My current Top 5

My current Top 5

7/19/2020

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. Luise Rainer in The Good Earth (1937)
3. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
4. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
5. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
6. Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)
7. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
8. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
9. Jill Clayburgh in An Unmarried Woman (1978)
10. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

11. Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
12. Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise (1991)
13. Katharine Hepburn in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
14. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
15. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)
16. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
17. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
18. Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (2004)
19. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
20. Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge! (2001)

21. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
22. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top (1959)
23. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
24. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
25. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
26. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
27. Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
28. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
29. Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
30. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)

31. Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom (2001)
32. Halle Berry in Monster's Ball (2001)
33. Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
34. Annette Bening in American Beauty (1999)
35. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie (1998)
36. Judi Dench in Iris (2001)
37. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
38. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
39. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
40. Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada (2006)

41. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
42. Julie Walters in Educating Rita (1983)
43. Anne Baxter in All about Eve (1950)
44. Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown (1997)
45. Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)
46. May Robson in Lady for a Day (1933)
47. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
48. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
49. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
50. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)

51. Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952)
52. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
53. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
54. Marsha Mason in Chapter Two (1979)
55. Jane Wyman in The Yearling (1946)
56. Melissa Leo in Frozen River (2008)
57. Martha Scott in Our Town (1940)
58. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
59. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
60. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)

61. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
62. Jeanne Crain in Pinky (1949)
63. Eleanor Parker in Detective Story (1951)
64. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
65. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
66. Louise Dresser in A Ship comes in (1927-1928)
67. Dorothy McGuire in Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
68. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
69. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
70. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)

71. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
72. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
73. Ruth Chatterton in Madame X (1928-29)
74. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)
75. Bette Davis in The Star (1952)

Luise Rainer as O-lan in The Good Earth

I will refer you to my initial review

7/16/2020

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. Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (2004)
18. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
19. Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge! (2001)
20. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

21. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top (1959)
22. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
23. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
24. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
25. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
26. Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
27. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
28. Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
29. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
30. Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom (2001)

31. Halle Berry in Monster's Ball (2001)
32. Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
33. Annette Bening in American Beauty (1999)
34. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie (1998)
35. Judi Dench in Iris (2001)
36. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
37. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
38. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
39. Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada (2006)
40. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)

41. Julie Walters in Educating Rita (1983)
42. Anne Baxter in All about Eve (1950)
43. Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown (1997)
44. Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)
45. May Robson in Lady for a Day (1933)
46. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
47. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
48. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
49. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
50. Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952)

51. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
52. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
53. Marsha Mason in Chapter Two (1979)
54. Jane Wyman in The Yearling (1946)
55. Melissa Leo in Frozen River (2008)
56. Martha Scott in Our Town (1940)
57. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
58. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
59. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
60. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)

61. Jeanne Crain in Pinky (1949)
62. Eleanor Parker in Detective Story (1951)
63. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
64. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
65. Louise Dresser in A Ship comes in (1927-1928)
66. Dorothy McGuire in Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
67. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
68. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
69. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
70. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)

71. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
72. Ruth Chatterton in Madame X (1928-29)
73. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)
74. Bette Davis in The Star (1952)

May Robson as Apple Annie in Lady for a Day

As I have already written about May’s performance before and my opinion on her has not really changed overall, I will refer you to my initial review

6/07/2020

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. Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (2004)
18. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
19. Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge! (2001)
20. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

21. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top (1959)
22. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
23. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
24. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
25. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
26. Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
27. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
28. Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
29. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
30. Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom (2001)

31. Halle Berry in Monster's Ball (2001)
32. Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
33. Annette Bening in American Beauty (1999)
34. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie (1998)
35. Judi Dench in Iris (2001)
36. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
37. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
38. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
39. Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada (2006)
40. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)

41. Julie Walters in Educating Rita (1983)
42. Anne Baxter in All about Eve (1950)
43. Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown (1997)
44. Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)
45. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
46. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
47. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
48. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
49. Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952)
50. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)

51. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
52. Marsha Mason in Chapter Two (1979)
53. Jane Wyman in The Yearling (1946)
54. Melissa Leo in Frozen River (2008)
55. Martha Scott in Our Town (1940)
56. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
57. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
58. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
59. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
60. Jeanne Crain in Pinky (1949)

61. Eleanor Parker in Detective Story (1951)
62. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
63. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
64. Louise Dresser in A Ship comes in (1927-1928)
65. Dorothy McGuire in Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
66. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
67. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
68. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
69. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
70. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)

