishing and thought that if anyone would stop her from getting that third Oscar, it would be her. Personally, I could easily imagine that, even if most people today seem to narrow the race down to her more well-known co-nominees, she was an important part of the race.

Katharine Hepburn was the sole nomination for her movie that is not the kind of movie that many Academy members were likely to watch in the first place (similar to Rosalind Russell and Mourning Becomes Electra) and there was not yet a strong desire to award her with a second Oscar. And let’s be honest: no matter what Bette Davis said in all those talk-shows later or what Feud might imply, I just don’t see Academy members embracing her work in Whatever happened to Baby Jane? and awarding her with a third Oscar. Yes, Whatever happened to Baby Jane? did receive multiple nominations and even won an Oscar for Costume Design, but the Academy is less afraid to award movies like this on a technical level (for comparisons, see many of the winners for Best Make-Up) – giving it an acting award however, especially when the performer in question already has 2 Oscars at home, is an entirely different matter. Not even Agnes Mooreheard could win a Supporting Oscar two years later for a similar movie and she was considered overdue for her first win at this point. So, I personally think that Bette was rather fourth in this race and not as close to the win as she often liked to say and should have been happy that the Academy actually nominated her. In my eyes, the race actually came down to Anne Bancroft, Geraldine Page – and Lee Remick. Anne Bancroft’s win is not really that surprising – she plays the only nominee in this line-up who is not addicted to alcohol or drugs and instead feels rather heroic in her determination to teach blind and deaf Helen Keller to understand the world around her. Of course, besides this, she also delivered a top-notch performance and the physicality of her role was surely considered a revelation at its time (both Anne Bancroft and Bette Davis appeared on What’s my Line? before the Oscars and while you can see that everyone loves Bette for who she is, everyone is clearly in awe of Anne Bancroft’s performance). I also think that Geraldine Page was a strong factor in the race – she had the Broadway prestige, the Tennessee Williams prestige, the loss a year before and Sweet Bird of Youth was probably also seen as a strong movie adaptation (that also won an award for Supporting Actor). And Lee Remick? I think that hers might have been a popular performance with voters as well because she was the only “addict” nominee whose downfall was presented as a heart-breaking development – her addicted co-nominees also suffer, but they are also sometimes appalling and are suffering from their addictions right from the start. In the case of Lee Remick, the viewer feels much more sympathy for her suffering as she starts the movie as a young, innocent woman and she also never actively decided to become an alcoholic but rather is pushed along this ride by her husband. All this makes it very easy to feel for her and I can see a lot of Academy voters reacting positively to this transformation. Of course, in the end, it’s all pure speculation…so what about Lee Remick’s actual performance?

Thankfully I can say that this performance already shows the strength of the 1962 line-up since even the least talked-about nominee of this group delivers a very strong and beautiful performance. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise – Lee Remick was a very unaffected and instinctive screen actress to whom a lot of often difficult acting jobs came very naturally, something that is especially important in many key scenes of Days of Wine and Roses. As I said above, this is also a very heart-breaking performance of a very innocent character – something that provides Lee Remick with her strongest moments but also prevents her from going further up in my ranking as the part often holds her back or puts her in a too passive role as she too rarely gets to shape her own fate.

Days of Wine and Roses is famously based on a TV movie starring Cliff Robertson (whose anger over being rejected for the movie version caused him to make sure that the same thing wouldn’t happen again with his role in The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon which would be turned into Charly and win him an Oscar later) and Piper Laurie, a much more aggressive and dominant actress than Lee Remick. The casting of Jack Lemmon obviously caused some changes in the production – apparently, many audience members walked out of Days of Wine and Roses in 1962 as they expected a typical Jack Lemmon comedy. And for a while, they would be right – the movie builds its tragedy step by step. The beginning appears like a typical “Will they, won’t they?” romantic comedy where Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick meet, encounter an error of identities, dislike each other before they inevitable fall in love and get married. Jack Lemmon also uses the beginning of the story for some of his trademark goofy humour and it’s easy to see why audience might have been shocked when the story suddenly turns from what seems like a funny drinking game into a tale of two people losing control of their very existence.  

