My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Best Actress 1951: Katharine Hepburn in "The African Queen"

Very few performers had such longevity as Katharine Hepburn. After she began acting in the early thirties, she kept going acting right up until 1994 when she made her last film appearances ever in the TV movie One Christmas and Warren Beatty’s Love Affair. Her lasting popularity as an actress meant that the audience could accompany her through her various stages as an actress and not only remember just one but several defining images of her work and personality. There is the sophisticated and witty heroine of such Black-and-White-classics like Bringing up Baby or The Philadelphia Story, the strong woman opposite Spencer Tracy or the loveable, old, grandmother-like Katharine Hepburn with the slightly shaking head. All these images have become a part of motion-picture history – but even though, the most iconic image of Katharine Hepburn may be the one she cultivated during the 50s: the middle-aged spinster who suddenly finds unexpected and overwhelming love for the first time in her life. The ground for this was laid with her performance in 1951’s The African Queen – in this she played Rose Sayer, a missionary in Africa who accompanies a rough boat captain to destroy a German gunboat during World War I. The part was famously declined by Bette Davis because she had no interest to go Africa and only would have joined the project if they had recreated German East-Africa on the back-lot (of course, she would later have to compromise when she did Death on the Nile in Egypt). Katharine Hepburn did not have such problems and joined the crew and the rest of the cast and travelled to Uganda and the Congo to play a role that would turn out to be among the most famous ones of her career. During the shooting, she had to endure constant sickness because of the bad water and spartan living conditions (director John Huston and co-star Humphrey Bogart apparently avoided any sickness by drinking nothing but Scotch or Whiskey) but it’s not hard to imagine her fighting any obstacles that may have come her way. In this way, Rose Sayer was surely a gift for Katharine Hepburn since the two women appear to have so much in common, especially after Rose has left the uptight missionary behind and turned into an almost rebellious and free-spirited fighter. Rose, too, defied convention and found her own spirits and thoughts – even though only after a man got her off her high horse which is another theme that is more than once visible in Katharine Hepburn’s work, a fact that further underlines how well the part of Rose fitted her and how it is almost a perfect synopsis of her entire filmography. It combines her talent for comedy and drama, the witty heroine, the rebellious spirit, the stern spinster, the romantic love interest and the independent woman in one and therefore somehow became the quintessential ‘Katharine Hepburn experience’. It’s not necessarily the strongest work of her career (even though surely among the top) but she beautifully turned it into a blend of her entire career without losing the originality and spontaneousness of this singular performance.

The African Queen, which also holds the distinction of being Katharine Hepburn’s and Humphrey Bogart’s first motion picture in color, has by now deservedly gained its reputation as one of Hollywood’s greatest classics. If nothing else, the co-starring of Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, both of whom had been selected as the greatest male and female movie legend of all time by the American Film Institute, alone guaranteed this – and it’s true that, despite the gripping plot, the exotic location and the always fascinating theme of ‘David vs. Goliath’, The African Queen is a character-piece that completely rests on the shoulders of its two stars who spend most of the running time alone together on a little boat. Looking back at the career of Katharine Hepburn, her most famous co-star is easily Spencer Tracy simply because of the sheer number of movies they made together but also because of the well-known love affair behind these pictures. But this does not mean that Katharine Hepburn could not lighten up the screen with any other actor – because she did it almost every time. No matter if her co-star was Cary Grant, James Stewart, Peter O’Toole, Henry Fonda, Fred McMurray or Rossano Brazzi – she was always able to both underline the relationship between the two characters and keep the integrity and independence of her own work intact. And her work with Humphrey Bogart is no exception. The uptight, strict and demanding woman opposite the drinking, loud-mouthed and unconventional man may not be a truly original concept but the work of Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn carries it to a wonderfully entertaining, touching, engaging and irresistible level. The chemistry between those two pros is the fuel that keeps The African Queen going at every minute – they are romantic and nauseated, companions by fate and lovers by choice, a little crazy, humorous and both entertaining and three-dimensional enough to emphasize the adventure and action of the story while also making their characters believable and engaging. Like Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight, Katharine Hepburn gives a performance that serves the overall purpose of the picture while never forgetting that this purpose can only be fulfilled by crafting a character that is more than a mere plot-device but stands firmly and strongly on its own, a woman that goes beyond the script and feels truly complete instead of just like a part of a whole.

