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Why did she win an Oscar?

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I?m rather hoping that someone out there might be able to provide me with some illumination as to why, from an acting perspective, one specific performer won an Academy Award for one specific performance--that being Gloria Grahame in ?The Bad the Beautiful.?

 

First off, I don?t want this to devolve into a discussion of who you felt should have won that year?or even a lengthy catalog of other performances in Oscar history that have been undeserving of nominations or wins. And I?m also not saying that Grahame?s performance is bad. I just don?t understand why she deserved anything more than her paycheck for her role as Rosemary Bartlow in that film. I would truly appreciate some insight as to what I?ve been missing all these years.

 

I have seen ?The Bad and the Beautiful? many, many times (both on the big screen with an audience and on television) and have always liked the film enormously. But the thing I never quite ?got? was what Gloria Grahame did that was particularly noteworthy. Is there an acting teacher out there or an actor or even a fan who might point out some subtleties in her performance that have escaped my attention? Has she taken the typical role of a flirtatious Southern belle and done something impressive with it? Does she get humor out of lines that aren?t particularly funny by using the actor?s craft to ?bring something more to the performance?? Is she making interesting choices in specific scenes that other actors might not have done?

 

Now, I know that Oscar nominations and awards are never bestowed in a vacuum. (Future Oscar historians, for example, would be remiss in not noting that Jennifer Hudson, a nominee this year, was an unsuccessful ?American Idol? aspirant, which factors into the perception among Academy members that in addition to giving a creditable performance, Hudson is also exemplifying a classic comeback of sorts.)

 

Gloria Grahame had been nominated five years previously for a supporting actress Oscar for her excellent performance in ?Crossfire? (I get that performance completely). In addition, the year of ?The Bad and the Beautiful,? she also appeared in two other high-profile films that received multiple Oscar nominations in other categories: ?The Greatest Show on Earth? and ?Sudden Fear.? So she had a great year in terms of being in major films.

 

But a sufficient number of members of the acting branch of the Academy (who are the only ones who nominate in the acting categories) had to have seen her specifically in ?The Bad and the Beautiful? and thought, ?Now, that is one helluva performance!? Norma Shearer and J. Carrol Naish and Marjorie Main saw this film and Grahame?s performance and were impressed by?just what exactly? And then that enthusiasm had to spread to members of other branches (like film editors and costume designers and sound engineers) in order for her to get the most votes, right?

 

Without spoiling the performance for those who haven?t yet seen it, in the course of the film something does happen off-screen to her character that spins the film around?but that?s off-screen.

 

Insight into the actor?s craft, anyone?

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There are a couple reasons I could give you for that:

 

1)Grahame might have been the best of the competition in 52. We would obviously need to check out who else was up for best female support.

 

2)Gloria might have been given the award for previous work. This happens many times with the AA's. They give it to someone else one year and in retrospect someone else was more deserving. So they fix the mistake the following year and another great actor is out in the cold.

 

3)This was one of the few roles for GG where although she played a trampy character there was a bit more to work with than her usual roles. It was a shame she was typecast into those parts and not given more freedom. "In a Lonely Place" (1950) showed what she could do if given the chance. I still think it's her best work.

 

She was pretty much cast against type here complete w/a southern accent. Also, although she runs off with Goucho (and knew this from the script) she never lets on to us which is why it's such a surprise.

 

I think "The Bad & The Beautiful" is one of the great films that unfortunately doesn't get enough good press. There are homages to other films and film makers and lots of inside jokes. The cast was great and every player was used to their fullest potential. Gloria did a great job (as usual) and while I don't know if she deserved the Oscar in 52, I'm glad she won it.

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Hi,

 

This question could be asked of a number of people who were winners or nominees for Oscars!!!!! But, since you asked about Gloria Grahame, I will answer what I've written before on these threads:

 

Gloria Grahame was somewhat 'the It Girl' of the early 50's. She had done "In A Lonely Place" the year before and had 3 big pictures out in 52, "The Greatest Show On Earth", "Sudden Fear" and "The Bad and the Beautiful". All good roles.

