Best Decade for Best Actress in a Leading Role?

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  • awardskel
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    #540130

    Thoughts? Identify your fav. 2 winners from your decade selection.

    This was the decade of the independent, imperfect woman: Jane Alexander (The Great White Hope), Julie Christie (McCabe & Mrs. Miller), Jane Fonda (Klute, Coming Home), Cloris Leachman (The Last Picture Show), Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore), Gena Rowlands (A Woman Under the Influence), Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Faye Dunaway (Network), Sissy Spacek (Carrie), Diane Keaton (Annie Hall), Jill Clayburgh (An Unmarried Woman, Starting Over), Meryl Streep (Kramer vs. Kramer, Manhattan), Sigourney Weaver (Alien) and Sally Field (Norma Rae).

    Lead or supporting – these were some great performances that shattered the cultural image of what the woman SHOULD be – a diva (ala Bette Davis), a sex object (ala Grace Kelly), a nutcase (ala Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd., Joan Crawford in Strait-Jacket, Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), a servant (ala Hattie McDaniel) or subservient wife (ala Shirley Booth in Come Back, Little Sheba, etc…). There had been strides before: in life (Katharine Hepburn wearing pants) and on screen (1939’s The Women and 1954’s Johnny Guitar come to mind, as does any number of titles from the film noir genre). 

    There are some stand-out performances from the other decades listed. Janet Gaynor from 1927’s Sunrise is a brilliant demonstration of how an actress can convey an emotion, or rather, a feeling, without the need for spoken dialogue. Charlie Chaplin’s work in City Lights is also a great study of such, as far as male silent film performances go. Vivien Leigh’s work in Gone with the Wind (same with Julie Andrews’ work in Mary Poppins) is so iconic that it feels bad to say anything bad about it. It is a role that would have made anyone’s career, but it broke hers for so many years to follow. It would take another truly great part in an established brilliant play (Streetcar Named Desire) to bring her back to the same level of public consciousness that she had with the former film (though this film and its win too proved to do her career no wonders).

    Elizabeth Taylor’s work in 1966’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf took her to a level of success in her career that she had never really achieved (aside from maybe her work in A Place in the Sun) – she was truly a gifted ACTRESS afterall and not just another movie star moonlighting as such. Great as that role is, the movie is still all about the interaction she has with her other co-stars (namely her then-husband Richard Burton).

    The one winning performance and role that really stands leagues above all others is Jane Fonda’s work in 1971’s Klute. It may not be the best film ever, but it does not have to be. Fonda’s work in the film elevates the film to a level it would not have achieved had it not been for her quiet, subtle work. Much of her performance comes out in simple conversation, sitting on a therapist’s couch. We have seen a few women for playing prostitutes (Janet Gaynor, Claire Trevor, Donna Reed, Jo Van Fleet, Susan Hayward, Shirley Jones, Elizabeth Taylor in the god-awful Butterfield 8), but none for making such a “despicable” character so damn human. She doesn’t give everything away, nor give away what she has to give away quickly. It’s slow and grinding and leaves us always wanting to know more, to see more. She is that icicle slowly dripping on our foreheads, making us want it to end but secretly enjoying the experience in a sadomaschistic sort of way.

    Yes, Bree Daniels is in complete control of the investigation and in complete command of the screen. Without her, there would be no way to propel this story forward. Which is why it’s so frustrating that the filmmakers decided to name this film after it’s male (2nd) lead. Even though Klute makes a better title than Bree or Daniels or Bree Daniels. Why not just call it “Woman Knows All”? Oh, that’s right – because that would suggest that men are in some way subservient to women.

    2nd Place would be 1920s and Janet Gaynor in Sunrise. 3rd place would be 1960s – Elizabeth Taylor (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment (1983) is 4th. Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) comes in at a distant 5th

    With that said – go ahead and choose your favorite decade and your favorite winning performance(s) from that decade. Maximum of 2, maybe 3 (?). 

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    ENGLAND
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    #540132

    Hard one but the 60s and 80s for me.

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    allabout oscars
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    #540133

    the 60’s
    ELIZABETH TAYLOR- WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?
    BARBRA STREISAND- FUNNY GIRL…
    ANNE BANCROFT- THE MIRACLE WORKER

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    ENGLAND
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    #540134

    Barbra was good but not one of the best in my opinion when it comes to the 60s.

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    allabout oscars
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    #540135

    Thanks for your opinion…LOL
    where are your choices?

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    Miss Frost
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    #540136

    the 60’s
    ELIZABETH TAYLOR- WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?
    BARBRA STREISAND- FUNNY GIRL…
    ANNE BANCROFT- THE MIRACLE WORKER

    Don’t forget about Dames Maggie Smith, Sophia Loren, and Julie Andrews!

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    Laactingnyc
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    #540137

    Even though i love all of those decades i had to go with 20’s/30’s…..

    My favorites in those years were

    Janet Gaynor
    Norma Shearer
    Katharine Hepburn
    Helen Hayes
    Claudette Colbert
    Luise Rainer
    Bette Davis
    Vivien Leigh

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