We're back! Miss us? I hope so. After a hiatus for the holidays (my lord, does life get busy), our panel is back to tackle the remaining three double wins in Twice a Best Actress. It feels like we just started and now we're almost done! Not sure if we'll be back immediately next Friday for the next installment, or if there may be a small delay, just depends on how the week goes, but we are revving up again to get this thing finished. We've had a blast doing this, and I hope you guys are enjoying the reads, and the many differing opinions.
Get ready for some interesting conversation, for today we talk Glenda Jackson!
Let's get reacquainted with our panel:
Andrew from The Films the Thing
Drew from A Fistful of Films
Fritz from Fritz and the Oscars
Josh from The Cinematic Spectacle
Kevin from Speaks in Movie Lines
Sati from Cinematic Corner
At the end of the 60s and early 70s, the times, they were a-changing. And who would've guessed that a decades-old institution like the Academy Awards would be so open to the shifting perspectives by recognizing such a blatantly sexual and avant garde film as Ken Russell's adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's banned novel Women in Love. Going so far as to single out the work of its relatively unknown leading lady, Glenda Jackson, with a Best Actress win. Jackson was a classically trained actress that had been a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and had caught the attention of critics for role in the 1967 film version of the controversial Marat/Sade. But her role as would-be artist and sister, Gudrun Brangwen, all these years laters still seems like a curious choice for a nomination, let alone the win. Apparently, the role of her sister Ursula was offered to Vanessa Redgrave and Faye Dunaway who both turned it down because they thought Gudrun was the better part. Those ladies must have seen more than I did because Gudrun has virtually nothing to do until the last half hour of the film. Up until then she has danced about in crazy eye make-up in a lavish home, madly danced about with some bulls in a field like a possessed wood sprite, and...that's pretty much it. Her part is very enigmatic and Jackson with her honeyed voice and a mysterious twinkle in her eye, effortlessly conveys a rich inner life for her character, making her engaging as she can. But it's hard to place if any of it actually amounts to anything. By the end when she's taken up with a gay artist that believes in suffering for your art, she becomes haughty and prickly, turning the viewer away with her dismissiveness, but somehow still compelling you to watch. It's a performance and role that don't lend itself to simple analysis and perhaps the Academy should be applauded for challenging themselves (especially when they could have gone with the popular but trite Ali McGraw in Love Story that year), but despite Jackson's inherent intelligence and singular presence, there remains something unsatisfying about the performance.
My Grade: C
I kind of don’t know where to begin with this performance, or the film, or really anything right now. This is honestly one of those performances that can easily go either way. One day, it’ll seem brilliant, the next day it’ll seem bat-shit insane, and maybe that is why it is brilliant (maybe it’s a calculated brilliance), and yet the one thing that this performance never truly feels like is a Leading one.
That’s my major issue here, outside of the fact that the film itself is just…bizarre.
In this story of sisters and their lovers, Jackson plays Gudrun. For the first half of the film, you could be forgiven for forgetting that Gudrun was even a major character in the film, since it all seemed to be about her sister, Ursula, and her flirtatious advances towards Rupert (played by Alan Bates). Then, after Rupert dominates Ursula and nearly dominates Gerald, we start to see more of Gudrun as her relationship (is that what it is) with Gerald takes a sort of center stage.
What Jackson does with her time is not bad. It is strange and tonally challenged and yet, it almost falls right in line with the film’s bizarre approach to the material, but there is something almost off-putting about the way in which this performance feels like a shallow exploitation of themes. She’s merely there to showboat in her few sharp moments, flailing her body around in some sort of emotional and sexual trance, never really dominating the screen in a way that makes her character feel necessary at all. It’s a shame, but the film is so misogynistic, and unashamedly so, that it really disregards both the sisters as mere props (like, Ursula is simply an annoying creature to spread her legs and Gudrun feels complete stripped of intended personality), instead giving the only real depth of character to the two men.
If anyone in this cast should have won an Oscar, it was one of the men, for Alan Bates and Oliver Reed are astonishing here. I personally give the edge to Reed, who just sells this complex character with such staunch understanding.
The film throws all caution (and coherent exploration) to the wind, but it is up to the actors in that instance to take what they are given and make it all work. Reed and Bates do that. Jackson is far better than Linden, who is just embarrassing here, but she doesn’t really create a character. Jackson did a very similar thing back in 1967, in the masterpiece Marat/Sade. There, her theatrics and bizarre behavior was grounded in actual depth of character.
Gundun feels like an under-thought sub-plot.