Right from the start, Katharine Hepburn, like Humphrey Bogart, understands that The African Queen is a movie that mixes adventure and romance with a good deal of humor – humor that comes from the characters’ differences, from their relationship and from the circumstances, no matter how serious they may be (‘I pronounce you man and wife. Proceed with the execution.`). The chemistry between the two leads first comes from the way they both obviously dislike each other’s characters only to fall in love with them very soon. And at all these times, both actors do their best to find the right sparkle in their interactions that keeps The African Queen entertaining and touching. So far, this review always mentioned both Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart – and it’s true, the structure and nature of the movie depends on both actors and both performances are strongly interwoven and, in most parts, depend on each other – but as mentioned in the beginning, Katharine Hepburn was always able to both develop strong relationships with her screen-partners and create characters that independently stood on their own two feet. As previously stated, Rose Sayer combines almost everything that Katharine Hepburn usually presented on the screen. In the beginning, she plays her with the slight arrogance and self-righteousness that Tracy Lord displayed in The Philadelphia Story but, also like Tracy, she already shows the romantic heroine beneath the surface – in her early scenes with Humphrey Bogart, it’s easy to see her dislike for this kind of man and her devotion to her religious brother but the foundation for their later love can already be spotted. During the first parts of The African Queen, Katharine Hepburn also shows her talent for drama as she plays a woman whose life is falling apart in just a short period of time – the death of her brother, the destruction of the village, the fact that she suddenly became part of a war that is mostly fought on another continent. In these moments, she displays her dislike for the Germans with a bitter hatred that motivates her further actions before the movie begins to take a more adventurous tone. After all, it’s Rose’s plan to sink the German gunboat and even though she may act with a certain naivety, her determination to proceed this goal is real. During the first half of The African Queen, she plays Rose with captivating earnest and disapproval of Mr. Allnut’s behavior – maybe because it was the first time that she played a character like this, she also did it without any exaggeration or some of her typical mannerisms. And somehow, only Katharine Hepburn could sit in a little boat in the African jungle, drinking tea or throwing Whisky overboard without becoming annoying or unlikeable.

During The African Queen, Katharine Hepburn takes her character around for about 180 degrees but she does it without interrupting her interpretation. The basis for this transformation was constantly created by her – her way of delivering the line ‘Mr. Allnut’, her facial expressions when she realizes that he only wanted to get close to her during the night because of the rain or her development of the plans to sink the German gunboat all help to see Rosie and Charlie as a match made in heaven. And when the moment of her transformation finally comes, it’s one of the most original, funny, touching and satisfying moments of Katharine Hepburn’s career – her way of touching her face with the back of her hand and the expression on her face as she marvels about the delightfulness of a physical experience turn Rose into an irresistible heroine. It’s a scene that reminds me of the musical Tommy and the lines ‘I’m free! And freedom tastes of reality!’ – the mirror is broken for Rose, all the feelings and emotions that have been locked up inside are allowed to reveal themselves and surprise herself just as much as everybody else. This is also one of the great gifts of Katharine Hepburn in this part – her ability to constantly surprise the viewer, Charlie and herself. She can constantly change the tone of the movie while always staying true to the character – she can delight the audience with her chemistry with Humphrey Bogart and then a few moments later break its heart when she prays in the boat, expecting to die very soon. In her work, she finds a wonderful balance between all the different kinds of genres that The African Queen covers. And in the end, when she proudly declares in front of the Germans that it was their plan to sink their ship and isn’t afraid of the consequences or her moving reaction shots when Charlie wants them to get married before their execution make it clear that Katharine Hepburn creates one of her most vibrant, full, living, exciting and captivating characters.

