After having watched and reviewed all five nominated performances, it's time to pick the winner!
Liza Minnelli is the emotional, but also intellectual core of this movie and carries it with ease and naturalness on her shoulders. She does not re-invent the free-spirited character she is playing but still gives her own, touching and beautiful interpretation of it and her performance is ultimately very warm, memorable, beautiful and occasionally heartbreaking.
With her believable display of royal status and of strength in a woman who must constantly hold her own against a man who wants to control every aspect of her life and her easiness of delivering Anne’s constructed lines without losing their emotional core and her ability to display charm and happiness just as effectively as anger and fear, Geneviève Bujold surely got a lot out of a part that could easily have been lost in a movie that is actually about her.
Jean Simmons delivered a very touching performance in a challenging role that took good use of her own characteristic screen presence and charisma. She showed the few ups and many downs in Mary Wilson’s life and while most of her performance seems to follow a standard formula for depressive characters, she still mixed it with various refreshing and unusual acting choices from which The Happy Ending benefited greatly.
2. Jane Fonda in They shoot Horses, don't they?
As Gloria, Jane Fonda was able to use her usual screen presence and acting style and create a character without falling into the traps of her own deficiencies as an actress because Gloria is a character that benefits from the strength of the movie and the strength of the remaining players and also does not overexpose Jane Fonda and that way gave her just the right amount of both support and screen time to use her own talents with great effect. The final results is a very natural and haunting performance beautifully fitted to the dark and haunting atmosphere of the movie.
Maggie Smith handles comedy and drama with equal ease, she is a leader, a victim, a lover, a manipulator, she's entertaining and provoking at the same time and she commands the screen with so many outstanding scenes that the end result is quite simply one of the most fascinating tour-de-forces ever put on the screen.