71. Ruth Chatterton in Madame X (1928-29)
72. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)
73. Bette Davis in The Star (1952)

Melissa Leo as Ray Eddy in Frozen River

As I have already written about Melissa’s performance before and my opinion on her has not really changed overall, I will refer you to my initial review

5/06/2020

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. Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (2004)
18. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
19. Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge! (2001)
20. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

21. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top (1959)
22. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
23. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
24. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
25. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
26. Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
27. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
28. Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
29. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
30. Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom (2001)

31. Halle Berry in Monster's Ball (2001)
32. Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
33. Annette Bening in American Beauty (1999)
34. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie (1998)
35. Judi Dench in Iris (2001)
36. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
37. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
38. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
39. Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada (2006)
40. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)

41. Julie Walters in Educating Rita (1983)
42. Anne Baxter in All about Eve (1950)
43. Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown (1997)
44. Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)
45. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
46. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
47. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
48. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
49. Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952)
50. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)

51. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
52. Marsha Mason in Chapter Two (1979)
53. Jane Wyman in The Yearling (1946)
54. Martha Scott in Our Town (1940)
55. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
56. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
57. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
58. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
59. Jeanne Crain in Pinky (1949)
60. Eleanor Parker in Detective Story (1951)

61. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
62. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
63. Louise Dresser in A Ship comes in (1927-1928)
64. Dorothy McGuire in Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
65. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
66. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
67. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
68. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
69. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
70. Ruth Chatterton in Madame X (1928-29)

71. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)
72. Bette Davis in The Star (1952)

Dorothy McGuire as Kathy Lacy in Gentleman's Agreement


As I have already written about Dorothy’s performance before and my opinion on her has not really changed overall, I will keep my thoughts brief.

Overall, this is a very peculiar nomination because rarely has the presence of a Best Actress nominee felt so…unnecessary. As I stated in my original review, Dorothy McGuire has the bad luck of being part of the least interesting storyline of Gentleman’s Agreement and that is still correct. The movie is about Phil’s story and how he pretends to be Jewish for an article and the reaction of the people around him. The reaction of Dorothy McGuire’s Kathy is certainly an interesting one as she is the kind of person who considers herself to be as open-minded and liberal as possible but slowly shows the hypocrisy of her character when faced with anti-Semitism (or as she calls it, “that thing”) directly. But it is only one reaction and the love story itself simply feels too strongly forced into the picture and it simply doesn’t deserve the kind of attention it gets (even having the movie end with Phil and Kacy embracing each other) because it never becomes part of the true story. And therefore it is very difficult for Dorothy McGuire to make any kind of impression – she is not a supporting actress, her screen time justifies her leading status but, as mentioned in the beginning, she never feels like a integral part of the movie.

Besides the problems of the part itself, Dorothy McGuire adds to these as well. I admit, I have only seen a few movies with her but usually she is a charming and welcome screen presence but she is strangely stiff and lifeless in Gentleman’s Agreement. Most of her scenes feel very awkward and her chemistry with Gregory Peck is rather non-existent – which is obviously a big problem since the love story is the main reason for her presence in the picture. In most of her scenes with Gregory Peck, she whispers her lines in a strangely affected manner – take the scene when Gregory’s Phil arrives to pick her up and she surprises him by already coming down in the elevator. Both are so…bored in their reaction to one another, it’s hard not to imagine co-star Celeste Holm expressing honest joy in a situation like this.

This is actually another problem for Dorothy McGuire – the presence of Celeste Holm. This Oscar winner crafts an entire character with maybe 15 minutes of screen time, she steals every scene she appears in without even trying and is such a living and breathing creation that it’s not hard to actually be mad at the movie makers for forcing Phil to be together with Kathy at the end when Celeste Holm’s Ann is right there – the only reason to be happy for Phil and Ann not to end up together is thinking that Ann can do much better…of course the goal here is not to compare Celeste Holm and Dorothy McGuire but to judge Dorothy on her own but Celeste Holm’s work makes the shortcomings in Dorothy McGuire’s acting style even more obvious and it again doesn’t help that a supporting player basically makes you wish the leading lady would just go away…

So, on the one hand, Dorothy McGuire faced an already lost battle as the love story in Gentleman’s Agreement and the relationship between Kathy and Phil never feels as relevant in the context of the story as the movie makes want the viewers to believe and she didn’t do herself any favour by adding to this with a too lifeless and stiff acting style that makes Kathy an even less interesting character in the process. But strangely enough, there are still some upsides to her work.