My Grade: C
How the Oscars have changed! Can anyone imagine a performance like that to win an Oscar today? Glenda Jackson plays one of four main characters and might even be the one with the least screen time, there is no great amount of obvious emotion, the movie itself is often confusing and pretentious – but still critics immediately fell in love with this actress who was such a unique presence on the screen and who could not be compared to any contemporary during her era. May it was this strength on the screen that made her appear like a modern version of Bette Davis or Joan Crawford that enabled Glenda Jackson to make such an impression in Hollywood but she never appeared like a copy but instead always remained a true original. She was an unforgiving and powerful actress who was mostly cast as women who did not blink with an eye when they destroyed another human being but she could also find a more sensitive and relaxed side in her personality when the script allowed it. But Women in Love is the movie that more than any other displayed her undeniable force, this strange magnetism that escaped from her and this overwhelming domination of her surroundings. Her character Gudrun has no real development, no real depth and no real personality but it actually didn’t need any of this because Glenda Jackson offered enough of this. It’s a strange performance, no doubt, but one that is endlessly fascinating. It’s almost impossible to describe exactly what Glenda Jackson is doing and what the movie wants of her but she crafts an aura of cruelty and sensitivity, of hate and love and of power and weakness without ever falling into the traps of the chaos around her. A performance that always feels like a mystery – but it still offers a great reward in return.
My Grade: A+
Jackson won her first Best Actress Oscar for playing Gudrun Brangwen, a passionate artist who has a tumultuous love affair with an heir to a coal mine. It was a weak year for the Best Actress category, which probably gave Jackson's performance a slight edge. Though she's far from bad, her performance doesn't really stand out in the film. (Of course, can anything other than that naked wrestling scene stand out?) Plus, her character relinquishes quite a lot of screen time to the male leads. Her performance isn't particularly flashy, but she delivers solid work with this character from a beloved novel. As Gudrun, she's a strong, free-spirited woman who won't settle for a life she doesn't want, yet Jackson doesn't have much to do with her character here. I wonder if Gudrun's role was somewhat diminished in the film, which contains a good, not great, performance from Jackson.
Did Jackson deserve to win?
Jackson is a decent choice, but I would've voted for Ali MacGraw's performance in Love Story or Sarah Miles' work in Ryan's Daughter instead.
My Grade: B
Now, this one's a doozie. Question: Is this movie weird on purpose? Or is it meant to be played seriously? I couldn't figure it out. Some of this movie was immensely interesting. Other times, downright bizarre. Often, it was pointless. Nowhere in there was a leading performance, male or female.
As Gudrun Brangwen in Ken Russell's "Women in Love" (1969,1970), an adaptation of a D.H. Lawrence novel about two sisters and their love affairs with two best friends in 1920's small-town England, Glenda Jackson does have something, this charming, sly, coldly-British, way about her. I actually liked her at first. But as this film dragged on, I found myself noting that she is not even close to a leading character. And what little good there is in the way of Jackson's acting gets overpowered by superior male performances from Oliver Reed as the serious businessman, Rupert, and an outstanding Alan Bates as his best friend, the more poetic, Gerald. The "fig" scene is expert and extremely memorable. Then, there's the naked wrestling, which may be the only other reason to see this movie. And, I don't really know why I think that.
There is just so little to say about Jackson's performance. The best acting from everybody here is in sly glances and subtle looks. Occasionally, Jackson delivers, in an almost hysterically sinister way, some good lines here and there. She does some pretty good physical acting (in a dance number and a late sex scene). By the end of the movie, though, and this is a deal-breaker for me, I didn't feel any change in her character, no arc, no revelation. She's just cold and cynical and then stays cold and cynical.
Suffice it to say, I didn't like this film. I didn't like Jackson's performance, and I can't, for the life of me, even in a weak field like this one, figure out how this was even eligible for Oscar consideration as a leading performance.
The Scene That Won It: The final scenes in the Alps featured her best work, but I was sort of glazed over by then.
Let's make a list shall we? Naked wrestling. Chasing off buffaloes or whatever the fuck that was with a dance. People drowning in still water. Horse cruelty. 5 minute long monologue comparing a fig to female genitalia. I could go on.
How is it that 45 years ago Academy members would see this film and actually award it an Oscar and nowadays something like Gone Girl and Foxcatcher is deemed "too much" for Academy? That's mad. What the hell happened?
Anyways Glenda Jackson won her first Oscar here and I'm not sure why that happened. I thought the male actors were much better than the actresses here, even if they essentially played gross, misogynistic pricks at least they had something to work with. Jackson had....buffalo dancing. Look I didn't even finish the film. I couldn't. And I sat through Nymphomaniac, both parts. There was just nothing of interest in that for, including Jackson's performance which even given the craziness of the movie, was very forgettable.