Overall, Katharine Hepburn has seldom been so deliciously entertaining, so wonderfully amusing and so dramatically heartbreaking in one movie. Rose Sayer is certainly not a very deep or complex character but there is still something almost magical about watching Katharine Hepburn bring her to such splendid life. For all of this, she receives 


Best Actress 1951: Shelley Winters in "A Place in the Sun"

1951 was a strange year for the Best Actress line-up – besides Eleanor Parker, Shelley Winters also managed a nomination for a performance that can be considered a borderline-case between leading and supporting. Her Alice Tripp is an easy to overlook character, not only because Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor are so much more fascinating to look at but also because Alice herself is the kind of woman almost everyone overlooks because her exterior is basically as uninteresting as her interior. But in the case of Shelley Winters, the category placement is less controversial than in the case of Eleanor Parker – Shelley Winter’s character is, in some way, the motor of A Place in the Sun who always dominates the tone of the story and the direction it takes and whose ultimate fate also influences and shapes the second part of the movie even when her character is already gone. It seems as if every character in A Place in the Sun wants her to go away just as quickly as everyone behind the camera but even with all her flaws, there is one thing about Alice Tripp that cannot be denied: her persistence and her (ironically) longevity. Everybody may want her to go away but Shelley Winters and Alice Tripp are determined to stay, no matter what. Ultimately, both women will lose the fight against this constant disinterest but their cry for attention is still admirable.

I assume that I am not the only one who is always…let’s say surprised when it is mentioned that Shelley Winters actually began her career as a ‘blonde bombshell’ before she turned herself into a serious character actress. Shelley Winters has so completely embedded herself into the public memory as the open-mouthed, loud and somewhat overweight mother/grandmother that it’s just impossible to imagine that she could really be mostly praised for her looks at one time or another. Apparently, A Place in the Sun was the important turning point in her career when she could show her serious dedication as an actress when she brought the role of Alice Tripp to life – a lonely, stubborn, sometimes annoying but ultimately tragic young girl working in a factory and starting an ill-fated relationship with Montgomery Clift’s George Eastman. There is certainly nothing glamorous or bombshell-like about Shelley Winters in this part – her face almost constantly reduced to a variety of grumpy sadness or anger, her appearance as plain as possible, she fulfills the task of being the complete opposite of Elizabeth Taylor’s Angela Vickers who embodies beauty, elegance, class and sex-appeal. But even though Shelley Winters has to play second fiddle to Elizabeth Taylor when it comes to filling the movie with sexual tension or breathtaking sensitivity, she does have the benefit of actually being given a much more emotional and demanding character – the only problem is: nobody really cares. Shelley Winters and Eleanor Parker may be the two ‘supporting girls that could’ in this year but they also share another similarity: they play characters that are experiencing great personal tragedy (Alice Tripp even much more than Mary McLeod) but are stuck in movies that are never interested in them. Eleanor Parker has to learn that her life as it used to be is falling apart in just a few moments and this one day at the police station will change everything for her forever – but all this is never presented as Mary’s tragedy but only serves as a catalyst for the actions of Kirk Douglas’s character. In this way, Eleanor Parker is basically reduced to a plot device – there is so much to say about Mary McLeod, so much to discover and so many possibilities but none are ever used. Part of the blame here also falls on Eleanor Parker who added to this imbalance between herself and Kirk Douglas by reducing her character to a variety of teary-eyed reaction shots. Shelley Winters cannot be blamed the same way because she obviously invests a lot of thought and dedication into Alice Tripp and was truly able to turn her into the into the movie’s most deciding character. But just like Eleanor Parker, she also faces an almost lost battle because she, too, gets mostly treated like a plot device and very often it appears that Shelley Winters was as unwanted to the movie makers as Alice Tripp to George Eastman.