It has to be said that the changes coming with the casting of Jack Lemmon actually make the story more devastating than before – the TV version starts right away at a very low level for both Joe and Kirsten while the movie takes it time and shows them first as a happy couple, making their downfall even more disturbing. But the biggest change between TV and movie version of Days of Wine and Roses actually came in regards to the character of Kirsten – and these changes made her both more memorable and less interesting at the same time. In the TV version, Kirsten is already the same kind of drunk as Joe – they meet at an office party and form a tragic bond while they accompany their growing alcoholism, each one constantly taking the other one step further. In the movie version, Kirsten is anything but an alcoholic – she actually makes it a point that she dislikes alcohol and doesn’t see the point in it. The movie (clumsily) explains that Kirsten suffers from an addictive personality (apparently shown by her “addiction” to chocolate) that later causes her to become an alcoholic once she tasted a sweet Brandy Alexander. This downfall and contrast obviously benefits Lee Remick – she has a very “All American Girl” personality that makes her an innocent and fresh-faced young woman that contrasts very sharply with her later scenes of drunken despair. But this change from TV to movie screen also caused Kirsten to become a person that is too easily pushed around by others and lacks too much energy – she doesn’t like alcohol until Joe makes her taste it, she likes it then but stops after she had a baby until Joe gets upset with her and wants her to drink with him again which she does until he wants to stop, so she stops with him until he has a relapse and starts drinking again which she then does as well…until at the end when he again wants to stop, only this time she will not join him anymore. This constant “following” makes Kirsten the classic supportive wife (only in this case in the worst of meanings) and again, it does make her downfall very memorable but also provides her from being a stronger or more interesting presence – Piper Laurie obviously took every chance to step into the foreground and the fact that Kirsten was constantly her own person helped her to achieve a different kind of impact than Lee Remick. Today, the actress playing Kirsten would most likely enter the Supporting category – don’t get me wrong, this would surely be category fraud but it is still a limited co-lead part that also suffers from the fact that Jack Lemmon gets the clear central role with much more dramatic opportunities.

But the limits of the part itself are thankfully the only problems that Lee Remick faces as her performance within these limits is a beautiful, strong and disturbing portrayal that certainly gets everything out the role. What’s surprising right from the start is how strong her Kirsten rejects Joe at the beginning. He meets her first when he thinks she is one of the party girls he hired for a party when she is actually his bosses secretary and she immediately takes a strong disliking to him – Lee Remick plays this without any softening of her character and when she later slaps him, it again feels surprisingly serious, considering the rather light touch that the movie and Jack Lemmon had built up to that point. However, this seriousness also does harm her performance in a way when Kirsten suddenly has a change of mind and decides to go out with Joe – so far, their dislike of one another had been so convincing that this change does not feel entirely true; however, after that scene, their chemistry much improves and lays the basis for the story to follow.

Lee Remick possesses a very expressive face and eyes that can easily tell very precise stories – when she mentions her father, he eyes show for a short moment the panic in her, the desire to be accepted, the pretending that she does to herself, before she goes back to being a sweet conversation partner. She also has a very melancholic personality that shimmers just underneath that sweetness and innocence that helps to make scenes such as Joe and Kirsten sharing an evening by the waterfront, talking about her parents or a dream about her own death, very noteworthy and in wonderful harmony with the goal of her personal journey. As I said earlier, Lee Remick is also a very natural actress who can express a vast area of different emotions– she can have a totally believable laughing fit when her neighbours come by to complain about the fact that she is spraying poison against the roaches in her apartment or when she is drunk and has to hide it from her father, she can show the sadness from her father’s disapproval or the pain from Joe telling her that she will ruin her shape by breast-feeding her child and of course the drunken helplessness without any artificiality.  

In a certain way, another criticism that one might have of this performance is that Lee Remick doesn’t do anything with the part that most other actresses couldn’t do as well. This is true to a certain extent – Lee Remick doesn’t surprise with her performance but she does add her own personality and she does get out of it what’s humanly possible. Because it might not be possible to do exactly more with this role – but a look at the TV version shows that it’s definitely possible to do less. Piper Laurie was obviously a talented stage actress but her tics and method approach to this part often makes her performance, especially in her drunk scenes, too forced and affected. Her delivery of the line “Can’t you hear a woman calling you?” is done far too aggressive while Lee Remick captures all of the anger, exhaustion and desperation that Kirsten is feeling. Her big drunk scene in a shabby hotel room is clearly Lee Remick’s big “Oscar scene” – and it’s impossible to not feel for Kirsten in this moment as Lee Remick manages to be completely believable as a drunk, never overdoing it but also not ignoring any of the effects that alcohol has on Kirsten. It’s a deeply disturbing scene that might be her “big” moment but, for my money, Lee Remick is even better in her final scene when a sober Kirsten begs Joe to let her come back and live with him and their daughter again while being unable to promise that she will stop drinking. Her face feels so different from the woman at the beginning of the movie and she wonderfully shows how Kirsten is unwilling to stop drinking while refusing to be called an “alcoholic” and finally admits that she rather continues to drink than be with her family. It’s the only time in the movie that Kirsten makes a decision for herself...