The most surprising aspect of her work is that, unlike most other unsatisfying performances in this category, she somehow completely ruins the rather simple parts of her performance but shines in the more complex situations. All her romantic scenes with Gregory Peck, telling about her past with her husband, talking about her little house in the country or accepting his marriage proposal, should be rather easy to realize but unfortunately never come alive. On the other hand, she shines in the moments when her character's hypocrisy becomes noticeable and she has to justify her thinking to Phil and herself. Her best scenes is undoubtedly when Phil tells her of his plan to tell everyone that he is Jewish and she reacts with a stunned “Jewish…but you’re not, Phil, are you? Not that it would make any difference to me.” It’s a reaction that is both surprising but also very familiar and her way of quickly trying to cover her initial shock with smiles and putting her behaviour into perspective is extremely intriguing. Also her other fight scenes with Gregory Peck, when she constantly expresses her desire to fight “this thing” while also never willing to risk anything for it, work much better than their romantic moments. Also the break-up scene between Phil and Kathy works very well because Kathy truly owns her feelings and thinking and yes, her hypocrisy, in this moment, and Dorothy McGuire makes this truly believable – she really nails the attitude of a person who considers herself extremely tolerant and liberal but also finds all sorts of excuses and explanations for never going against those people who aren’t.

But unfortunately these aspects of Kathy’s character are not developed any deeper by the movie makers. Her hypocrisy is never explored in relation to her character but only how it affects her relationship to Phil. And since the movie is determined to bring those two back together in the end, it threw in a short scene of Kathy realising her own faults. But this moment never feels earned in the context of the story and is unfortunately both clumsily written and acted – it’s hard to believe that a woman that is presented as sophisticated and intelligent throughout the picture is unable to realise that just “sitting there and feeling ashamed” when she witnesses anti-Semitism is not a way to fight it and Dorothy McGuire’s acting style becomes far too melodramatic in this moment and again feels much less believable than her moments of anger or hidden prejudice.

So, it is a performance that didn’t really have a lot of chances but one that still could have been far more interesting and engaging if the actress had been more alive and natural on the screen. Dorothy McGuire shines in the more complex scenes but those moments unfortunately never develop any further and she lacks too much energy outside of these scenes to make a lasting impression or to even justify her importance to the plot and to Phil. 

4/21/2020

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. Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (2004)
18. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
19. Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge! (2001)
20. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

21. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top (1959)
22. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
23. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
24. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
25. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
26. Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
27. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
28. Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
29. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
30. Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom (2001)

31. Halle Berry in Monster's Ball (2001)
32. Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
33. Annette Bening in American Beauty (1999)
34. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie (1998)
35. Judi Dench in Iris (2001)
36. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
37. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
38. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
39. Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada (2006)
40. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)

41. Julie Walters in Educating Rita (1983)
42. Anne Baxter in All about Eve (1950)
43. Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown (1997)
44. Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)
45. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
46. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
47. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
48. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
49. Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952)
50. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)

51. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
52. Marsha Mason in Chapter Two (1979)
53. Jane Wyman in The Yearling (1946)
54. Martha Scott in Our Town (1940)
55. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
56. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
57. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
58. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
59. Jeanne Crain in Pinky (1949)
60. Eleanor Parker in Detective Story (1951)

61. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
62. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
63. Louise Dresser in A Ship comes in (1927-1928)
64. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
65. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
66. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
67. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
68. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
69. Ruth Chatterton in Madame X (1928-29)
70. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)

71. Bette Davis in The Star (1952)

Julie Walters as Susan "Rita" White in Educating Rita


Julie Walters’s performance in Educating Rita does have its fair share of admirers and I have seen many Oscar bloggers who actually give her the win for 1983. I cannot say yet where she will be placed in my 1983 ranking since she’s the first from that line-up to be included, but you can already see from the position now that I am not totally convinced here. I get why people are so charmed by her – she is a completely natural and lovely screen presence and her character development is the kind of personal journey you just love to watch and are happy to see triumph in the end. I personally see some shortcomings which more result from the script than from her performance but she sometimes added to them, too.

I have not read the play Educating Rita but from what I learned on the Internet, it is actually a two-person-play that takes places entirely within Frank’s office. The movie version opened the play up, introducing various secondary characters and letting different scenes take place in other locations. This concept was both successful and harmed the movie – because on the one hand it gave the movie an interesting flow and made the plot better suited to the big screen (a play can easily take place in one location with two people but a movie usually needs to include a bigger vision) but on the other hand, it made the plot rather repetitious (as we now see certain scenes with secondary characters and then have Frank and Rita talk about it again) and also took away the focus from the movie’s greatest strength – having Frank and Rita simply sitting together in his office, talking.

