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Best Actress Rewind: 1961

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Thursday, Aug 18, 2011
Natalie Wood … Splendor in the Grass
Best Actress Rewind is back! Oscar-watcher Matt Mazur challenges the Academy's choices in his favorite category, comparing the Academy nominees with his own (frequently better) nominees!

Oscar Nominees:

Audrey Hepburn ... Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Piper Laurie ... The Hustler
Sophia Loren ... Two Women
Geraldine Page ... Summer and Smoke
Natalie Wood ... Splendor in the Grass

Mazur Nominees:

Harriet Andersson … Through a Glass Darkly


Shirley MacLaine … The Children’s Hour



Marilyn Monroe … The Misfits



Lucyna Winnicka … Mother Joan of the Angels



Natalie Wood … Splendor in the Grass



Oscar Winner: Sophia Loren, who became the first person to win an Oscar in the Lead Actress category for a performance not in the English language. A feat, considering only one other woman, Marion Cotillard (La vi en Rose), has repeated.

Mazur Winner: I’m a fan of Loren’s powerful work in Two Women, but find her win to be somewhat expected. No other nominee was going to win in this year. Hepburn’s iconic turn wasn’t a substantial enough acting job. Laurie was the best of the five nominees, but is in arguably a supporting role (where I would personally nominate her and give her a win). Page and Wood were both solid, but each of their films had detractors.

Of the five actual Oscar nominee, I would only carry over Wood, whose mature, emotionally-complex role in Elia Kazan’s film still remains resonant today. Marilyn Monroe’s final, haunting dramatic turn in John Huston’s The Misfits is a subtle marvel. Lucyna Winnicka’s wild possessed nun in Jerzy Kawalerowciz’s beautiful Mother Joan of the Angels is chilling. Shirley MacLaine gives one of her most daring, fresh performances in the Lillian Hellman-penned The Children’s Hour as a repressed lesbian school teacher. But in terms of exploratory, revelatory work that demands and challenges it’s leading lady and pushes her in new, bold directions, Harriet Andersson in Ingmar Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly cannot be denied a prize for her searing triumph. If the Academy had foreign actresses on the brain in 1961, there were plenty of non-Hollywood candidates to choose from and Andersson is at the very top of the list.

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