My Grade: D
The Academy is often criticized for not acknowledging the merits of comedic performances, especially within the genre of romantic comedy. So it's a bit odd that they took so completely to the unoriginal, not-particuallry-romantic and not-especially-comedic 1973 rom-com A Touch of Class as strongly as they did. Not only did Glenda Jackson, who was a respected actress within certain circles but hardly considered a major star, manage to score another Best Actress win only 3 years after her first (and they made Meryl wait 30 years?!?), but the film itself scored a total of 5 nominations including Best Picture. Jackson stars as Vicki Allessio, a recently divorced mother of two (those kids conveniently disappear from the film after the first scene) that meet-cutes a married American living in London (George Segal) and starts an affair. It was just supposed to be a sexual fling in Spain, but - you guessed it - they start to have feelings for each other. Jackson, in a departure from her usual regal and dramatic characters, plays an ordinary woman - in fact, there isn't really anything remarkable about the underwritten role of Vicki. Jackson's hand at comedy is a little too forceful, oddly choosing anger and aggression as her main delivery and her character starts to feel a bit like a nag. Once Vicki realizes she's in love, Jackson is allowed to show different emotions other than snappy comebacks, but they all feel a little hollow as as the story never warrants the heart it suddenly gains. Jackson and Segal don't particularly have believable chemistry together and each of their styles of acting seem like they're in different films most of the time. Jackson had been a long shot to win (with bigger names Streisand, Woodward, and Burstyn seeming more likely) and voiced her dislike of the awards process in general. If only the Academy had sided with her opinion instead of suddenly deciding to go lighter with a performance that hardly warranted it.
My Grade: D
Just three years after winning for an underdeveloped Supporting character, Jackson was back at the podium again, this time winning for playing a sass-mouthed adulterous. This sounds like bait, and yet this film is so mediocre and ‘made for television’ in its development of themes that her win feels like a joke, even if her performance is actually pretty good.
This is just so un-Oscary.
Jackson is all hard-edged charisma, spitting out her dialog with a sharpness of tongue and an ease of spirit, and for this I commend her. She isn’t really given a real strong character here, especially when you consider the fact that her co-star, George Segal, seems to be given a lot more to develop. Again, it’s a shame, but even though she won in the Lead category, her character feels so much less developed than her male co-star. Throughout the film, it is his wife, his kids, his risk, his compromise, his dilemma, his decisions. Instead of allowing us to be concerned with her side of things (like, she has kids too, and a job, a life…), we are constantly being told to focus on Segal’s character, only being allowed to dwell on Jackson when she’s sulking about not being his primary concern.
Still, performance-wise, she is very good here, but the character is not given its due, and this is certainly not something that should have won an Oscar, regardless of how well Jackson ‘survived it’.
My Grade: B-
It seems hard to believe that an actress who received such undeniable acclaim during her prime, who was hailed for everything she did and won two Oscars in a short four-year period would be almost completely forgotten today. Sure, she left her acting profession to became a full-time politician but she basically was already forgotten before that. After her fourth and final Oscar nomination for Hedda, she just began to disappear again. It seems that all those characteristics that made her exciting and different at the start began to feel old and repetitious very quickly. But in 1973, she was still at the top of the world and when this foremost dramatic and intense actress suddenly decided to try something new and stared in a romantic comedy of the sexes, her admirers admired her even more. It was a change of image that led to one of the biggest Oscar upsets of all time and looking at the history of the Oscars, it does indeed seem crazy that actresses like Irene Dunne, Jean Arthur, Rosalind Russell, Barbara Stanwyck or Carole Lombard never won Oscars for their comedic works but Glenda Jackson did. Still, we are here to discuss the performance itself – and while A Touch of Class might have aged badly in some parts, Glenda’s performance did not. With the skill of a real comedian she used all her usual traits – her strength, her force, her straight-forwardness – and inserted it with an appealing sarcasm and warmth that made her work completely delightful and charming. Her Vickie is certainly not written as a very likeable woman but Glenda Jackson made her an independent creation who never asks for sympathy but still shows how she, too, is longing for love and a companion. Her work isn’t very complex but she was able to create an archetypical character AND a real person and did it all while balancing both the comedy and the drama of her role.
