Best Actress 1970
Winner: Glenda Jackson, Women in Love
Nominees: Jane Alexander, The Great White Hope
Ali MacGraw, Love Story
Sarah Miles, Ryan's Daughter
Carrie Snodgress, Diary of a Mad Housewife

The Field: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Ranking Oscar's Ballot
My Pick:
Glenda Jackson, Women in Love
★ ★ ★ ★

From There:

Carrie Snodgress, Diary of a Mad Housewife
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Jane Alexander, The Great White Hope
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
In the early chapters, Alexander ably expresses the diffidence and self-consciousness of a woman who knows she will soon be notorious for nothing more than being white, and who by extension will make even more incendiary the blackness of her boxing-champ boyfriend (James Earl Jones, excellent). That said, the part doesn't really come into its own until Hal Holbrook's DA hauls in Alexander alone for questioning. Alexander is at her best here, investing palpable ardor into her tact and grace, then breaking down in believable tears, then lacerating Holbrook with one line of deliriously compound profanity. The only blight on this scene is that you can't easily match it with the woman we've met up to that point in the movie; of course the crucial idea is that the character, not the actress, has been forced into hugely divergent performances based on shifting, uneasy circumstances, but I wish there were a few more flashes of that suppressed spitfire earlier, or of her lingering bashfulness even as she seeks the words to cut her enemy down to size. Alexander never again strikes a fully functional balance between these facets of her character, and she's all but reduced to the Quietly Suffering Wife™ in several scenes (where the erratic and mannered photography and the increasingly choppy script don't do her many favors). She gets one more big scene of desperate negotation with Jones, but she almost loses it to the stagebound presentation and to an odd makeup job that makes her look like Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller from The Miracle Worker. Alexander never stumbles in the role, and she frequently honors the material at the admirable expense of calling any attention to herself, but rather than thrive on the predicament that she shares with her character—a proficient supporting player thrust uncomfortably into the spotlight—she often emanates the resulting discomfort instead of articulating it for her audience.

Sarah Miles, Ryan's Daughter
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I know David Lean took the public lambasting of Ryan's Daughter very hard and only barely got over it to make one more movie, 14 years later, before he died. I don't see any need to further pillory a movie that has already been so roundly rebuked, but the bashful gentleness of a lot of the reviews that greeted the DVD release a few years ago don't seem like the right way to go, either. Let's just say that, give or take a few scenes of mutual but benign incomprehension between Sarah Miles as a young Irish lass and Robert Mitchum as the much older schoolteacher she convinces to marry or her, and aside from about 10 or 15 minutes' worth, total, of prickly character moments or atypically enigmatic montage, the rest of Ryan's Daughter's three and a half hours is almost preternaturally weightless, filmed through a set of priorities that are about as wrong as they could be for the material, and that the material itself (timid young wife seeks an older, unthreateningly asexual husband but later discovers the appetites of her body) would require an exacting execution indeed to dispell the scent of very stale air.

Ali MacGraw, Love Story
★ ★ ★ ★

Who gets your vote in this field, and on my dream ballot below? VOTE HERE!

My Favorites from 1970
As determined by U.S. release/Oscar eligibility

Winner: Glenda Jackson, Women in Love
Oscar winner; see above.

Roster of Nominees:

Barbara Hershey, The Baby Maker - Eschews any temptation to make the character unsophisticated, however "free." Telegraphs her change of heart with clear, subtle pointillism.

Shima Iwashita, Double Suicide - Runs with the challenge of double-role, expressing both symmetry and empathy between courtesan and humiliated wife, all in heightened style.

Nadine Nortier, Mouchette -

Shirley Stoler, The Honeymoon Killers - Stiffens with anger, contempt, and slicing cynicism; shivers with heedless love; reveals cunning and self-consciousness: Stoler's a virtuoso

Honorable Mentions (loosely ranked):

Shelley Winters, Bloody Mama - Tasked again to embrace and embody vulgarity, Winters simultaneously endows her character with tragic scale. Pitiable, caustic, charismatic.