Shelley Winters’s performance is such an interesting one to observe because there are certainly few performances that are so dominant and lasting and at the same time so invisible and feeble. Ultimately, Alice Tripp is less a character than a presence in A Place in the Sun – she influences the story and always lingers in the back of George’s and the audiences’ minds and is able to dominate the story because her fate (or better: fates) is (are) always influencing the actions and thoughts of everyone else in this movie. But this is less the achievement of Shelley Winters but of the screenplay which in Alice Tripp created a character everything seems to circle around but who is always considered much more noteworthy for what she does than for who she is. There is a lot that is happening to Alice Tripp in her short on-screen time: she falls in love with a guy, she has to see how he slowly turns away from her, she has to face being pregnant out of wedlock and in the end (or better: in the middle) of the movie she has to realize that George would be much happier if she simply did not exist at all. All of this sounds like a heartbreaking and memorable role – and it is: Shelley Winters actually adds much more pathos to this role than expected and it’s commendable that she is not afraid to show Alice as an often impossible, difficult and annoying woman. But she suffers from the problem that A Place in the Sun tells the story of George Eastman – and not of Alice Tripp. It’s always interested in his actions, in his thoughts and in his fate – and because of this, it takes almost the same attitude towards Alice Tripp as George does: she’s a problem that needs to be solved. Considering all the tragic incidents that happen to Alice, she remains a strangely pale character. As previously mentioned she is feeble and dominating. Feeble in regards to the fact that she never becomes her own person and always only exists in connection to George – when Alice is visiting a doctor and talks to him about her pregnancy, Shelley Winters clearly shows all her misery and suffering but the structure of the movie never allows her to step into the foreground because A Place in the Sun makes it clear that much more interesting than anything Alice has to say is a close-up of George, waiting in the car, prompting the audience to wonder what he will do now and how Alice’s pregnancy will affect him. This constant connection to George is also the reason why the character is so strong because she always influences the actions of A Place in the Sun. So, yes, Alice Tripp is a very fascinating case just because it’s so rare to see a character so strongly dominating her movie while constantly remaining so pale and uninteresting. When George arrives late for a date in her home, the following scene so perfectly sums up everything that A Place in the Sun is doing to Shelley Winters and Alice Tripp: when she delivers a moving speech and talks about their relationship, the camera is not once interested in her face but always stays on her back to focus exclusively on how George will react to her words. So, Alice Tripp is a lot: a presence, a plot device, a catalyst – but never a character.