So, this is certainly a heart-breaking and beautifully executed performance that worked wonderfully within the movie and in relation to Jack Lemmon. Lee Remick unfortunately too often had to step back as Jack Lemmon dominated the story but she nonetheless left a lasting impression, thanks to her natural and memorable personality that made the journey of Kirsten equally devastating and upsetting.  

4/26/2019

Best Actress Ranking - Update

Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

If five performances from the same year are included, the winning performance is higlighted in red.

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)
6. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
7. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
8. Jill Clayburgh in An Unmarried Woman (1978)
9. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
10. Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful (1985)

11. Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise (1991)
12. Katharine Hepburn in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
13. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
14. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)
15. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
16. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
17. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
18. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
19. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top (1959)
20. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)

21. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
22. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
23. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
24. Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
25. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
26. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
27. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie (1998)
28. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
29. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
30. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)

31. Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada (2006)
32. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
33. Anne Baxter in All about Eve (1950)
34. Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown (1997)
35. Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)
36. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
37. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
38. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
39. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
40. Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952)

41. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
42. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
43. Marsha Mason in Chapter Two (1979)
44. Jane Wyman in The Yearling (1946)
45. Martha Scott in Our Town (1940)
46. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
47. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
48. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
49. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
50. Eleanor Parker in Detective Story (1951)

51. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
52. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
53. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
54. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
55. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
56. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
57. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
58. Ruth Chatterton in Madame X (1928-29)
59. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)
60. Bette Davis in The Star (1952)

Maggie Smith as Jean Brodie in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Since my original opinion on Maggie Smith's performance did not change, you can find my original review here.

4/18/2019

Best Actress Ranking - Update

Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

If five performances from the same year are included, the winning performance is higlighted in red.

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
6. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
7. Jill Clayburgh in An Unmarried Woman (1978)
8. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
9. Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
10. Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise (1991)

11. Katharine Hepburn in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
12. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
13. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)
14. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
15. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
16. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
17. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
18. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top (1959)
19. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
20. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)

21. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
22. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
23. Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
24. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
25. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
26. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie (1998)
27. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
28. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
29. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
30. Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada (2006)

31. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
32. Anne Baxter in All about Eve (1950)
33. Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown (1997)
34. Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)
35. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
36. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
37. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
38. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
39. Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952)
40. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)

41. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
42. Marsha Mason in Chapter Two (1979)
43. Jane Wyman in The Yearling (1946)
44. Martha Scott in Our Town (1940)
45. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
46. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
47. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
48. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
49. Eleanor Parker in Detective Story (1951)
50. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)

51. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
52. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
53. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
54. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
55. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
56. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
57. Ruth Chatterton in Madame X (1928-29)
58. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)
59. Bette Davis in The Star (1952)

Bette Davis as Margaret Elliot in The Star


This decision was obviously a very difficult decision because placing a performance last in a ranking (even if the ranking is far from finished so who knows where the performance will be in the end) is never pleasant. And it becomes even more difficult considering that I am not talking about some unknown performer who might have been lucky with an undeserved nomination but rather one of the greatest actresses of the 20th century – how can she be last? And on top of that, with this placement I seem to contradict some of my own reasons from the past. In the case of Mary Pickford, I decided to not rank her last despite an often disastrous performance simply because she had an entertaining factor and always remained watchable, even during her bad moments while the performances below her felt completely uninspired to me. And if I want to be completely fair, then yes, I have to admit that Bette Davis in The Star is also entertaining – after all, this movie is about a washed-up former movie star who dreams of a comeback and takes her Oscar statuette for a drunken car ride around town. How could I not love this? But the thing is – Coquette, a dreadful movie, totally depended on Mary Pickford’s performance and whatever good moments came out of it, happened only of her. In the case of The Star, a movie not much less dreadful than Coquette, all the entertaining factors come from the screenplay. Again, it’s not a good screenplay but if you love old Hollywood and backstage dramas without thinking too much, then yes, it delivers – but Bette Davis is not necessarily the reason for this.

