My current Top 5

My current Top 5

6/27/2011

Number 71: Shelley Winters as Rose-Ann D'Arcy in "A Patch of Blue" (Best Supporting Actress Ranking)

While all the other acting categories have a good share of two-time winners, there are only two women who have won two Supporting Actress Oscars. Shelley Winters became the first women to do so when she won her second Oscar for her portrayal of Rose-Ann D’Arcy, a loud, vulgar and disgusting racist who treats her blind daughter Selina (whom she blinded herself by accident) like a slave, beating her at every possible situation. To see a character like this awarded by the Academy seems rather surprising but the weakness of the category that year and Shelley Winters’s popularity as an actress probably helped her to take home the Oscar. And, of course, as Mo’nique has shown last year, the character of a brutal and violent mother seems to have some sort of fascination for the Academy. I don’t want to comment on Mo’nique now but as you can already see, my level of fascination for the performance by Shelley Winters is rather low.

A Patch of Blue works like a fairy-tale, with a poor princess who is badly treated by her evil step-mother (only in this case, it’s her actual mother) and waits to be saved by a white knight (only in this case, the knight is black). In this context, Shelley Winters performance works because she is pure evil: full of hate and anger without a single redeeming feature. When we hear her footsteps outside the apartment, we feel just as scared as Selina (Elizabeth Hartman in an incredible beautiful and touching performance that should have won the Oscar). Shelley Winters is also very effective when she screams and shouts at her or even slaps her. Yes, she is the evil mother from a fairy tale and we have no sympathy for her.

Shelley Winters herself said that she hated the character and didn’t understand her. The Academy was probably very impressed that, despite her hate for the character, Shelley Winters was still able to make her so effective and seriously scary. But my personal problem is that Shelley Winters took a too easy way to play Rose-Ann. She didn’t understand the character and it’s very obvious from the way she plays her, that she didn’t even try. Instead of trying to go really into the part and give Rose-Ann some depths and maybe an explanation for her character (In one scene, she manipulates her father against Selina with a totally evil look. Why does she do that to her own daughter???), she decided to simply make her as loud and bad as possible, simply working on the outside instead of the inside. Because of that, it’s a totally two-dimensional performance in which Shelley Winters constantly gets the opportunity to scream at the top of her lungs. But what Shelley Winters did, too, is to turn Rose-Ann into a total cartoon character, a caricature. Of course, the script does so, too. Shelley is given lines like ‘Answer me or would you like a slug in the puss?’ or ‘Can you believe it? After the smack-around I gave her last night?’. Only at the end, Shelley seems to show some feelings for her daughter or when Selina throws up in the apartment, she tells her with a caring voice “Stop that. Stop it, Selina!”

It’s a very confusing performance for me. On the one hand, I love the movie itself and the performance by Elizabeth Hartman and Shelley Winters always holds her own against her and never feels out-of-place in the story. Just like Jane Fonda in Coming Home or Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur, Shelley Winters’s performance feels perfectly fine while you’re watching the movie but becomes shockingly lacking by further attention. I won’t deny that she contributes to the movie – a movie which is for me absolutely wonderful but I think her contribution only happens in the limited possibilities of her part. She is so effective because she is so limited – but this doesn’t make Shelley Winter’s acting impressive.

In the end, her performance works as the evil villain who is a total contrast to the saint-like Sidney Poitier, but it’s too little to compete with the other performances in this ranking.

5 comments:

dinasztie said...

I'm not that fond of her, either but I would put her highger.

Louis Morgan said...

I really don't think the part could have been all that much more than what Winters did. She was not amazing but far from the bottom ten for me.

Alex in Movieland said...

oh, I liked this one. :)

Anonymous said...

Same,I actually like this performance and would'nt put her in the bottom ten.

Michael Patison said...

I thought she was really great, especially considering the rest of the category.