So let me start with saying where Julie Walters fails in her work or rather, where her material fails her. The introduction of her character is probably the best example – Rita (actually Susan) cannot open the door to Frank’s office and pushes against it from the outside before flying in his office and starting to talk with him with her unique voice and distinct accent, starting a stream of consciousness that immediately displays her personality and her goals for Frank and the viewer. As written, she resembles the pixie manic dream girl, but without the “dream” and without any romantic attachment but with the obligatory ever-changing conversations, the unconventional behaviour and the strong determination but sometimes written too on-the-nose (when her husband re-builds their living-room and Rita takes the hammer, is anyone surprised that she will cause the whole wall to collapse?).

That introductory scene probably works well on the stage and is the kind of introduction you expect for a character like hers but in the movie, we have already seen Rita coming to Frank’s office and see her pushing against the door from outside and it simply lessens the impact of this first, quick moment. Again, this is not the fault of Julie Walters but the movie constantly seems to hold her back. This failure is repeated later when Rita, after having gotten a new bohemian friend, comes into his office with a new wardrobe and a new behaviour – it’s a scene that is similar to Ellen Burstyn suddenly turning into a hippie in Same Time, Next Year but again, in the movie version we have seen Rita’s new friend and therefore the effect of Rita adapting to this lifestyle is no surprise (and since Maureen Lipman playing this bohemian friend gives an out-of-this-world awful performance – shockingly BAFTA-nominated –, it also doesn’t make any sense for Rita to be so completely in awe of her).

Furthermore, the script of Educating Rita often doesn’t allow Julie Walters to play any notes beyond a very small template – the first half of the movie basically consists of the same scene, in some slight variation, over and over again: Rita complains about her situation as it is and wants to “discover meself”, to achieve something beyond what society has determined her life to be, she argues with Frank about books and her essays and is determined to go on and learn. It doesn’t matter if Rita is still curious to meet Frank, angry about feeling humiliated or upset because of her broken marriage, the pattern is always the same and begins to feel repetitious very soon. Educating Rita is a movie that is clearly very proud of every word it contains but doesn’t allow its character to grow by themselves – every step, every decision, every thought that has to be over-explained again and again, leaving Julie Walters little room to explore her character and add any dimensions. Also, once Rita has “discovered meself” in the second half, the movie seems rather lost about what to do with her – when Rita and Frank grow momentarily apart, it becomes obvious how strongly her performance depends on her relationship with Michael Caine and how both Rita and Julie Walters suffer when he is not around.

These are aspects of her movie that lessen the impact of Julie Walter’s work but she also adds to some missteps in the characterization. The main problem is that, while Julie Walters perfectly embodies Rita in a completely authentic and natural way, she never truly answers the question what exactly drives her – why is she so eager to learn and why literature specifically? Of course the movie doesn’t answer this questions either but it would have been nice to see Julie Walters concerning herself more with the reasons for Rita’s decisions instead of simply presenting them. Furthermore, Julie Walters clearly knows Rita and her relationship to Frank based on her experience in the stage production – but not the backstory of Rita that was added in the movie. I can imagine Julie Walters on the stage, talking effectively about her family and her husband, but the scenes in the movie, that show her with these people, never truly work – Julie Walters has no chemistry with the actor playing her husband or other members of her “former” life and she also seems rather helpless in the scene when Danny is burning her books, again being significantly better in the next scene when she talks about the experience, again underlining that her stage experience helped her to create in the part in a way that reflects on her life instead of experiencing it (something that is again repeated when Rita doesn’t dare to enter Frank’s party and later tells him about it). It does make sense that Rita feels lost around her family as she is moving on but she gives no reason why she was ever involved with a man like Danny in the first place and again doesn’t answer the question why she feels the need to develop in a different direction.

Ok, this was a lot of negativity for a performance that, even though not perfect, still offers a lot to admire. First of foremost, Julie Walters has to be applauded for being the single reason why Rita, even within her limits, succeeds at all. As stated above, the character’s writing is very flawed but Julie Walters so completely embodies this role in a good-natured spirit that you can’t help but be won over – she seems to be a performer who really enjoys her work, who loves being Rita and who clearly thought about her characterization and line-reading but never seems to over-think them. Comedy and drama both come extremely easy to her, neither her bright smile nor her sad eyes ever seem forced. She also believably shows all the steps in Rita’s transformation – her character at the end is still the same woman as she was in the beginning, simply with a different look on life and a new understanding of herself. Rita is a character that is clearly written to be liked but she also has her flaws and edges and Julie Walters isn’t afraid to point them out – but she never loses her charm and likeable personality while doing so.