In the end, everything about my ranking is obviously extremely subjective but my final decision on her position was simply based on this: of all the performances that I have ranked so far, Bette Davis’s work in The Star is the only one that I would describe as “lazy”. In the case of Diana Wynard or Ruth Chatterton, even if their actual acting left a lot do be desired, I at least got the feeling that they thought about their characters and tried to go a bit deeper or at least had some idea about what kind of person they want to represent. In the case of Bette Davis, you get the feeling that she simply showed up, did her “Bette Davis-thing” and went home again. I never like to accuse actors of “playing themselves” or similar criticism, but in this case, it just feels strangely true. If the role in The Star had been played by another actress and you would wonder “How would Bette Davis have played that part?”, you get your answer right here – because every mannerism, every line, every single moment in The Star is delivered exactly in the way you imagine Bette Davis would deliver them. There is nothing surprising, no depth, nothing of the maturity from All about Eve or the playfulness of her earlier work. Bette Davis simply took this part and seemed to think "You want Bette Davis? I give you more Bette Davis than you can handle!" and that way ended with a performance that feels uninspired and unoriginal at every moment. And this is why everything about this work just feels “lazy”.

All about Eve feels like a good reference in this review. I am pretty sure that there were comparisons when The Star came out and it does feel inevitably to compare Margo Channing and Margret Elliot – both played by Bette Davis only two years apart, both Oscar-nominated performances that show an actress with many problems. But while All about Eve is obviously a masterpiece that offered Bette Davis a very multidimensional character, The Star is essentially just a B-movie that might seem to offer a great part because Margaret Elliot is basically in every scene of the picture and gets many “big moments”, but it’s actually a very thin part, in no way helped by Bette Davis’s uninspired performance.

The Star begins with an auction where the belongings of Margaret Elliot are sold. One of the buyers is her agent who apparently has no problem to benefit from Margaret’s misery. The scene that follows shows that Margaret doesn’t get any more parts and is too old for the one part she would like. This scene also sets up a pattern for the other scenes that follow – Margaret asks to borrow some money, is denied and then angrily tells how much money she has given over the past. This happens with her agent, the new wife of her ex-husband and her sister and brother-in-law. And in all cases, Bette Davis makes one thing very clear: Margaret is mad. Bette Davis basically starts shouting the moment the movie begins, widening her eyes in anger, spitting out the words at every opportunity. And she will stay on this one note for pretty much the entire picture – as I said earlier, if you would create a Bette Davis performance in your mind simply based on the mannerism you know, the performance in The Star would be the outcome.

The sad truth is that none of these big emotional moments have any impact on the viewer or make Margaret in any way interesting as a character. All the fascination from her Margo Channing is completely gone. Her outbursts are far too over-the-top (throwing her sister and brother-in-law out of her apartment while screaming at the top of her lungs or being thrown into jail while screaming “YOU DON’T SEEM TO KNOW WHO I AM”), her crying scenes too theatrical (staying in front of her old house, sobbing “going…going...gone”) while scenes such as joy or love feel completely unbelievable altogether. But the sad truth goes even beyond that as Bette Davis never feels remotely believable as a former movie star – as shocking as it seems but there is nothing “star-like” about her. This might be intentional as Margaret’s best days are over but I would expect a certain amount of star quality nonetheless.

Another difference between The Star and All about Eve is how the movie treats its central character – All about Eve understood the worries and problems of Margo and presented them in a way that made her character understandable even in her most childish moments. The Star, while putting much more focus on Margaret as its central character than All about Eve did with Margo, often rather treats Margaret as an intruder, a woman who deserves what happened to her and guides her to a completely unsatisfying ending. The movie constantly tells us that Margaret should accept her fate and focus on what is truly important – being a woman and a mother.

Of course, the missteps of the movie are not Bette Davis’s fault but honestly – was there another actress in Hollywood’s golden era less suited to play a part that ends with her running into her lover’s arm, realizing that love is the only thing that matters? Or less suited to play a woman who recognises the importance of her maternal instincts? Hardly – and this harms everything the movie intends to be. This is also due to the fact that Bette Davis and Sterling Hayden are certainly among the most unbelievable lovers in movie history (of course, Sterling Hayden makes a piece of wood look alive in comparison so Bette Davis did not have much to act with here...). They have such a lack of chemistry that I actually missed that they were supposed to be in love and was completely confused by the ending. It’s not only that Sterling Hayden’s literally appears out of nowhere suddenly in the movie but there is nothing between these two actors – the script actually doesn’t give them a lot to work on as Sterling Hayden’s Jim seems more like a big brother but both Bette Davis and he constantly almost seem to ignore each other in their performances (on top of that, even though Bette Davis was only eight years older, they often look like aunt and nephew). Additionally, whenever I think back to The Star, I completely forget Natalie Wood’s presence and the fact that Margaret is supposed to have a daughter because Bette Davis again completely fails to portray this part of Margaret’s life in any believable way.

