The first time I noticed her skill I was watching VIRGINIA CITY. I realized that Errol Flynn was not very good and she was basically carrying all their scenes and giving him acting lessons in the process. I like Flynn, but usually people try to make him out to be greater than he actually was as an actor. In her case, they seem to do the opposite.
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The next time I noticed her technique was in THE MATING SEASON. Even in a supporting rote, she's the one who commands the viewers' attention. In THE CHILDREN'S HOUR, she does it again. You can tell that acting was her whole life because every line reading has been carefully thought out, every mannerism is perfectly choreographed, like she must have spent hours rehearsing every detail.
Another performance of hers I'm crazy about is one she gives in an episode of Route 66. She plays a vicious lonely woman and has a courtroom scene that almost goes over the top. Keyword almost. Everyone else in the scene is just absorbing her performance-- they're in the presence of a great actress, waiting for the director to yell cut so they can recover. And I love what she does in THE CHASE, as Robert Redford's mother. Even with less screen time, at the end of her career, she just kills it. Whoever thought of her as Redford's mother was inspired, because he looks like he could be her son.
"You've had a few hours given back to you from life. A few hours in which to change your minds and your hearts. When you came into the grounds of this inn, you came into a place as it was a year ago today. You were in your own time, but the house and garden and Gwyneth and I are in the time of last year. The day the bomb hit. When you go away and walk up the road you will have spent a night in an inn. But if you look back from the crest of the hill, the halfway house will not be here...but if you remember, it will be as you remember a forgotten snatch of song. It will be a picture before your eyes. Gone before you realize it is there. Or an echo in the hidden places of your mind. But you have been here...and the world is what you make it." -- Mervyn Johns, THE HALFWAY HOUSE.