#1970s #1980s #1990s
Oscar Winning Best Actresses in really retro comic screen romances…
Some wonderful comic performances from a few lovely Oscar Winners.
Last year I looked at Oscar-winning actor’s roles in Superhero movies, so this year I thought I’d do the same. However, this topic only led to a few appearances as a superheroine and her nemesis, in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) movie. There’s also Brie Larson in an upcoming Marvel movie.
I could have included the small but essential, superhero’s girlfriend role. A role which I’ve either loved with the likes of Natalie Portman as Jane in Thor (2011) or loathed with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts with Iron Man (2008). But these roles are usually frustratingly almost like an afterthought in these films, although their scenes with their superhero menfolk are often more enjoyable than those plots themselves.
After some thought, I’m exploring just some of the Best Actress comedy performances which won Oscars. With this looking at 5 retro comedy appearances from before 2000.
Emma Thompson in The Tall Guy (1989)
In the 1990s Emma Thompson was nominated for 3 Best Actress Oscars. She only won once in 1992, for her performance in Howards End (1992). This was for her role as Margaret Schlegel in the film adaptation of E. M. Forster’s book. However, just three years previously she had starred in a wee British romantic comedy, The Tall Guy with Jeff Goldblum as her love interest, Dexter King. He played an American actor who falls for Thompson’s role as Kate, a nurse.
The pair meet after he is treated for hayfever, and fall in love after their first date where they decide to make love first, to get it out of the way. After this rather energetic scene – which is definitely not for kids – they start dating. After being fired, Dexter wins the leading role in an Andrew Lloyd Webber inspired musical based on The Elephant Man. But then Dexter sleeps with his leading lady, and this is found out by the hyper-observant Kate.
This film was Richard Curtis’ comedy writing debut and has a who’s who of 80s British comedy behind the camera with director Mel Smith and in front of it with a supporting role from Rowan Atkinson. It’s quite a sweet romantic comedy and yes, one of those first movies I sobbed at the cinema. And an essential for Jeff Goldblum fans everywhere (you know who you are).
Glenda Jackson in A Touch of Class (1973)
Now back to the 1970s for an Oscar Winning performance by Glenda Jackson (yes, the same one who is a name in British politics) in A Touch of Class (1973). Glenda also won an Oscar for Women in Love (1969). However, she was nominated for a further 2 Best Actress Academy Awards. This is one of my favourite of her roles.
Although her movie with Vanessa Redgrave, Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) was also a favourite – with Jackson as Elizabeth I – even if did give me nightmares as a kid. This was after seeing the final scenes of Timothy Dalton’s appearance as Lord Darnley, whose life ends in tragedy. But surprisingly not for the scene where the Scottish Queen gets executed.
Anyway, back to this role which is in another British romantic comedy A Touch of Class and here Glenda Jackson stars as British, Vickie with George Segal as her secret American lover Steve. I remember this as being one of two films they starred as lovers. But this one bizarrely could have brought Cary Grant out of film retirement. This would have been with the film script to be rewritten to accommodate his older man role.
Basically, she’s divorced, he’s married and after he makes his move on her she says she’ll only do the deed somewhere warmer. Then his wife turns up, cue complications after he says she’s his mother… hence the need for that rewrite. One to watch again, and probably with my mother. No doubt in a double bill, with a similar cast including Segal and Jackson in Lost and Found (1979) which is neither a prequel nor a sequel.
Meryl Streep in Heartburn (1986)
Twenty-one times nominated – according to Wikipedia – yet only winning two Best Actress awards for Sophie’s Choice (1982) and The Iron Lady (2011) – means that Meryl easily leads the list of most nominated actresses for this accolade. Her leading man in Heartburn (1986) is another much-nominated actor, Jack Nicholson in this bittersweet comedy-drama movie.