What amazes me about The Star is why Bette Davis decided to make this movie in the first place (the movie, after all, seems sometimes more designed to promote real-life starlet Barbara Lawrence than its leading lady). Sure, after All about Eve she might have thought that a similar story (even if it really isn’t) might help her to win that desired third Oscar and movies about women learning that a man is more important than a career were surely very common and the role itself offered many flashy scenes that allowed her to go big – but The Star somehow constantly seems to contradict what Bette Davis apparently stood for, the drive for success, the willingness to suffer setbacks and come back again, the importance of her professional life. Most of all, there seems to be one theory that, even though maybe not true, might be the best explanation for all of this: apparently, The Star was based on Joan Crawford and Bette Davis also based her performance on her famous competitor (from certain fashion choices right down to her use of the expression “Bless you”). Looking at this, maybe it all makes sense? Margaret Elliot might have been a great actress (as she states herself “You don’t win an Academy Award for nothing”) but is most of the time only interested in fame and vanity instead of artistry (after all, even her perfume is “the most expensive perfume in the world” – however, it is not too exclusive to be sold on the counter of your friendly drugstore next door in what looks like a 5 litre bottle – and when she thinks she is back on top, the first thing she does is buy new cloths and look at new houses). Is this performance maybe some big inside-joke by Bette Davis? It would make sense from a certain point of view because the movie as well as Bette Davis’s performance enjoy to put all the blame on Margaret – she is told various times that she should move on with her life (meaning stop being an actress and becoming a wife and mother) and her vanity constantly gets in the way of her own success, making her responsible for her own downfall (losing her job at a shopping centre because she is recognized as Margaret Elliot and of course famously ruining her own screen test for an important supporting role because she insists to play the part like a young girl in the hope to be cast as the lead – it’s a scene that is almost surreal because the question is if Bette Davis herself is bad or if she is only acting bad but even if it doesn’t answer this question, it does show that Margaret herself has lost all sense of what she can or can’t do). So, maybe The Star was a message by Bette Davis to Joan Crawford, telling her that she was over-the-hill, that she had lost her talent, that her ego was bigger than her acting abilities and that she would be better off by just leaving acting all together and find the right man (the movie goes so far to have a screenwriter basically lay this all out for Margaret at the end when he tells her about a new script about an actress who has been “denied her birth right. The glory and the privilege of just being a woman”). Of course, this is all speculation but it does provide an answer to some questions that arise during a screening of The Star

The funny thing is, however, that this meta level can just as easily be attributed to Bette Davis as well. Bette Davis apparently told journalists back then that the whole movie was shot on first takes – similar to the disastrous screen test of Margaret Elliot where she is so bad and so uncooperative that the director decides that one try is enough to which Margaret happily replies “You mean I got it in one take?” This idea of an actress being so sure about what she is doing despite being horribly over-the-top and a director who doesn’t care about it or doesn’t want to argue with this diva might very well apply to the making of The Star as well because so many scenes would have benefitted from another try, from a calmer angle, from a more developed point-of-view but every scene goes for cheap effects, for big and loud, for over-emoting at every chance that it’s easy to believe that these were all first takes. And when Margaret later watches her screen tests and begins to scream “It’s horrible!”, it again reaches a strange meta level as this is was the audience has been yelling at Bette for over an hour already.

As I said at the beginning, I won’t deny that it’s all highly entertaining – who doesn’t love to see Bette Davis yelling “It is a disgrace! Margaret Elliot waiting on a couple of old bags like you!” or grabbing an Oscar, saying “Let’s you and me get drunk!” I also know that most reviews on the Internet think rather highly of this performance, many even comparing if favourably to Margo Channing. From my point of view, it all works on a humours level if you see it as one big “F**k You” from Bette Davis to Joan Crawford (even though Joan’s career was certainly not worse than Bette’s at this point and Joan herself had a better performance in the same year) but from an artistic point-of-view as an Oscar-nominated performance, it’s just a big No.

4/11/2019

Best Actress Ranking - Update

Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

If five performances from the same year are included, the winning performance is higlighted in red.