My Grade: A-
Jackson won her second Best Actress Oscar for playing Vickie Allessio, a British divorcee who has an affair with a married American. Given that the film is a romantic comedy, I'm surprised the Academy rewarded her again, but I suspect her reputation as an actress preceded her. Jackson gives a spunky, entertaining performance with just enough heart to make her character interesting. She gets to deliver great one-liners, and she also demonstrates her wit, snark and comedic timing. In addition, she has moments of subtle revelation, especially in the second half of the film. It's a fine handling of her character's arc, and Jackson is very effective at portraying Vickie's journey. Though, it's mostly just a good performance out of the rom-com genre, despite Jackson's attempt to bring something more to the role. The film is rather forgettable, but Jackson makes it watchable.
Did Jackson deserve to win?
Not really. Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were and Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist were more deserving, though I haven't seen the other nominees.
My Grade: B
You gotta love a good 70's sex comedy, right? And that theme song... So..."classy"! I want to go on record and say that I am thankful for this project in giving me more of an actor I didn't really even know I liked...George Segal. After this and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", I can fully say I'm a fan. Does anybody here watch "The Goldbergs"? I've caught a few episodes here and there, and it's hilarious. Segal owns in the Grandpa role. Anyway... I really enjoyed this movie. Especially Segal. And definitely Jackson as well. I get her now.
As knock-off fashion designer Vicki Allessio in Melvin Frank's "A Touch of Class" (1973), Glenda Jackson is certainly better than in her totally undeserved first Oscar-winning performance. I imagine this movie was as fresh as newly-changed hotel sheets when it dropped. To start, the succession of meet-cutes between married insurance man, Steve (Segal) and recently divorced with two kids, Vicki (Jackson), is just charming. The two have a great chemistry that runs the length of the film and provide some really funny romantic comedy. The opposites attract idea is front and center here...and it works due to the strength of the two leads.
What's funny to me though is that I felt like Segal deserved some love too from the award-giving community. Pretty much everything Jackson does, Segal does too (or first), and I feel like they sort of cancel each other out. I mean. I really like Jackson here. She is so dry and matter-of-fact. She has one of the most interesting faces I can recall, and she uses it well for both comedy (the golfing scene) and drama (the final scenes) here. As mishap after mishap threatens to destroy the secret affair, I couldn't help but laugh and be totally charmed. Jackson does some great comedic work in the fighting and bickering, raising her voice, shouting "Get stuffed, you big schmuck!" It's really fun.
Jackson's performance here is subtle, yet I really sensed her emotions. Again, I feel like this performance may have been something of a novelty. I don't see any grand Oscar-type stuff in it. No matter. I enjoyed the movie, and, while Ellen Burstyn's torturous turn in "The Exorcist" was a bit more powerful (and brave), I think Jackson was worthy enough.
The Scene That Won It: The "struck out in the sack" argument. She and George just rock it.
My Grade: B+
Here Jackson plays spirited and strong Vickie Allessio, a divorcee who has an affair with a married man. The film throws a bittersweet ending at you after a lighthearted 90 minutes but unlike in a recent movie with Mark Ruffalo that first took and then broke my heart that shall remain nameless, the romantic pair here never seems like they are either in love or even well suited for each other, in fact it's an odd pairing that only works when the film reaches the levels of absurd comedy.
He is an American and she is British but all there is between in them is what...exactly? A tiny spark that's enough for this man to cheat on his wife and this woman to essentially become the other woman. Yes, all of this is sold under the cloak of romantic comedy but there is not much romance, just the comedy where the most amusing parts come from the clash of the way The British and the Americans behave.
This performance is certainly more memorable and vivid than her work in Women in Love which could have been played by anybody. Jackson has this fierce quality to her character who honestly deserved better than being the other woman in mediocre rom-com.
My Grade: B-
There is a number assigned to each letter grade that helps us give a score to each performance. The highest number (and A+) would be 20 points. An F would warrant 0 points (a D gives you 5). So these are the scores for each performance as well as a collective score (which will be used at the end to rank each individual actress).
Glenda Jackson received a total of 59 points for her performance in Women in Love.
Glenda Jackson received a total of 71 points for her performance in A Touch of Class.
This is a collective total of 130 points.
As a point of reference, the highest collective score you can attain is 240.
This puts Jackson in DEAD LAST, one point behind Hepburn's first pair of wins. This is, while appropriate, kind of sad since Jackson is a really great actress, but these two wins do no justice to her talent.
So this closes our discussion of Glenda Jackson. Next week (or a tad later) we tackle the beloved Vivian Leigh!!!
Again, a big round of applause for the awesome bloggers sharing this series with me! You guys did some awesome work, as to be expected.