Françoise Fabian, My Night at Maud's - A limpid-eyed beauty who has a knack for being gregarious and mysterious at once—a credit to Rohmer's casting, but also to artful restraint.

Catherine Deneuve, Tristana - Believably ages and hardens from vulnerable ingenue to irritated adulteress to doubly disillusioned avenger. Her deftest work to that point.

Carrie Snodgress, Diary of a Mad Housewife - Oscar nominee; see above.

Holly Woodlawn, Trash - Morrissey puts her in lewd, unenviable scenarios (that bottle!) and could have dialed her down. But she gives Trash poignancy and intensity.

Jennie Linden, Women in Love - Etches in glass, where Jackson paints in bold strokes. Both honor Lawrence, though Linden is easier to take for granted. Subtle, affecting.

Tuesday Weld, I Walk the Line - In a bewitching blend of na´vetÚ and cunning she lures Gregory Peck into a tactical affair, working out daddy issues while reveling in them.

Barbra Streisand, The Owl and the Pussycat - Script tempts her into some repetitive rhythms and some loud, shrill delivery, especially early on. But her lines and energy always bounce.

Anne Wiazemsky, Au hasard, Balthazar - That indelible face, all dewy circles and full cheeks, has a delicacy here that Godard didn't emphasize. She's soft but tough, like her pet.

Faye Dunaway, Puzzle of a Downfall Child - A bit strenuous, like film's title. Reduced at times to a mask of madness, chicness, or fragility. But finds a character, against high odds.

Liv Ullmann, The Passion of Anna - Barely present for first hour. Gestures, facets a bit familiar for actress and auteur. Haunting in a four-minute close-up recalling tragedy.

Marina Vlady, 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her - Cannily cast and lensed by Godard and Coutard; not always enlisted to "act." Still, nails mannequin duties and implies the woman underneath.

Ensemble Award: Pearl Bailey, Marki Bey, Lee Grant, and Diana Sands, The Landlord - Each finds comedy, surprise, and hints of hidden complexity in a film clearly structured as a sketchbook. They give the film communal spark.

Also-Rans (alpha):

Jane Alexander, The Great White Hope; Julie Andrews, Darling Lili; Bea Arthur, Lovers and Other Strangers; Anna Calder-Marshall, Wuthering Heights; Catherine Deneuve, Mississippi Mermaid; Sandy Dennis, The Out-of-Towners; Mbissine Thérèse Diop, Black Girl; Daria Halprin, Zabriskie Point; Julie Harris, The People Next Door; Ali MacGraw, Love Story; Shirley MacLaine, Two Mules for Sister Sara; Sarah Miles, Ryan's Daughter; Estelle Parsons, Watermelon Man; Jean Seberg, Airport; Carrie Snodgress, Rabbit, Run; Barbra Streisand, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever; Raquel Welch, Myra Breckinridge; Deborah Winters, The People Next Door

Gourmet Prospects: Geneviève Bujold, Act of the Heart; Virna Lisi, Love Is a Funny Thing; Beryl Reid, Entertaining Mr. Sloane; Romy Schneider, Les Choses de la vie

Further Research: Candice Bergen, Getting Straight; Candice Bergen, Soldier Blue; Jacqueline Bisset, The Grasshopper; Ellen Burstyn, Tropic of Cancer; Lynn Carlin, ...tick... tick... tick...; Samantha Eggar, The Molly Maguires; Angela Lansbury, Something for Everyone; Melina Mercouri, Promise at Dawn; Liza Minnelli, Tell Me that You Love Me, Junie Moon; Genevieve Page, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes; Eva Marie Saint, Loving; Romy Schneider, My Lover, My Son; Billie Whitelaw, Leo the Last; Susannah York, Brotherly Love

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