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
6. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
7. Jill Clayburgh in An Unmarried Woman (1978)
8. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
9. Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
10. Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise (1991)

11. Katharine Hepburn in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
12. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
13. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)
14. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
15. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
16. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
17. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
18. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top (1959)
19. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
20. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)

21. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
22. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
23. Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
24. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
25. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
26. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie (1998)
27. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
28. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
29. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
30. Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada (2006)

31. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
32. Anne Baxter in All about Eve (1950)
33. Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown (1997)
34. Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)
35. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
36. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
37. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
38. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
39. Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952)
40. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)

41. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
42. Marsha Mason in Chapter Two (1979)
43. Jane Wyman in The Yearling (1946)
44. Martha Scott in Our Town (1940)
45. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
46. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
47. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
48. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
49. Eleanor Parker in Detective Story (1951)
50. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)

51. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
52. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
53. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
54. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
55. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
56. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
57. Ruth Chatterton in Madame X (1928-29)
58. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)

Katharine Hepburn as Violet Venable in Suddenly, Last Summer


Somehow, every time I am about to watch Katharine Hepburn’s performance in Suddenly, Last Summer, I expect to like her less (maybe because the movie itself is so hard to be taken seriously, maybe because her role is rather one-dimensional and short compared to many other Best Actress nominees) but every time I am done with the movie, I am again worshipping at her feet.

As my opinion on Katharine Hepburn’s performance did not really change compared to the last time I reviewed her, I will keep my thoughts short. Yes, Suddenly, Last Summer is a true camp fast with many over-the-top moments but both Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn had nonetheless extremely juicy parts that they brought to life with the right degree of professionalism and seriousness to rise above the craziness around them. While Elizabeth Taylor obviously had the larger and showier role, for me Katharine Hepburn walks away with the picture and delivers one of the most fascinating performances of her career.

The original one-act play Suddenly, Last Summer originally made the two female characters more equal with regards to the size of their parts but the movie version put more emphasis on Liz’s Catherine who maybe doesn’t enter the movie before more than half an hour is already over but from then on dominates the story. Katharine Hepburn’s performance mostly happens in these first 30 minutes in one long scene opposite Montgomery Clift that is almost like a never-ending monologue. From then on, she only appears again in the middle and at the end of the movie, where the script mostly puts the focus on Catherine but Katharine Hepburn effortlessly dominates every scene she appears in.

A lot of reviews I have read on the movie seems to be rather harsh on Katharine Hepburn and I can understand that this is a polarizing performance that can evoke many different reactions. For me, it is one of the most unexpected performances that Katharine Hepburn ever gave, not because she was so rarely cast as a villain and not because her acting style was somehow different (as it wasn’t) but rather because the way she played Mrs. Venable, her performance constantly goes into different directions from one second to the other, almost leaving the viewer breathless and exhausted. On a forum I read that apparently Anna Magnani compared her performance to a swarm of butterflies, constantly changing its tempo, direction and form – of course, I have no idea if this is true but it does seem like a perfect comparison.

What I find so fascinating about Katharine Hepburn’s performance is that she again proved how she could use her personality and only slightly alter a few aspects of it to seem like a completely different person. She was equally well suited to dramas as to romantic comedies and she only needed to change the way she delivered her lines to wonderful effect. And here she did the same – she can be effortlessly charming with a hint of danger, desperate, sarcastic or completely frightening within a matter of seconds only by changing the tone of her voice. It seems that overall, this is the role that more than any other in her career depended on and was built only by her distinctive pronunciation and pitch. Her big scene feels at moments very rushed but it’s impossible to get Mrs. Venable out of your head. Suddenly, Last Summer is often categorised as a gothic horror thriller which might be exaggerated from today’s point of view but Katharine Hepburn does manage to create a strange and uncomfortable tension that makes some her scenes indeed truly scary. Her monologue about the sea turtles is almost unbearable in its grotesque strain and Katharine Hepburn risks a lot in her acting to go very broad in certain moments but it’s the only way to create a performance that both overcomes the weaknesses around her while also integrating itself into the style of the picture.

Katharine Hepburn also does get some criticism for playing Mrs. Venable in a way that makes her descent into madness too obvious from the start which is true but I adore how absolutely straight-forward her approach is nonetheless – she doesn’t draw any attention to the madness of Mrs. Venable but instead almost casually injects it into her work, making switches between a charming socialite, an obviously highly influential and powerful woman and a grieving mother who slowly loses her mind. Katharine Hepburn, being Katharine Hepburn, has obviously no problems to portray a woman who is used to get what she wants and who can behave as she likes without anyone questioning her motives. Even in her final scenes when Mrs. Venable completely lost her connection to reality, Katharine Hepburn plays the scene again very straight-forward, never emphasizing the mental problems of Mrs. Venable but that way achieving an unforgettable impression.

