My current Top 5

My current Top 5

7/06/2011

Number 56: Mary Streenburghen as Lynda Dummar in "Melvin and Howard" (Best Supporting Actress Ranking)

The fact that Mary Steenburghen is an Oscar-winner seems to be rather forgotten today but in 1980, she swept the Supporting Actress awards for her performance as Lynda Dummar, the charming, quirky and a bit odd wife of Melvin, an eternal loser who constantly lets every bit of money he gets slip through his fingers.

Melvin and Howard is a very interesting but also strange movie – it’s the kind of movie that seems to have no real point and leaves the viewer with more questions than answers but it also provides some nice entertainment and some very unique characters. One of them is Lynda – she sometimes seems to be a bit slow but she is not stupid, maybe a bit naïve but at the same time she clearly knows what she wants. She doesn’t possess a true heart of gold – maybe silver because she is a very honest, open and good-hearted person but she will not tolerate any kind of behavior she can’t accept.

Mary Steenburghen is an interesting case for me. She is very lively and charming in Melvin and Howard and occasionally a true comedic gem but she also feels very static, lifeless and inconsistent at others. The problem is that Melvin and Howard, even though it tells a chronological story, feels very ‘jumpy’ without any real plot or character development and Mary Steenburghen seems to be a bit lost sometimes. Melvin and Howard is the kind of movie in which a lot happens while you feel that nothing happens at all – and this is the case with Mary Steenburghen’s performance, too.

It would be best to say this – when the script denies her any possibilities, Mary Steenburghen is still interesting to watch as the constructs the character of Lynda. When the script offers her any possibilities, she is golden. Her scenes in the strip clubs, where she works because she loves to dance, are hilarious and, of course, who can forget her most famous moments when she does a tap dance at a game show in TV? Her dance, her joy when she wins, her jumping around and screaming is simply unforgettable.

These comedic scenes are mixed with various dramatic moments like losing the custody of her child or leaving Melvin (for what feels like the 1000th times) after he again spent all their money on things they don’t need. Her little conversation with him before she leaves in which she tells him of her dreams of being a French interpreter is almost heartbreaking.

It’s a very original performance and if Mary Steenburghen had been given a stronger character in a stronger movie, she might really have been outstanding. So, she had to settle for a little less but still gives a great, memorable performance.

7 comments:

Louis Morgan said...

I guess I basically agree with you on this one.

Fritz said...

Well, we had to agree at some point! :-)

mrripley said...

I loathe her in this i just did not get her,why did she win,i know the competition was weak but i preferred la galienne or the non nominees blythe danner or debra winger much better both.

Fritz said...

I recently saw Resurrection and I think that La Galienne did absolutely nothing.

Anonymous said...

Love movie and this performance very much.

hey deanie said...

Such a disarming, charismatic performance in an amazing film! I love everything Jonathan Demme did in the 80s so this is one of my favorite wins ever. Yes, Danner and Winger definitely should've been nominated this year.

dinasztie said...

I liked her but I would go with Eileen Brennan instead of her.