What she had in 1952, and what others didn't, was Cecil B. De Mille campaigning hard for her to win. He was grateful for her work for him and he wanted the Oscar for her and he was C.B. De Mille!!!!!!!

 

Hence, Gloria Grahame is Best Supporting Actress of 1952.

Jean Hagen gets nothing.

End of story.

 

Gloria was like a rocket or comet that goes up, bursts into a dazzle and then drops. After 1956, not much was heard from her. Unfortunate; since she was a good actress.

 

Larry

 

Message was edited by:

vecchiolarry

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The Bad and the Beautiful is one of my least favorite classics. I watched it one day when I had the flu. That might be part of it. However, I felt all of the performances were overdone or just bland. Lana Turner, my reason for seeing the film, I felt overacted, and so did Kirk Douglas. Gloria Grahame is one of my least favorite actresses. I also disliked her work in Sudden Fear, a film that otherwise I loved (my bias as a Crawford fan possibly showing). :)

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Larry: You wrote, "What she had in 1952, and what others didn't, was Cecil B. De Mille campaigning hard for her to win. He was grateful for her work for him and he wanted the Oscar for her and he was C.B. De Mille!!!!!!!"

 

What doesn't make sense, then, is why Cecil B. De Mille didn't use his influence to help her win an Oscar that year for a film he himself directed her in: "The Greatest Show on Earth." That would seem logical (in a Hollywood way) and lend support to your argument.

 

But even before De Mille could muster support for her to win an Oscar for any performance, she had to receive a nomination from her peers in the acting branch. My question is, What might her fellow actors have seen in this performance that was so top-rate? As I've said, I personally have never seen anything at all extraordinary about it. She's perfectly adequate. And charming. And beautiful. But we expect all professional performers to entertain us and play their roles convincingly and not blow their lines and not break character and not sound like they're in a high school play. And the role itself is not a wild departure for her like, for example, Shirley Jones in "Elmer Gantry." No one in 1952 would have thought, Wow! Who could have imagined that Gloria Grahame had it in her to play a flirtatious, social-climbing, philandering wife?

 

What did others see in this particular performance that made them think, She's quite good...she merits a pat on the back for this one? Of the hundreds of supporting performances by women that year, she was selected as giving one of the five best. I've never been able to figure out what she does. Is there a key scene that I should be paying closer attention to?

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Jean Hagen probably deserved the 1952 Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN more than Grahame did, but those appearing in comedies always have a tougher time of it where the Academy voters are concerned. I think the voters, both for nominations and the eventual winner, respond to performances that capture the poignancy and vulnerability in a character, which Grahame's certainly did.

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I loved Gloria Grahame. But as far as I'm concerned, there's no question Hagan should have won for Singin...An obviously BRILLIANT performance. On the other hand Grahame wasn't nominated for what I consider her best performance as Debbie in " The Big Heat."

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I'm actually trying to get more insight into why Gloria Grahame was even nominated for this role. If it aids people's memory, here's a brief description of all her scenes (although, granted, words can't quite capture the performance):

 

1. We briefly see Rosemary addressing a faculty wives? symposium, where she is reading an anthropological paper on the island of St. Daniels, elements of which, she jokes, are ?certainly not for the drawing room.?

 

2. Another faculty wife wants Rosemary?s husband, James Lee, to autograph his recently published novel, so Rosemary ushers the woman into her husband?s study. She mildly rebukes him for not using his desk to write at (something she obviously prided herself on arranging for him) and then pooh-poohs the idea that James Lee will end up going to Hollywood to work on the film version of his novel. After he inscribes something apparently racy in the faculty wife?s book, Rosemary comments to her husband, ?James Lee, you have a very naughty mind?I?m happy to say.? She then sits in his lap, and they make out passionately. When she exits the room, she?s slyly pleased with her sexual power.