Again, I understand that not everybody agrees with me here, but to me, this is a lyrical, poetic, frightening, dangerous, pitiful and altogether unforgettable performance that is among the best things that Katharine Hepburn ever did.

3/18/2019

Best Actress Ranking - Update

Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

My winning performances are higlighted in red.

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
6. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
7. Jill Clayburgh in An Unmarried Woman (1978)
8. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
9. Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
10. Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise (1991)

11. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
12. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)
13. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
14. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
15. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
16. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
17. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top (1959)
18. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
19. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
20. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)

21. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
22. Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
23. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
24. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
25. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie (1998)
26. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
27. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
28. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
29. Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada (2006)
30. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)

31. Anne Baxter in All about Eve (1950)
32. Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown (1997)
33. Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)
34. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
35. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
36. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
37. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
38. Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952)
39. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
40. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)

41. Marsha Mason in Chapter Two (1979)
42. Jane Wyman in The Yearling (1946)
43. Martha Scott in Our Town (1940)
44. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
45. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
46. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
47. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
48. Eleanor Parker in Detective Story (1951)
49. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
50. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)

51. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
52. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
53. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
54. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
55. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
56. Ruth Chatterton in Madame X (1928-29)
57. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)

Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil wears Prada


Ranking this performance was particularly difficult for me for two reasons. One, because The Devil wears Prada is a highly entertaining movie with a very entertaining performance by Meryl Streep – and entertaining performances are always difficult to rank because it’s difficult to separate your own pleasure in watching it from an objective opinion on the actual performance. And second, because the moment The Devil wears Prada was released, Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly has entered the canon  of the most iconic performances that were ever nominated in this category. Love the movie or hate the movie, Miranda has become a part of pop culture and is probably by now the most famous performance from Meryl, one that introduced her to a new generation and kept her career going at an age when most actresses hardly find any work at all. And judging a performance that is so well-known and popular is always difficult because you always feel like an outsider if you don’t share the same level of enthusiasm – and it’s even more difficult because I am actually split in my opinion: compared to all the drama and tears in this category, The Devil wears Prada feels like a breath of fresh air and I, too, love Miranda for all her bitchiness and one-liners and it’s certainly one of the most easily digestible performances in this category. But loving a performance for its entertainment and judging it as objectively as possible are two different things and I tried to do my best here. But even if I may sound like I don’t like her performance from an acting point of view, that’s not the case as there is a lot to appreciate in her work, even if I sometimes think that the entertainment factors hold her down.

As I already said, I think that The Devil wears Prada is a very entertaining entry in this category – not only Meryl Streep’s performance but the whole movie are very easy to digest and it’s overall a picture that can easily be seen over and over again. Yes, I agree with everyone that Andy’s friends are the worst and I always skip their scenes but everything that happens at Runway remains highly entertaining even when I see if for the hundredths time. And that is mostly due to the highly enjoyable ensemble – not only Meryl Streep but also Stanley Tucci, the unfairly maligned Anne Hathaway and especially Emily Blunt do a lot of hard work to make the movie work and they all contribute to the success of the story equally. But of course, the structure of the movie naturally puts all the attention on Meryl Streep’s Miranda – even if Andy is the clear leading character of The Devil wears Prada, Miranda is its raison d être and the fact that everything in this movie happens around her and that Andy’s complete life is taken over by her demands and needs (and therefore keeping focus on her even when she is not on-screen), make her the natural centre around which everyone and everything revolves. Therefore, I am also fine with her placement in the leading category even if a nomination in the Supporting category wouldn’t have been complete fraud in my eyes either…

So, what makes Meryl Streep’s Miranda such a memorable character? Mainly there are two reasons – one the one hand, it is the aforementioned structure of the movie and on the other, it is simply due to Meryl Streep’s unique acting style that can use a calm exterior and a cool voice to terrorize an entire office building. The magic of Miranda comes from the fact that Meryl Streep avoids every typical cliché that might be expected from this character (loud, bossy, exaggerated, constantly stressed) and instead presents a woman who is at the top of her profession, who knows what she wants and when and from whom and who expects the same sort of professionalism from everyone around her. Of course, Miranda is a horrible person (at least in my opinion) but Meryl Streep lays the groundwork for seeing her different as well and for understanding what drives her. And by underplaying both the character as well as the comedy, she creates a woman that is both endearing as the kind of villain you “love to hate” and terrifying in that she remains completely unpredictable and you always keep expecting the worst from her. This balance, the fact that you want to see more of Miranda, that you don’t actually hate her but that she makes this character fit so perfectly into the world of The Devil wears Prada as a comedy is the biggest achievement in Meryl Streep’s performance and another prime example of her ability to handle comedy with the same ease as drama.

