And the Academy selected:
- Ethel Barrymore in None But The Lonely Heart
- Jennifer Jones in Since You Went Away
- Angela Lansbury in Gaslight
- Aline MacMahon in Dragon Seed
- Agnes Moorehead in Mrs. Parkington
5. Aline MacMahon as Ling Tan's Wife in Dragon Seed
It's hard to judge a performance like this without instantly disliking it for having the wrong kind of actor playing the part. My thoughts on Aline MacMahon's very quiet performance as Ling Tan's Wife is simple: she does nothing impressive in the part. If we want to bring up the fact that MacMahon looks nothing like an Asian and it becomes a little offensive at points that she is even trying, then we can do that. But, judging by her acting, she is almost constantly unintentionally funny, bobbing her head at points is a sign she had no idea what she was doing with the performance.
4. Angela Lansbury as Nancy in Gaslight
Gaslight is a well made thriller that is surely remembered today for Ingrid Bergman's performance, so much so that hardly anyone knows Angela Lansbury picked up her first Oscar nomination for it. Playing the mysterious young maid Nancy, Lansbury has a very small, depthless part that of course most will praise because it's Lansbury. I fall into the opposite category that thinks Lansbury could be deleted from the movie and it wouldn't change it at all. She plays up the small mysteriousness of the character, but other then that - there is absolutely nothing to this performance.
3. Agnes Moorehead as Baroness Aspasia Conti in Mrs. Parkington
Agnes Moorehead is considered one of the definitive supporting actresses of the golden age and it's probably rightfully so. In Mrs. Parkington, she plays an aging French baroness who was once the mistress of Mr. Parkington. She helps Greer Garson's Susie become more of a socialite queen and she is eternally grateful for it. The performance is a baity one, it's up to Moorehead to play the role with the right kind of force and power, and unfortunately she tries to take the easy way out, playing a sympathetic character. Holding a French accent and lots of emotional scenes, Moorehead doesn't give the character the right kind of personality and it becomes a very disappointing performance.
2. Jennifer Jones as Jane Hilton in Since You Went Away
It's a performance that always edges on greatness but Jones' performance as Jane Hilton always seems to find it's way back to being just 'okay'. When the scene calls for something great of an actress, she delivers wonderfully, showing the many stages of loss and romantic confusion. But, in normal 'happy' scenes she fails to be anything more then 'okay' - her roots as an inexperienced actress is more prevalent in these scenes and she can't seem to overcome it. Still, she has some great moments especially the train station scenes where she says goodbye to her real life lover.
1. Ethel Barrymore as Ma Mott in None But The Lonely Heart
Even though None But The Lonely Heart is the worst movie in this category (Dragon Seed is just misguided...badly) Ethel Barrymore stands out this year, giving a great performance as the bitter, but ultimately loving mother of Cary Grant. She injects the character with alot of quiet dignity and pain that she makes the movie worthwhile, just for her performance alone. Nothing else in the film works, but when Barrymore glides across the screen and tries to control her son, it turns out to be the best performance one could hope for in such bad material.
Honorable Omissions: None.