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Thelma Ritter in Rear Window


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Just watched this film for probably the 50th time and after looking at all aspects of this great movie I want to focus on just one: Thelma Ritter.

 

How did she not win a supporting actress Oscar for this performance? To me, her performance in this film defines what it means to be a "supporting actress." She's given the best lines in a great script and she makes the absolute most of them. You could basically compile a list of the top 100 lines ever in a motion picture and 10 of them would be from this film and from her character.

 

For almost 20 years, she was a valuable supporting player in Hollywood garnering 6 Oscar nominations or was it 5? (no wins). George Seaton plucked her out of nowhere to play a small part in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET and the rest, as they say, is history. Whether it was comedy or drama she excelled.

 

What I wouldn't give to have an actress like this today. Patricia Clarkson comes closest but she plays too many leads. But she has that same kind of wonderful quality.

 

Best,

Terry

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Terry, I agree with you about Thelma Ritter. There will never be another like her. She holds the record for the greatest number of Oscar nominations for Supporting Actress, and she could easily have won for any of those movies. Whenever she was in a scene, all attention was on her. A real crime that she never won the Oscar.

 

 

 

 

 

Terrence.

 

 

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Why do people think in terms of Oscar this & Oscar that? An Academy award is almost totally meaningless as it pertains to the Studio System. It only became something else later on by having it on tv. By then there was no studio system. I wish people would understand this or else we'll have wall to wall: "Why didn't this one get nominated..."? It means nothing. That is because it really meant nothing. Its not my opinion.

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Why did Claude Rains never win an Oscar, or Edward G. Robinson (who was never even nominated)?

 

When an actor gives one terrific performance after another and develops a reputation for that kind of reliability, it tends to become so expected of them that they attract less and less attention from Oscar voters, who tend to like to be surprised by the long-serving journeyman or woman who then gets the role of his or life and knocks it out of the park.

 

Ritter has to be one of the most entertaining actors who ever lived, and I think the Academy voters simply got used to that. If she'd ever given a bad performance, the Academy might very well have given her an Oscar for that.

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Not only is she great anyway, but the reason I love her so much in Rear Window is that she is so like the nurses I grew up around, the matter-of-fact way they talk about life and death and blood and such. She is so amazing. To me she is part of what makes this one of Hitch's best films.

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Ritter wasn't nominated for *Rear Window*.

 

She was nominated for:

 

1950: *All About Eve* (I don't think she deserved to win that year; Hope Emerson in *Caged* is better as is actual winner Josephine Hull in *Harvey* )

1951: *The Mating Season* (the one she really deserved to win; she lost to Kim Hunter in *A Streetcar Named Desire* )

1952: *With a Song in My Heart* (a relatively weak role; Gloria Grahame won for *The Bad and the Beautiful* )

1953: *Pickup on South Street* (another excellent performance, but Donna Reed is just as good in *From Here to Eternity*. Gloria Grahame would have been worthy of another nomination for *The Big Heat*, but wasn't nominated)

1959: *Pillow Talk* (Shelley Winters won for *The Diary of Anne Frank*, although the other three nominations are probably better: Susan Kohner and Juanita Moore in *Imitation of Life*, and Hermione Baddeley in *Room at the Top* )

1962: *The Birdman of Alcatraz* (Patty Duke won for *The Miracle Worker* in another example of how juvenile Oscars should still be awarded separately. However, Angela Lansbury is just as good cast against type in *The Manchurian Candidate*.)

 

The five nominations for 1954:

 

Nina Foch -- *Executive Suite* {"Erica Martin"}

Katy Jurado -- *Broken Lance* {"Senora Devereaux"}

Eva Marie Saint -- *On the Waterfront* {"Edie Doyle"}

Jan Sterling -- *The High and the Mighty* {"Sally McKee"}

Claire Trevor -- *The High and the Mighty* {"Mary Holst"}

 

Eva Marie Saint probably won for the scene where Marlon Brando tells her the truth about his involvement in her brother's killing, where Karl Malden is watching from a distance. There's a steam whistle that goes off, so we only see Brando's mouth moving and Eva Marie Saint responding in horror. I think she pulls off that scene quite well.

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Thelma Ritter, ever professional and a joy to watch, gives an outstanding performance in *Pick Up on South Street*. Moe Williams, the street savy tie-purveying information-selling woman who's saving up for a decent grave in a respectable graveyard, is simply unforgettable and it's Ritter who makes her so. For someone who's supposed to be merely a side character in this film (albeit an important one), she practically steals the show. I know few scenes as touching and odd as Moe's courageous stand against the "Commie" who's trying to make her reveal some key information. She knows she's going to "get it" but she's resigned to that; nothing's going to make her help a Commie; and anyway she refuses to betray her friend Skip. What puts the final touch of nobility and pathos on Moe's final scene is her simple speech, a little gem of courage, loyalty, and philosophical acceptance of her fate. All to the tune of that song she loves so much, "Ma'mselle".

She's always good, and yes, she's great in *Rear Window*. But I'll always maintain that her best work was in *Pick Up on South Street*.

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She's always good, and yes, she's great in *Rear Window*. But I'll always maintain that her best work was in *Pick Up on South Street*.

