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lairdfan

Didn't win the Oscar, but should have!

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Bette Davis in THE LETTER (1940)

 

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[steve Hayes on Bette Davis and THE LETTER|http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhUVWZs5IgQ]

 

Director William Wyler sits on her mannerisms and squeezes out of Bette Davis what may be the ultimate depiction of sexual repression gone haywire. Set in the jungles of Malaysia with a thundering score by Max Steiner and strong support by James Stephenson as her lawyer and sinister Gale Sondergaard as the wife of the man shes murdered, its high melodrama at its steamy best.

 

"The Letter" was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including best picture, best actress, and best director.

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Calling Cinemaven, Calling Cinemaven!

 

Here's your chance to weigh in on one of your favorite films and actresses!

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Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton in "A Tale of two Cities". As good as Colman was in every role, this was in my opinion, a flawless performance. It's extraordinary to me just how strong this performance still is over seventy years later. I know the story has been filmed since, but I don't envy the actor who had to follow in the role of Sydney Carton.

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If it's any consolation, Gloria Swanson lost to Judy Holliday for "Born Yesterday" as did Bette Davis and Anne Baxter for "All About Eve". Whattayear !

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Earlier, I suggested Ronald Colman for "A Tale of Two Cities", I just looked at his credits; "Clive of India", "The Prisoner of Zenda", "Lost Horizon", "If I were King" and "Random Harvest". He was nominated for "Random Harvest", the rest went unrecognized by the Academy.

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> {quote:title=gilfair wrote:}{quote}

> Earlier, I suggested Ronald Colman for "A Tale of Two Cities", I just looked at his credits; "Clive of India", "The Prisoner of Zenda", "Lost Horizon", "If I were King" and "Random Harvest". He was nominated for "Random Harvest", the rest went unrecognized by the Academy.

 

 

Whatever source you checked, burn it.

 

Coleman was a four-time nominee (double-nominated sometime in the early thirties I believe)

HE WON THE BEST ACTOR AWARD in 1947 for A Double Life

 

Feel better?

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The fact that Colman was an Oscar winner and nominated for other films was not in dispute, I was simply pointing out that for these roles he was not nominated. His performances in "The Prisoner of Zenda" and "A Tale of Two Cities" are legendary, but were not recognized with even a nomination.

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YOU FORGOT HERBERT MARSHALL!

 

Everyone ALWAYS forgets Herbert Marshall and he is so wonderful in this and many other movies. In fact, were I only allowed to give an Oscar to one person in the cast, I daresay it would be Marshall. IMDB him some time, he has quite an interesting Bio.

 

James Stephenson is also great and sadly died within a few years of The Letter?s release. Bette owes a lot in her perf in this movie to these two.

 

The DVD that some WONDERFUL person put together a few years ago is fantastic- two radio versions (maybe three?); a GORGEOUSLY CLEAN PRINT and maybe even a separate soundtrack?

 

It is the BEST movie to play on a stormy day and one of the BEST classic films to show someone you know to try and get them ?in? to classic films.

 

TCM has JG?s permission for weekly showings of The Letter, hell, give it its own time slot.

 

That said, I would give the 1940 Oscar to Roz Russell for His Girl Friday but admit Bette would be close behind in the votes.

 

She shoulda? won for Of Human Bondage that?s gotten to be a universal ?duh? by now.

 

I WISH Dangerous were on DVD, I recall loving it as a kid, but haven?t caught it again. I recall thinking I preferred Miriam Hopkins in Becky Sharp . I know Bette would come out of the grave and get me for that, but I said it.

 

I think Jezebel is a train wreck, don?t get her second OSCAR for that at all

 

BUT?

 

If those two (debateably um-merited) Oscars paved the way for her brilliant streak from 39-46, then fine, no arguments here.

 

The tragedy of 1940 is that Ginger Rogers also gave subsequent post-Oscar turns that blew her turn in Kitty Foyle out of the water ( The Major and The Minor and Monkey Business come to mind) . She was never nominated again and that must?ve hurt.

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I love The Letter so much, I wrote a commentary track for it, for my own amusement. Herbert Marshall characters seem so layered, and he has to underplay them. Opposite Bette, less is more. In the The Letter, we can almost understand Bette's (Leslie) silence for Marshall's (Robert) sake. Then, Robert shows us what Leslie really is by the contrast.

 

Marshall and Davis have the same dynamic in The Little Foxes. But Hollywood rewards the scene chewers....

 

BTW- concerning commentary: The voice over has only been effective to me in a few movies. I did like the text block on the bottom of AMC's Features. They would run it twice, back to back for those who like it and those who didn't.