Of course, Meryl Streep also benefitted from the screenplay that gave her the kind of attention-stealing scenes that help her to leave a lasting impression and dominate everything around her with ease. This is also what sometimes lessens my appreciation – in a lot of aspects, Meryl does not really rise above her material but instead is risen above by the movie around her. Her first scene is as iconic a movie entrance as you will ever get but the whole build-up to this moment makes it extremely easy for her – when the entire office is in panic because they know that Miranda is on her way, the audience is immediately prepared for the worst and all that Meryl Streep has to do is to fulfill those expectations. Of course she does so with ease but I also think that in later scenes, her performance always works better when she is supported by her surroundings – her legendary “blue sweater monologue” works not only so well because she can intimidate you without ever raising her voice but also because everyone around her always communicates just how disastrous the whole situation is. A later scene, when Miranda scolds Andy for not organising a flight for her, has a lesser impact because they are alone in this moment.

Beyond the comedy, there is also Meryl Streep’s attempt to present Miranda as a deeper and three-dimensional character – I say attempt because her approach sometimes work but sometimes also doesn’t. First of all, Meryl Streep obviously worked hard to present Miranda not as a monster but as a business woman – it’s very easy in movies to present women in power as some sort of domineering monster and that is surely what The Devil wears Prada could do as well but Meryl Streep is too smart for this and shows that she is simply a woman in power with a lot of responsibilities who needs people around her on whom she can count 100 percent every second (she can constantly remember all the to-dos that need to be done, she can design an outfit while giving her “Blue Sweater monologue” at the same time and is basically responsible for every single detail in every issue of Runway) but the screenplay also puts her in positions that undermine these efforts (“hire the smart fat girl”, the obviously glee when Andy has to tell Emily about Paris, the obvious disregard to the feelings of Nigel) and that way Miranda does not always feel like a real character and Meryl Streep can only get so far in her efforts to humanize her. Besides this, Meryl Streep also has problems to create the private side of Miranda – many people seem to have a problem with the “crying scene” as it seems more like an obvious attempt to add a more human side to Miranda but I don’t mind the scene itself because I never think that Miranda is ‘not human’ but I feel like this scene doesn’t really do anything for the characterization – the end of her marriage, her feelings for her daughters, all this is gone in the next scene when we basically learn that Miranda thinks that “everybody wants to be us” and apparently also believes this, too. The Devil wears Prada only allowed Meryl Streep to go short distances in her characterizations of Miranda beyond the comedy – when she sees that Andy visits a private moment between herself and her husband, Miranda is visible shaken but also this importance to keep her private life private is not explored any further. Instead, Miranda gives Andy an almost impossible task and after it is completely, apparently forgets about it completely (and to be honest, Miranda would have asked Andy to find that Harry Potter book anyway, right?). Meryl Streep is therefore often also held back by the screenplay in the relationship between Miranda and Andy. Miranda obviously enjoys seeing Andy become more and more professional but you just know that she would throw her out again any moment. Miranda seems to understand the problems of her own, work-dominated life but is also unwilling to change it because she obviously prefers her work to her private life – which is fine, but it makes her scenes crying about her daughters simply less effective and make you wonder why she would push Andy in the same direction. In the end, when Miranda smiles in the car, I also fail to fully understand where that smile comes from – is she happy because Andy chose her own life even though Miranda considers her life the best possible outcome?

Most of my criticism is obviously directed more at the screenplay than at Meryl Streep but it underlines who the script simply often holds her back. As a pure comedy performance, Meryl Streep is very enjoyable and her approach to the part very unique and it’s easy to understand why it became so famous. But from a pure acting point of view, I think the part and the performance lack depth and reason (again, this is more the script’s fault than that of Meryl Streep) to place her higher in my ranking. Still, the fact that a character like this in a movie like this was even included in the Oscar race at all and managed to get a still very good position in this ranking shows how Meryl Streep still got the most out of this role and took it much further than most other actresses might have even dreamed of.