 

 

Yes! She was excellent--she made that movie! Thelma was just about the best female supporting actress in the business. She played alongside some of the boggest names in Hollywood and more than held her own. And her delivery of a sarcastic line was unbeatable. Probably only Eve Arden comes close. Or Lucille Ball in supporting mode (as in Without Love--she's one of the best reasons to watch that movie)

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I think Thelma is overshadowed by Grace Kelly in this particular offering.

 

The film that I really like her in is THE MATING SEASON. We have a fading lead actress in career decline, picking up a character role (Miriam Hopkins)...and we have a rising character actress (Thelma Ritter)...and these two meet and clash and it is explosive, it's fireworks on screen. To me, Gene Tierney and John Lund are really background...it's the mothers-in-law that I care about in this picture. They are both so wonderful to watch on screen together. There should've been a sequel with them at odds over the raising of a grandchild.

 

In fact, as I think about it, THE MATING SEASON should be remade with Merryl Streep (in the Hopkins role) and Kathy Bates (in the Ritter role).

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I think that Ritter should have received her first nomination for her work in A LETTER TO THREE WIVES. Among a high powered cast, she is peerless. Her scene with Connie Gilchrist, Linda Darnell and Barbara Lawrence (and Paul Douglas eventually) in the "Finney Mansion" is hilarious.

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3rdman: Okay, this is the third thread in 3 days in which you've told us not to think about the Oscars, etc. blah, blah. Okay, we get it. Then just don't participate but there's no point in telling the rest of us we're stupid and shouldn't be having these conversations. It's that simple.

 

Best,

Terry

 

 

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I have to disagree with you on Eva Marie Saint in ON THE WATERFRONT. She gives a marvelously subtle and terrific performance. She deserved it, but I would have preferred Thelma Ritter for REAR WINDOW.

 

Of course, Saint should have been nominated for NORTH BY NORTHWEST.

 

Best,

Terry

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Other than Eva Marie Saint for ON THE WATERFRONT, none of the 4 other actresses nominated deserved to be there ahead of Thelma Ritter, period.

 

"Grace Kelly overshadowed Thelma Ritter."

 

Duh? She was the lead. Of course. Ritter was the supporting role. And she's what you remember most. I don't really get that statement at all.

 

Best,

Terry

 

 

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PICK UP ON SOUTH STREET. That is such a great Ritter performance. She invites death. It's so good I don't have the words to describe. But it's the kind of film that no one noticed back then. It's only now that we realize and see how great a film that is.

 

Terry

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By the time THE MATING SEASON was made, Miriam Hopkins was no longer a "fading lead actress in career decline." She had long ago become a supporting character actress going back to her supporting role in THE HEIRESS. Her leading actress roles were more than a decade behind her.

 

Best,

Terry

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THE HEIRESS was only a year or two before THE MATING SEASON. This was part of her mulit-picture deal at Paramount. Wyler brought her back to Hollywood after she spent several years exclusively on stage. When she does these supporting roles under de Havilland and Tierney, scene stealer that she was, she pulled out all the stops. In her mind, she thinks she is still a lead actress-- sort of a real-life Norma Desmond.

 

Soon afterward, she goes up against Laurence Olivier in CARRIE, in another supporting role given her by Wyler. Oliver is almost no match for her. Lead actress Jennifer Jones is practically obliterated by Hopkins' theatrical maelstrom.

 

Later, in that same decade, she was slated to do a Roger Corman film as Ma Barker. She would've been the lead in that one.

 

Wyler gives her yet another job in THE CHILDREN'S HOUR...and she inhales the scenery. LOL

 

As the 60s continue, we find her playing FANNY HILL, in a lead role, and it is a perfectly delicious part for her. And she is up to her old tricks in THE CHASE, her last film, trying to hog the spotlight away from Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda and Robert Redford.

 

But going back to Thelma Ritter, I think she and Hopkins are a very good match in THE MATING SEASON. This intersection of talent works, because they both approach the story in dynamic ways, and they walk off with the picture. That's what great actresses do.

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One of my all-time favorites , the great Thelma Ritter. I remember seeing ALL ABOUT EVE at a revival house in (may have been the Biograph) in the early 80's. The scene where she enters the room as Eve is telling her story had me almost falling out of my seat. When she delivered the line, "everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at her rear end.", I DID fall out of the seat.

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I've always liked Miriam Hopkins going back to TROUBLE IN PARADISE. Never understood why she isn't better remembered today.

 

She made the transition to those supporting parts just brilliantly. You just want to kick her in the face during THE CHILDREN's HOUR. She plays it brilliantly.

 

Incidentally, I would have given the oscar that year to FAY BAINTER (her last film role) for THE CHILDREN's HOUR. She is brilliant in it.

 

That's a much overlooked and underrated film IMHO.

 

Cheers,

Terry

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It means nothing. That is because it really meant nothing. Its not my opinion.

 

Yeah, actually it *is* just your opinion.

 

Just like it's my opinion that anything Robert Osborne does will be the object of intense unwarranted scrutiny for thousands of useless posts.

 

See how that works? Opinions, everybody's got one.

 

Oh, and Thelma Ritter could outact Grace Kelly with one hand tied behind her back.

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