My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Number 13: Peggy Ashcroft as Mrs. Moore in "A Passage to India" (Best Supporting Actress Ranking)

I strongly believe that Peggy Ashcroft is the only winner of the Supporting Oscar who also would have been an easy winner in the leading category – she won several awards in the leading category and hers was undoubtedly the most celebrated female performance of 1984. Combine this with an extremely weak field in the Best Actress category which allowed Sally Field to win a second Oscar in 5 years and I am pretty sure that Peggy Ashcroft would have been triumphant. But anyway, the Academy honored her in the Supporting category and personally, I agree with this placement since Judy Davis is the clear lead in David Lean’s A Passage to India with Peggy Ashcroft offering splendid support as the wise and generous Mrs. Moore who travels to India with her future daughter-in-law to visit her son and witnesses prejudices and the negative effects of British superiority.  

Like a lot of other British winners in this category (Vanessa Redgrave or Judi Dench), Peggy Ashcroft is able to light up the screen whenever she appears and tell a lot about her character with just a small look or gesture. Her Mrs. Moore is the only voice of sanity in A Passage to India, she full of tolerance, has no prejudices and, as she tells other British visitors, would like ‘to come across some of the Indians socially. As friends.’ The character of Mrs. Moore could easily have been turned into a saint, but Peggy Ashcroft wisely avoids making her saint-like and instead simply turns her into an old and wise woman who uses her experiences to lead the life she thinks is best.

Peggy Ashcroft shines in the scene when she first meets the Indian doctor in a mosque in the middle of the night. He tells her ‘You have no rights here. You should have taken off your shoes!’ and she answers ‘But I have taken off my shoes. I left them outside.’ Dr. Aziz is surprised because most English ladies never take off her shoes, especially when they think no one is there to see. Mrs. Moore simply says ‘God is here.’ Later, she is a guest at a party where the Indians are again treated like dirt by the English hosts. Full of rage, she says to her son ‘This is one of the most unnatural affairs I have ever attended!’ Peggy Ashcroft remains completely natural during her entire performance, never trying to gain the audience’s sympathy by playing a ‘nice, little old lady’ but instead crafts an intelligent character who becomes the center of the whole story.

Peggy Ashcroft’s most impressive scenes are when she and Adela visit some caves and Mrs. Moore gets frightened and runs outsight, scared and shaking by the echo and the darkness. Later, she tells Adela with a shaking voice ‘I think like many old people I sometimes think we are merely passing figures in a godless universe.’ In this scene, she shows that Mrs. Moore is already realizing that life will not go on forever and that death is starting to look more and more realistic. The way she looked at a tombstone earlier or grabs her chest with a look of pain later strengthens these impressions.

As mentioned before, Peggy Ashcroft can tell the whole life of her character with just a small look. When she talks about her second husband, who, in her own words, was very unconventional, Peggy Ashcrofts lets the whole past of Mrs. Moore come alive in just a few seconds. There is no need to tell about her past but everything is so easy to imagine.

Overall, a wonderful performance that shows that great acting knows no age.


dinasztie said...

I would put her much lower. I think while she was great, she was also a bit dreary.

dinasztie said...

My leading winner for the year would be Maggie Smith in A Private Function and my supporting would be Helena Ruzicková in Sun, Straw, Strawberry.

Anonymous said...

I predict that Maggie Smith is next....