My current Top 5

My current Top 5

7/04/2011

Number 57: Gale Sondergaard as Faith Paleologus in "Anthony Adverse" (Best Supporting Actress Ranking)

Few Oscar-winning performances are so deliciously entertaining and so shockingly empty at the same time as Gale Sondergaard’s turn as Faith Paleologus, an evil-minded, manipulating and gold-digging maid in the overblown epic Anthony Adverse.

It seems, that with her performance, Gale Sondergaard wanted to prove that she had the best teeth in Hollywood, giving us a big, cat-like but not to be trusted grin at every possible situation. From the way the character is presented and played by Gale Sondergaard, there can be little doubt that Faith is up to no good – she does not murder anyone but her small eyes, her evil grin, her way of speaking her lines make sure that even a blind person sees the evil in her. It’s a performance that is never over-the-top but it isn’t subtle either – Gale Sondergaard seems to enjoy herself very much and she also makes it very easy for the audience to enjoy her work. Her deep voice, that wide grin, her expressive eyes all create a very intriguing character – Faith never appears like a maid, rather like a queen, a woman who commands instead of taking commands. Sometimes it all seems rather confusing and the most confusing aspect is certainly why anyone would have this woman in the house but there is something magnetic about her that seems to explain the reason.

One thing has to be said: Gale Sondergaard, together with Claude Rains, is easily the best thing about the movie. Neither the story of Anthony Adverse nor the other actors provide any entertainment. Frederic March seems rather uncomfortable in a role he seems to know he’s miscast in while Olivia de Havilland seems still to try to find herself as an actress. No, Claude Rains and Gale Sondergaard easily stand out and make you wish that the movie was only about them. But maybe, too much of them would ruin the effect of their appearances. In fact, Gale Sondergaard has very little screen time in this two and a half hour-movie – maybe fifteen minutes and only one of her scenes lasts longer than two minutes. This is also the reason why her performance is so empty despite being so delicious – apart from giving evil grins and trying to get ahead socially, there is not much to do for Gale Sondergaard. Like Anjelica Huston she steals the show but has the advantage of not having to do very much for it since nobody else seems to want to steal it.

But Gale Sondergaard certainly brought life to her part and every scene she appears in. Her wonderful chemistry with Claude Rains and Frederic March turns all their scenes into gold. It’s easy to see that Gale Sondergaard was the physical role-model for the evil witch from Disney’s Snow White

So, Gale Sondergaard definitely played the evil bitch to perfection but the emptiness of the part and the limits of the performance prevent her from receiving a better position. Still, a wickedly entertaining performance. 

1 comment:

Louis Morgan said...

Well I think I completely agree with your thoughts, but since I agree with them I would probably put her in a higher position than some performances yet placed.