So, Shelley Winters basically lost the fight before she could begin it since she faces a director and a script that is obviously never interested in Alice or Shelley. But even despite this, Shelley Winters never went the easy route in her performance but still realized that it’s worth a shot and did her best to get the most out of her material. As stated in the beginning, she lacks glamour and obvious appeal in her part but she does possess a certain sweetness and friendliness that makes it easy to understand why George would be attracted to her for a short period of time before losing his interest again just as quickly. Shelley Winters is not trying to win any sympathy with her role even though it would be very easy – she is not afraid to show Alice as a woman whom the audience could easily detest despite all the tragic things that are happening to her. Since the movie makes it so easy to sympathize with Clift’s George, Shelley Winters can easily be seen as the intruder, a woman whose nagging and demanding could become tiresome very soon, no matter how justified her demands may be. Shelley Winters manages to turn Alice into a very believable character who somehow neither receives any sympathy nor any hate but who ultimately always remains the pale, almost unnoticeable girl nobody ever seems to think of except when her action are interfering with the lives of somebody else. This appears to be Alice’s tragic fate and Shelley Winters was brave enough not to try to cover this but emphasize it in her work. Alice Tripp may mostly be an invisible presence in A Place in the Sun but Shelley Winters gave her a face and a voice that haunts the viewer for the entire story. Her sad expressions, almost completely covered in darkness during her and George’s ride on the lake, her anger when she calls George on the phone after her left her to celebrate with Angela while Alice remains alone at home or her desperation when there is no judge to marry them are all done beautifully and memorably despite appearing so insignificant at the same time. Shelley Winters did her best to create Alice as the complete opposite to Elizabeth Taylor and, just like Alice, refused to be ignored for the sake of a more beautiful and fascinating appearance. Shelley Winters performance works almost in contrast to A Place in the Sun because her work always calls for attention and makes the viewer want to know more about her while A Place in the Sun does its best to constantly push her in the background for the sake of its main character. In this way, she succeeded in turning Alice into a pitiful, heartbroken and sadly neglected person. She also triumphed in the difficult aspect of making it believable that Alice knows that she cannot hold a man like George forever while desperately trying to at the same time. Shelley Winters shows that Alice is aware of George’s disinterest and very often it appears that she does not even love him herself, that she was attracted to him for a short moment only, just like George to her, but she combines this with her longing to have him forever, not just because she wants to have a husband and a father for her child but also because, in some ways, she still loves him and hopes that, some day, he will feel the same. Shelley Winters portrays this nervousness, this determination, this naivety and this intelligence with clear precision and made the part of Alice seem much easier than it actually is. She willingly portrayed Alice as the aforementioned `problem that needs to be solved` without trying to come out at the end as a poor victim of circumstances and her own doings. Alice Tripp certainly deserved to be treated better for all her trouble – by George Eastman and by George Stevens. But Shelley Winters understood the structure of the role and A Place in the Sun and settled for the little chances she was given – and filled them with touching poignancy.

In the end, it seems almost fitting that Shelley Winters thought that Ronald Colman called out her name as the Best Actress of 1951 during Academy Awards night and was almost on the stairs leading up to the stage before she was called back – like Alice, she got her hopes up only to realize that, in the end, nobody really wanted her there. But also like Alice, she refused to be pushed aside too easily – Shelley Winter’s portrayal works in great harmony with the character of Alice Tripp and while she cannot overcome the limitations of the role and the resistance of the screenplay that always considers her a mere plot device, she still got the most out of what she had been given. Alice Tripp may be feeble because of the way the movie makers presented her and only strong whenever she changes the direction of the movie – but this strength is also owed to the sensitive portrayal of Shelley Winters. Ultimately, Shelley Winters does suffer from the sheer fact that she simply could not turn Alice Tripp into more than what George Stevens would allow her (and this is rather little) and often Alice also does feel too one-dimensional in her attempts to get George to marry her. But if Alice is a plot device, then Shelley Winters made sure that she would at least be a beautifully realized one. For all, she receives



YOUR Best Actress of 1938!

Here are the results of the poll:

1. Bette Davis - Jezebel (24 votes)

2. Norma Shearer - Marie Antoinette (17 votes)

3. Margaret Sullavan - Three Comrades (3 votes)

4. Wendy Hiller - Pygmalion (1 vote)

5. Fay Bainter - White Banners (0 votes)

Thanks to everyone for voting!

Best Actress 1951: Jane Wyman in "The Blue Veil"

There can be a lot of reasons why one wants to watch a certain performance. A legendary reputation, a horrible reputation, a general affection for the actor or the actress and many, many more. My personal interest for Jane Wyman’s performance in The Blue Veil was based on the fact that she won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama over Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar named Desire. Of course, I do not see this as a puzzling decision – I always say that voters in 1951 surely didn’t know which performance will gain a reputation for being one of the greatest of all time and which one will be forgotten in a couple of years. And let’s not forget that the Hollywood Foreign Press did obviously not care very much for A Streetcar named Desire – Kim Hunter may have won the award as Best Supporting Actress but Marlon Brando and Karl Malden were not even nominated. So, I was very interested to see Jane Wyman’s work which not only resulted in her win at the Golden Globes but also her third Oscar nomination, having won the award three years earlier for her performance as a mute rape victim in Johnny Belinda. Of course, Jane Wyman also won a Golden Globe in 1948 so the Hollywood Foreign Press clearly enjoyed her work.