It tells – in a much watered-down version of the book – of Nora Ephron’s relationship and marriage with one of the reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal, Carl Bernstein. Bernstein was played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie on this subject in All The President’s Men (1976). If like me you relate to some historical events via the movies. It would have been just plain weird if Hoffman had been cast in this movie, even if the names have been changed. Especially with their appearances as a divorcing couple in Kramer vs Kramer (1979).
Anyway, it’s a great movie, although Nicholson makes his character more charming than despicable as the cheating husband. His scenes with Meryl are quite sweet in the more loving moments for this famous couple, after they get together at the start of this film.
Itsy Bitsy Spider (Coming Round Again) is the hauntingly memorable title track from Carly Simon, it’s a great movie track. There are surprisingly no awards for this prolific starring cast, also including Oscar winners Mercedes Ruehl, director Milos Foreman and Kevin Spacey (in his debut).
Sissy Spacek in The Man with Two Brains (1983)
Sissy Spacek won a role for Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter in 1980 but was also nominated many times. Six times to be exact, with her win leading to a similar biopic role for Jessica Lange in a Best Actress nominated role in Sweet Dreams (1985). Lange starred as Loretta Lynne’s fellow Country and Western singing star, Patsy Cline. For which Lange also gave a wonderful, stirring performance.
In the comedy, The Man with Two Brains, Spacek is seen but not heard as Steve Martin’s love interest as the voice of a brain. Yup, you did read that right. Martin as Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr was a loved up brain surgeon, then widowed by the love of his life. This is after he meets and falls for a bitch of a gold digger in Kathleen Turner as Dolores Benedict.
Spacek stars as Anne Uumellmahaye, she makes an appearance as one of the many brains, that Dr Alfred Necessiter (David Warner) is experimenting on. After he meets Hfuhruhurr at a medical conference he invites him to his lab. Thereafter Hfuhruhurr sings a song reminding him of his dead wife, and he falls in love with Spacek after she joins him in a duet. This leads to a crazy serial killer storyline and a hunt for a suitable body so Hfuhruhurr can have the
brain girl of his dreams…
Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors (1998)
Oscar Winner Gwyneth Paltrow won an Oscar for her performance as Viola de Lesseps – and Thomas Kent – for Shakespeare in Love (1998). But here she starred in another British Comedy romance, Sliding Doors. The plot explores if your life will turn out differently after a chance event occurs in a different way.
This film shows Paltrow as Helen whose life is seen in two parallel storylines. In the first in what would happen had she caught a train and the second if she’d missed it. It also has John Hannah. Hannah plays a full-tilt Scot with a crazy sense of humour who features in… anyway no spoilers. But his accent alone is great if you are a Scottish expat and homesick. It’s also useful in curing this now as I’ve totally given up on Outlander (2014-) after they killed off Frank and Black Jack Randall.
The film was surprisingly written by Peter Howitt – Joey from TV’s Bread (1986-91) – and it’s a unique idea for a romantic comedy. It’s is like finding the needle in a haystack of far too many contrived rom coms. It was produced by Sydney Pollack – who was himself a nominated Oscar director for Tootsie (1982) – after a chance discussion with John Hannah. So it’s got Oscar winners both behind and in front of the camera.
So in reviewing these movies, it was great to revisit these Oscar Winning actresses in some fun, romantic moments in retro films… However in a parallel universe, these ladies might have lost out on the award, and those leading ladies in rom coms nominated for Best Actress might have won.
This would have led to a retro post featuring the likes of… Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffanys (1977), Marsha Mason in The Goodbye Girl (1977), Julie Walters for Educating Rita (1983), Kathleen Turner in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) and Melanie Griffith in Working Girl (1988). This could possibly be the choice of topic for next year’s Oscar-related post unless a chance event results in things turning out differently…
This post was added to Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, Aurora of Once Upon a Screen and Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon. Other movies with these lovely actresses as reviewed here include Meryl Streep in Heartburn, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Kramer vs Kramer and Mamma Mia. Emma Thompson stars in my Bridget Jones’ Baby trailer review.