 

3. When Hollywood does indeed summon James Lee, Rosemary, shares the phone with her husband and advises him what to say. ?Say something charming for goodbye,? she urges him, pointing up to us that there?s something calculating in all of her charm. She then uses a bit of reverse psychology to get her husband to overcome his reluctance about going to Hollywood: in essence, don?t feel sorry you didn?t say yes to Hollywood and that we?ll have to spend the long hot summer here and never see all these other wonderful places in the world.

 

4. In Hollywood, she coos over the bungalow they?re staying in and is exuberant about seeing an actress played by Lana Turner in the bungalow next door.

 

5. On a tour of the propety room at the studio, she marvels at a Waterford crystal chandelier and the silver on a lavishly laid-out dining table. She tells the studio head that ?I won?t be a nuisance? in terms of being an obstacle to her husband?s doing some work for the studio, since she herself plans to keep busy writing a paper on Hollywood for the faculty wives? symposium. ?His work comes first,? she says pointedly, but we?re led to believe that she doesn?t actually believe this is true.

 

6. Later, down at street level, she calls up to James Lee, busy at work, so he can admire a mink coat she has purchased.

 

7. Returning to their bungalow after a night on the town (and still all dolled-up), Rosemary castigates James Lee for his ?boorishness? in not being nicer to the studio?s head. He questions her overfamiliarity at the night?s event with a character named Gaucho?and brings up previous flirtations she had had with a governor?s aide in St. Daniels and a Swiss exchange professor at home. She gets slightly angry: ?You?ve changed since you came to Hollywood.? And then after a beat she wonders, ?Have I changed too?? After making up?and then making out?she repeats her earlier line, ?James Lee, you have a very naughty mind?I?m happy to say.?

 

And that's it.

 

I'm looking for some pointers as to what she does within these scenes that made members of the actor's branch of the Academy take particular notice of her in this role and decide she merited a special citation. As I've said previously, I think she's perfectly fine...but I can't imagine anyone seeing the film cold and thinking, Now that's a performance that deserves an Academy Award nomination!

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Dear Soundtrackers:

 

Although Gloria rates rather limited screen time in TB&TB, there is something about a character who dies that always seems to get e'm at the Academy. Having said that, I also think EGG was a very talented performer and in "The Bad and The Beautiful" she exhibits a kind of playful little girl sauciness that's irresistible and back in the early 50's might have even been considered a trifle "daring," if you can believe it. I worship Vincente Minnelli and I think TB&TB is one of his best...particularly set to that lush and luxuriant David Raksin score. I know Soundtrackers may (vehemently) disagree but I thought GG was a charming addition to that fabulously theatrical ensemble (Lana, Kirk, Dick Powell, etc.)

Maybe watch it again and see if the performance strikes you differently later on?

 

GG was also pretty stupendous alongside Bogie for "In A Lonely Place."

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Maybe I'm beginning to see a little glimmer of light. I had acknowledged a few postings down in this thread that Gloria Grahame was "charming." However, I hadn't thought of "daring" in terms of this performance, even though her character is definitely blatantly sexual. Perhaps her fellow actors thought that this incremental degree of "daring" was worth rewarding...although to our modern eyes she doesn't seem to be particularly racy.

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Does she get humor out of lines that aren?t particularly funny by using the actor?s craft to ?bring something more to the performance??[/

 

You may have answered your own question with the line above, Soundtrackers. GG had a real knack for "dressing up" a line and making something rather mundane stand out. Her delivery in most films is slightly off center and endearingly flirtatious and I think here the actress just really suited the role.

 

One Final Note related to GG: About a decade ago (possibly more), there was a biography written about her that was supposed to be quite good...The exact title escapes me but it was something like "Film Stars Don't Die In London." Maybe someone out there can assist with the actual title? (Toward the end of her career, I believe GG had a small but memorable role in "Chilly Scenes of Winter" aka "Head Over Heels...I think.)

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