 

Edited by: casablancalover on Jan 31, 2010 11:38 AM

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> {quote:title=JonnyGeetar wrote:}{quote}

> TCM has JGs permission for weekly showings of The Letter, hell, give it its own time slot.

 

That sounds mighty gracious of you! ;)

 

> The tragedy of 1940 is that Ginger Rogers also gave subsequent post-Oscar turns that blew her turn in Kitty Foyle out of the water ( The Major and The Minor and Monkey Business come to mind) . She was never nominated again and that mustve hurt.

 

The Academy has never been very good at recognizing comedic performances, imho.

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*If it's any consolation, Gloria Swanson lost to Judy Holliday for "Born Yesterday" as did Bette Davis and Anne Baxter for "All About Eve". Whattayear !*

 

Sorry, no consolation in that. Ms. Swanson's turn as Norma Desmond is one for the ages and fifty some odd years later is still as mesmerizing as it was when it premiered.

 

No offense to the other ladies in the category that year but Swanson was fearless in her role. She dived into the role and she allowed herself to be filmed in harsh light, talked about how old her face looked at a time when actresses were mostly loathe to do that. She kept Norma's descent into madness from becoming campy or a parody and you can't take your eyes of her.

 

It was an amazing performance that should have been awarded. The fact that Judy Holliday nabbed it or that Bette Davis and Anne Baxter (who split their votes) instead is little consolation.

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> {quote:title=lzcutter wrote:}{quote}

> Sorry, no consolation in that. Ms. Swanson's turn as Norma Desmond is one for the ages and fifty some odd years later is still as mesmerizing as it was when it premiered.

 

Isn't that, in itself, the greatest achievement - even greater than actually getting the recognition of the Academy at the time of the movie's release?

 

I put it to you that the Academy is usually very fickle, and given to arbitrary decision-making.

 

But when something remains highly-regarded many decades later, that is the self-evident proof of its timelessness.

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As a silent movie fan I feel exactly the same way. The fact that we are watching and discussing these movies nearly a century later is proof of their appeal. In regard to the Academy, closer inspection of past winners is not always impressive. Some of the nominations are downright stunning and the omissions perplexing. Some were such consistently good performers that they were taken for granted and never recognized with even a nomination, but Gloria Swanson's "Norma Desmond" was a public relations dream. A comeback role for a movie legend. How did she not capture the Oscar ?

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I really don't know much about how the Academy felt at the time. To me, the Oscars are the movie equivalent of the high school yearbook's "most likely to..." categories, or at least pretty close to the same thing: some acknowledgment of actual qualities, and primarily just a popularity contest.

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*Isn't that, in itself, the greatest achievement - even greater than actually getting the recognition of the Academy at the time of the movie's release?*

 

*I put it to you that the Academy is usually very fickle, and given to arbitrary decision-making.*

 

*But when something remains highly-regarded many decades later, that is the self-evident proof of its timelessness.*

 

True, but in a thread for talking about performances that should have won the Oscar, I was talking more about why Swanson should have won the award and not the politics behind it all.

 

We're all aware that Academy voters can be "very fickle" that's what prompts threads like this.

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*A comeback role for a movie legend. How did she not capture the Oscar ?*

 

If I were to hazard a guess, it would be that having Bette Davis and Anne Baxter competing against each other for Best Actress for *Eve* siphoned votes away from Swanson.

 

If it had been Davis, Swanson, Holliday, Parker and another actress not connected to *Eve*, I think it would have been either Davis or Swanson, with Swanson possibly winning.

 

But voters having to split their votes between Davis or Baxter, did them and Swanson no favors.

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}

> Could the anti-Hollywood tone of the film, which so angered Louis B. Mayer, also angered enough Academy voters to cost Swanson the Oscar?

 

Certainly seems plausible enough to me.

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I cannot watch the last hour of Ben Hur and not dissolve. As a Christian, I can't believe how the mix of writing, acting and the music at the end comes together and gets it right. That said, Hugh Griffith did NOT deserve that year's Best Supporting Actor Oscar, he just coasted in on the movie's coattails. It should have been Robert Vaughn for The Young Philadelphians or George C. Scott for Anatomy of a Murder. Vaughn?s scenes after his character?s arrest are still stirring after all this time and Scott?s DA is one you don?t want on the State?s side if you?re the defendant. Vaughn first, Scott second, maybe Griffith after that.

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For many filmlovers the most obvious example of an actor who should have won Best Actor is Jack Lemmon for SOME LIKE IT HOT in 1959. He got run over by the chariot wheels of BEN-HUR. Lemmon gave not only the performance of his career, but one of the best comic performances ever. Charlton Heston also won over Laurence Harvey, brilliant in ROOM AT THE TOP, and James Stewart, excellent in ANATOMY OF A MURDER. Not one of Oscar's finest moments.

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