Saturday, October 31, 2009

Smacking Down at Stinkylulu's

Dear Stinkylu provided an irresistible incentive for me to (at least briefly) return to blogging, as one of the nearest-and-dearest to my heart supporting actress years was finally selected for his enduring and endearing monthly Smackdown (now celebrating its 34th incarnation, I believe). I couldn’t image having the 1956 parade pass me by without opining regarding the nominees, so join us all over here at Stinky’s for a brand-new take on a truly fabulous five lineup of performers and their transcendent work in memorable films.

As a warm-up, here are screen caps of at least one of my favorite moments from each nominated performance (I've already professed my love for winner Dorothy Malone once before):

I've always enjoyed Mildred Dunnock's work in Baby Doll, but watching the film anew made it clear how much humor and pathos she gets into the role. Her scatter-brained antics (often regulated to the background) are very amusing, but she makes Aunt Rose Comfort both brave and tragic in her big "spotlight" moment.

I'd guess Eileen Heckart's astounding turn in The Bad Seed was probably Malone's closest competition for the Oscar- Heckart did manage to snag the Golden Globe for her incredibly vivid take on the despondent Mrs. Dagle. I think her most powerful, profound moment among many may be this final attempt to connect with Christine over the secret behind her son's death. Floors me every time.

As always, Mercedes McCambridge gets her point across with ease, this time playing Rock Hudson's overbearing sister, Luz. However, although she certainly manages to make a solid impression with limited screen time, I've never felt the part offered many challenges for the actress, or was a particularly memorable piece of work, outside of Luz taming this wild stallion. Well, trying to tame it.

Patty McCormick has stated she had a mysterious affinity with the role of Rhoda Penmark from the time she first read the play. She certainly “got” the role in a professional-beyond-her-years manner that’s as eerie as Rhoda’s obsession with that elusive penmanship medal. Sometimes theatrical affects in the performance that probably killed them on Broadway look too mannered on the screen, but McCormick’s devotion to the role is always apparent, specifically in this jaw-dropping sequence wherein Rhoda finally is forced to tell her understandably unhinged mama what’s up. If you haven’t been completely sucked in by the story’s wild premise yet, this scene and McCormick’s convincing emoting therein should do it.

I fear my unshakeable adoration for Dorothy Malone may not be in synch with the opinion of the other Smackdowners, but her racy, uninhibited, and very entertaining work as Marylee Hadley captured my imagination when I first viewed Written on the Wind as a teen, and she and the role still fascinate me. Sure wish more Oscar winners could appear to be having this much fun "selling" a role, while remaining true to the characterization. Her big upstairs rumba/mambo/call it what you will shaking the blues away scene probably isn't her most impressive moment, acting-wise, but it's possibly the one that's hardest to forget.