And beyond that, Julie Walters has impeccable chemistry with Michael Caine – which is the key to the whole movie. Their relationship never feels sexual but is one of mutual respect and friendship and both actors work very hard to establish these feelings – without ever making it seem hard. Both Michael Caine and Julie Walters are very natural in their behaviour towards each other and Julie Walters also shows the steps in this friendship – while her personality makes it clear right away that Rita is a perfect match for Frank, Julie Walters still shows a certain level of uncertainty around him but never lets Rita feel inferior. Julie Walters beautifully shows how Rita slowly develops herself, how she experiments and gets lost and how she finally becomes more satisfied with life and herself - and how this affects her relationship with Frank. 

So, I have overall mixed feelings about this performance but it’s hard to deny the unique charm that Julie Walters brought to this clichéd role.

3/26/2020

Best Actress Ranking - Update

Here is a new update - the class of 2001. The newly added performances are 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. Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (2004)
18. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
19. Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge! (2001)
20. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

21. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top (1959)
22. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
23. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
24. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
25. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
26. Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
27. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
28. Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
29. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
30. Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom (2001)

31. Halle Berry in Monster's Ball (2001)
32. Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
33. Annette Bening in American Beauty (1999)
34. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie (1998)
35. Judi Dench in Iris (2001)
36. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
37. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
38. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
39. Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada (2006)
40. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)

41. Anne Baxter in All about Eve (1950)
42. Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown (1997)
43. Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)
44. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
45. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
46. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
47. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
48. Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952)
49. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
50. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)

51. Marsha Mason in Chapter Two (1979)
52. Jane Wyman in The Yearling (1946)
53. Martha Scott in Our Town (1940)
54. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
55. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
56. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
57. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
58. Jeanne Crain in Pinky (1949)
59. Eleanor Parker in Detective Story (1951)
60. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)

61. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
62. Louise Dresser in A Ship comes in (1927-1928)
63. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
64. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
65. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
66. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
67. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
68. Ruth Chatterton in Madame X (1928-29)
69. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)
70. Bette Davis in The Star (1952)

3/13/2020

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. Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (2004)
18. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
19. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
20. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top (1959)

21. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
22. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
23. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
24. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
25. Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
26. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
27. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
28. Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
29. Annette Bening in American Beauty (1999)
30. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie (1998)

31. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
32. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
33. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
34. Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada (2006)
35. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
36. Anne Baxter in All about Eve (1950)
37. Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown (1997)
38. Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)
39. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
40. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

41. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
42. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
43. Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952)
44. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
45. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
46. Marsha Mason in Chapter Two (1979)
47. Jane Wyman in The Yearling (1946)
48. Martha Scott in Our Town (1940)
49. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
50. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)

51. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
52. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
53. Jeanne Crain in Pinky (1949)
54. Eleanor Parker in Detective Story (1951)
55. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
56. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
57. Louise Dresser in A Ship comes in (1927-1928)
58. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
59. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
60. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)

61. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
62. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
63. Ruth Chatterton in Madame X (1928-29)
64. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)
65. Bette Davis in The Star (1952)

Hilary Swank as Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby

Another performance that has been reviewed before. As my opinion did not really change, I refer you to my old review.

11/29/2019

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. Annette Bening in American Beauty (1999)
29. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie (1998)
30. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)

31. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
32. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
33. Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada (2006)
34. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
35. Anne Baxter in All about Eve (1950)
36. Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown (1997)
37. Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932)
38. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
39. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
40. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)

41. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
42. Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952)
43. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
44. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
45. Marsha Mason in Chapter Two (1979)
46. Jane Wyman in The Yearling (1946)
47. Martha Scott in Our Town (1940)
48. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
49. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
50. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)

51. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
52. Jeanne Crain in Pinky (1949)
53. Eleanor Parker in Detective Story (1951)
54. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
55. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
56. Louise Dresser in A Ship comes in (1927-1928)
57. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
58. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
59. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
60. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)

61. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
62. Ruth Chatterton in Madame X (1928-29)
63. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)
64. Bette Davis in The Star (1952)

Louise Dresser as Mrs. Pleznik in A Ship comes in

Another performance that has been reviewed before. As my opinion did not really change, I refer you to my old review.