At the beginning, Anne Baxter succeeds in showing Sophie as a lovely, care-free girl whose joy and happiness contrast very sharply and very effectively with her later scenes. But she also displayed that annoying, constantly gasping for air-acting style that I already disliked in her more famous work in All about Eve. When she tells her best friend Isabelle how much she loves her boyfriend Bob, Anne Baxter delivers her line like this: ‘He’s no more crazy about me than I am about him. (Deep breath) I don’t think anyone has ever loved anyone as I love him. (Deep breath).’ But even with those little flaws, Anne Baxter still manages to be very natural and stand out among the cast right from the beginning.
Later Anne Baxter uses another short scene to display the happiness in her life and her love for her husband and her new-born babie. All this happiness may seem a bit exaggerated but Anne Baxter was wise to play these scenes like this because they build the foundation for her later much more dramatic work.
Later, Anne Baxter showed her talent for high-class drama when Sophie, injured in a car accident, learns that her husband and her baby did not survive. Anne Baxter knows how to milk that scene for every possible dramatic effect and she is fantastic at it. She’s absolutely heartbreaking when she asks with a trembling voice ‘Is Bob dead? Is he dead?’ and then with fear and disbelief ‘And the baby, too?’ It’s an unforgettable scene and Anne Baxter is able to keep her usual love for over-acting under control.
But Anne Baxter was even able to top that scene later when Sophie’s friends meet her again in a cheap Parisian bar where she spends her time drinking and giving her love to everyone who wants it. This single scene is easily among the greatest scenes this category provides. Anne Baxter plays it with so much subtlety that it’s just heartbreaking. That look on her face when she recognizes her old friends who suddenly came back into her life is worth an Oscar alone. In this scene, Sophie doesn’t even pretend to be anything else than a broken human being with no more spirit left inside her.
Later, when Larry wants to marry Sophie to put her out of her misery, Anne Baxter has less showy moments but she is excellent in a scene when she meets all her old friends again. This scene contrasts sharply with her first appearance – back then, she was very relaxed around her friends but now it’s obvious how uneasy Sophie feels, how embarrassed and how out-of-place. Anne Baxter again proves that she is an actress with great instincts for her parts.
Unfortunately, Anne Baxter now loses some of her excellence. In another scene when she thinks about her baby and starts to cry, Anne Baxter wrinkles up her face in so many ways that you wonder if it will ever get back again in its old position. And when she talks with Isabel about how hard it is for her to stop drinking, she dramatically declares “Sometimes when I’ve been alone…I wanted to shake the house down’, to which she bang’s her fist against the wall – this is a scene that is so over-the-top in its attempt to be melodramatic that you can’t help but laugh about it. But Anne Baxter can still find room for some good moments, when she talks about Larry and says ‘He’s really good, Isabel. I was gone. Lost. Gone. This is my one chance, I know that!’
Her final scene is, unfortunately, also her worst when she is drunk and turns her character into a caricature by talking in a strange Clint-Eastwood-voice and again wrinkling up her face as if she tries to scare some children.
But despite some flaws this is still an extremely powerful and heartbreaking performance.