News

Looks like the South's about to rise again on Oscar night

Daniel Bubbeo
Newsday (MCT)

We're not just whistling Dixie in saying that Sandra Bullock seems to have the edge over Meryl Streep in the March 7 best actress Oscar race.

Given the Academy's history of rewarding actresses who've played Southern magnolias, Bullock's grits and gravy portrayal of Memphis mom Lee Ann Tuohy in "The Blind Side" seems like pure Oscar bait.

Those Southern belles of the Oscar ball go all the way back to the second ceremony in 1930 when Mary Pickford played against type as a flirty Dixie chick in "Coquette." Over the next decade, the South would rise again and again with Bette Davis and Vivien Leigh picking up statuettes, respectively, for "Jezebel" (1938) and "Gone With the Wind" (1939). The British-born Leigh would pull the rare coup of winning a second Oscar for playing a Southerner (Blanche Du Bois in the 1951 potboiler "A Streetcar Named Desire").

Of course, those Southern girls with the way they talk charmed the academy from 1979 to 1989: In that time five of the 11 best actress performances were for roles South of the Mason-Dixon Line (Sally Field in 1979's "Norma Rae" and 1984's "Places in the Heart," Sissy Spacek as "Coal Miner's Daughter" Loretta Lynn in 1980, Geraldine Page in "The Trip to Bountiful" in 1985 and Jessica Tandy in 1989's "Driving Miss Daisy").

And in the past decade, Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball," 2001), Hilary Swank ("Million Dollar Baby," 2004) and Reese Witherspoon ("Walk the Line," 2005) all drawled their way to a best actress Oscar.

Bullock's strongest competition comes from Meryl Streep as "French Chef" Julia Child in "Julie and Julia." If only Child had come from the south of France, Streep's chance of winning might be a little stronger.


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