The Blue Veil is a rather typical tear-jerker that resembles countless other movies that feature a self-sacrificing female character in its center – movies like Stella Dallas, The Sin of Madelon Claudet, White Banners, Mildred Pierce or To Each his Own come to my mind. All these movies have various things in common – they feature either an Oscar-winning or Oscar-nominated performance and characters that are either the self-sacrificing mother or the self-sacrificing secret mother (of course, in different shades – Mildred Pierce also wants to do everything for her child, too, but there are limits to her selflessness). The first fact shows that these kinds of roles are true award-magnets – how could Academy members resist such a teary display of motherly love and selfless suffering? The second fact is a bit tricky – it is both a difference and a similarity to The Blue Veil. Because Jane Wyman does not play a selfless mother in this movie – instead, she is a selfless nursemaid, a nanny who takes care of various children during the course of her life after she lost her own child when it was a baby. But even though Jane Wyman’s LouLou is not the real mother of all these children, the role actually gives her even more sentimental value because it offers her the opportunity to be the ‘secret mother’ and a ‘stranger’ at once: she is the one taking care of the children, she is the one who watches them grow up, helps them, shares their worries and their happiness – until one day she suddenly has to leave them again. Like Mary Poppins, she comes and goes but she does not go because she is not needed anymore – her reasons for not staying are always rather personal and more sentimental. Because of all this, The Blue Veil gave Jane Wyman a part that is guaranteed to win the audience’s affection, offers her plenty of touching (of would a better word be manipulative?) moments and even allows her to age gracefully from a young maid to an old woman. Sound like a juicy part – and it is. In some parts. But at the same time, the sentimentality and simplicity of the story also prevent Jane Wyman from making her character truly interesting. Everything about LouLou is played safe – she is lovely and nice, never complaints, suffers quietly and nobly. But a lack of life in both the movie and Jane Wyman’s performance leaves an undeniable impression that everything could have been more intriguing than it really is.

There are different approaches that can be used to play such a sentimental character. The actress can either completely surrender to the sappiness of the story and give a performance that only rests on the material she is given, hoping that the tears from the audience will come anyway and this way help her to appear more moving than she really is. The complete opposite of this approach would be to avoid any sentimentality in the performance and contradict the script by trying to find more shades and unexpected depth in these usually underwritten characters. This second attempt is always much more exciting than any schmaltzy emphasizing of the character’s misery. But, of course, there are many more approaches that can work – Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet emphasized the pain of her character to the maximum but she did it with so much life and energy while always keeping her character believable that the final result was a heartbreaking and surprisingly satisfying performance. Jane Wyman’s work in The Blue Veil can be found somewhere in the middle of all this. She neither wallows in LouLous’s constant desperation to leave yet another child behind but she also does not add anything to the character that isn’t written in the screenplay – considering that The Blue Veil basically follows LouLous’s whole life, it is a bit disappointing that everything the viewers know about her in the end is the same as they knew in the beginning: she likes children. So, Jane Wyman can be accused of going a too easy route in her performance but simultaneously she can also be applauded for adding real human emotions to her part instead of disappearing completely under the sugar-coated story. Within her work, she knew how to use the sentimental tone of the story to her advantage and make the material watchable while also suffering from the overall too weak material.

