My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Best Actress 1956: Carroll Baker in "Baby Doll"

It’s hard to describe this performance. Baby Doll is some weird, but still fascinating movie. And that’s maybe also the best way to describe Carroll Baker’s performance: weird, but fascinating.

Baby Doll is also a movie that really shouldn’t work but somehow does. Again, exactly like the performance of Carroll Baker.

Her thumb-sucking, stupid, chaste but also lusty sex bomb is not a very deep or rich character, but Carroll Baker’s performance is so focused and memorable that you will never forget her.

It’s a performance that can also certainly be called “brave” considering the time the movie was made. I doubt that a character like Baby Doll had ever been seen before.

It's an interesting story about revenge and lust. When Archie Meighan burns down the cotton gin of his business rival Silva Vacarro, Vacarro comes to Meighan’s home to find some evidence and spends a day with Meighan’s wife, the 19-year old Baby Doll.

The scenes between Carroll Baker and Eli Wallach are the core of the movie. They are filled with so much sexual tension that the screen almost begins to burn. Carroll Baker’s is very good in expressing Baby Doll’s naiveté and her playfulness, but also her lusty side and her desire to experience. So far, Baby Doll never had any experience. She has been married to Archie for almost two years but they made an agreement that they wouldn’t consummate the marriage until her 20th birthday.

Baby Doll is mostly rotten and spoiled. She likes to tease but gets angry the moment Archie comes to close to her, she shouts and screams and she is also not the brightest kid in school. She seems like pure white trash, but in some scenes, Carroll Baker is able to show a little more depth to this character. She always keeps us guessing about the character’s intentions and her actions and is able to keep the viewer’s attention from start to finish. We see how she is fascinated and scared of Wallach at the same moment, but even in his meanest moments, she still seems drawn to him. It’s a childish behavior, a need for love and guidance that contrasts sharply and effectively with Carroll Baker’s sexy performance. Sometimes Baby Doll seems to be a young girl in a woman’s body and sometimes a grown woman in a child’s body. Carroll Baker is able to look like a little girl or a grown-up woman depending on the moment and the need of the script and it’s this constant change that makes her so fascinating. We are never aware how much this 19 year old girl really knows about her effect on men. Is she really just dumb or is she calculating? She seems like a young Blanche DuBois, depending on the kindness of strangers.

What’s most amazing about this performance is the fact that Carroll Baker is absolutely natural in this part. She never seems to be acting at all which is a big feat in a movie that normally would scream for overacting and melodramatic posing. Instead, all the giggles, the nervousness, the shyness, the flirting, the desire come across as very real.

It’s very nice to see Carroll Baker being able to lift the character of Baby Doll to a certain level of three-dimensionality because the writing surely doesn’t. Especially in the final scenes with Mildred Dunnock, she is able to add some welcome seriousness to her character that makes her seem much older than at the beginning of the movie, when we see her sleeping in a cradle, sucking her thumb.

It’s easy to see why this movie was such a scandal in the 50s. Today, probably no one would even bother to complain. But that doesn’t change the fact that Carroll Baker and Eli Wallach really turn on the heat, especially in their scene on the stairs. Their scenes together are surely something you don’t see very often.

Overall, it’s a very effective performance that gets

Best Actress 1956

The next year will be 1956 and the nominees were

Carroll Baker in Baby Doll

Ingrid Bergman in Anastasia

Katharine Hepburn in The Rainmaker

Nancy Kelly in The Bad Seed

Deborah Kerr in The King and I