The tone of The Blue Veil is obvious right from the start – when LouLou lies in a hospital bed in a big room with many other women and a nurse brings in a cart full of babies (this may sound strange but this is actually what is happening) only to tell LouLou that her baby is not here and a doctor will talk to her in a few moments, it’s already clear that Jane Wyman’s major task in this part is to grief with as much dignity as possible. The plot of The Blue Veil overall certainly doesn’t do Jane Wyman any favors – the movie is basically a succession of the same scenes over and over again: LouLou finds work, she is happy and takes care of a child (or children) with gentle love and grand understanding until she has to leave again and her heart is broken. LouLou either must leave because a new woman has arrived in the house who wants to take care of the child herself or because she realizes that the child became too attached to her and she must leave for the sake of the real mother – all this gives Jane Wyman the chance to display the expected amount of different emotions. But even though Jane Wyman’s performance constantly follows this expected formula, she still does it on a high level – her performance does not surprise but it does impress. She perfectly understands her material and is able to combine the sweetness of the story with the actual suffering of her character with touching effect. In some ways, Jane Wyman is a rather limited actress despite the range of characters she played – her face mostly knew two different expressions, happiness or sorrow but she knew how to use these limitations. LouLou may not be a very interesting character overall (everything about her fate is so trivial; it never really seems to matter what happens to her or what will become or her simply because the structure of The Blue Veil is so uninterested in all of this. LouLou’s short affair with a man whom she almost marries is another example for this – the love between them comes and goes and never touches the core of LouLou’s personality.) but Jane Wyman is still able to give her substance. A movie like The Blue Veil certainly evokes a lot of different reactions – cynics will probably roll their eyes while others may reach for a handkerchief more than once. But Jane Wyman cannot be blamed for the weakness of the story – she can be blamed for not fighting harder against it but it was her decision to play LouLou with the sentimentality that was expected of her. I may not appreciate this decision but I can appreciate the performance that resulted from it.

Jane Wyman’s wisest decision in her role was to underplay LouLou as much as possible. Like Fay Bainter in White Banners, Jane Wyman crafts her character with quiet dignity and subtle emotions but unlike Fay Bainter, she is given a truly central part that completely carries the picture. The way LouLou was written could easily have turned The Blue Veil into an uninteresting and exaggerated experience – but Jane Wyman’s calmness and beautiful facial expressions kept everything going smoothly. This also helped her to achieve the most important task of her performance – plausibility. When LouLou worries about one her children or her heart quietly breaks when she has to leave, Jane Wyman always stays believable – it would be easy to dismiss her character because of the overly schmaltzy sentiment behind it but in the hands of Jane Wyman, LouLou always wins the respect of the audience. Especially in the scene when LouLou wants to fight for one of her children in front of a judge after she ran away with the boy because his mother had spent her whole life away from him anyway, shows Jane Wyman’s ability to find a true inner life in LouLou – in this scene, Jane Wyman lets LouLou truly fight for the first time as she openly rejects the boy’s real mother and insists on the fact that she is now the boy’s mother after having taken care of him for so many years. It’s a strong scene in which Jane Wyman again balances between cheap sentimentality and honest feelings – and she again does it by underlining this sentimentality while adding a shade of touching realism.

Jane Wyman also handles the aging of her character with grace and beauty. Neither exaggerating her scenes as an old woman nor completely keeping the same acting style, she shows a woman with a lively spirit – even though her age has taken a lot of her strength by now. Mostly, Jane Wyman succeeds in her final scenes – when she meets all ‘her’ children again and is overwhelmed by their love and support. It’s a scene that really shouldn’t work as well as it does because it’s so impossibly sugar-coated but Jane Wyman’s quiet joy makes the viewer feel to actually know LouLou for the first time in this movie. It’s a very satisfying final moment to a performance that offers a lot of touching scenes but also lacked these overall satisfying moments too many times before. As mentioned in the beginning, Jane Wyman suffered from her weak material and very often limits her performance to two different facial expressions but within these limitations she crafted a touching piece of work that is saved by her decision to remain realistic while highlighting the sentimentality of the story and her strong final moments. Overall, the unsatisfying moments that dominate a lot of her work are too strong for a higher grade, but her ability to be moving without annoying and strangely captivating without alienating is still enough for a strong