Friday, December 20, 2019

Five Best Actress Nominated Films of 1980

Best Actress Oscar Nominees 1980 Films

Oscar's 5 Best Actress Nominated Films of 1980
Reviews by:
Jenny Taliadoros, Eileen Rudisill (Rudy) Miller,
David Wolfe, Amanda Hallay and Sally Biondi

The year 1980 was a good one for Best Actress nominated films. Our favorite by far was Ordinary People. Can you guess which movie sparked the greatest debate? Private Benjamin! Did we all agree Sissy Spacek deserved the Oscar? Nope!

Our movie club has grown to "The Fab Five" with the addition of David's daughter, Prof. Amanda Hallay, an expert on fashion history and classic Hollywood. As soon as she learned of our Best Actress movie endeavor, she jumped right in. Please visit her Ultimate Fashion History YouTube channel for an entertaining look at fashion, Hollywood and pop culture. And be sure to watch the Be Kind Rewind spotlight on our Academy Award nominees—Sissy Spacek, Goldie Hawn, Mary Tyler Moore, Ellen Burstyn and Gena Rowlands.

In recognition of our first film, Coal Miner's Daughter, I'm happy to show a wonderful Loretta Lynn paper doll, illustrated by Ted Menten for the 2015 paper doll convention David and I hosted in Chattanooga. Loretta was included in a souvenir paper doll book, "Songbirds of the South."

This is an especially busy time of year for Sally so we have just two reviews from her. Amanda came on board with our second movie, Private BenjaminWould you like to watch with us? Next we're jumping to Best Actress nominated films from 1960. 

BEWARE: Reviews contain spoilers.

Loretta Lynn Paper Doll by Ted Menten
Ted Menten's Loretta Lynn paper doll souvenir for the 2015 Paper Doll Convention in Chattanooga, TN.

Sissy Spacek WINNER for best Actress as Loretta Lynn
Co-starring: Tommy Lee Jones as Doolittle Lynn
The humble beginnings, rise to fame and troubled marriage of legendary country singer Loretta Lynn.
Biopic directed by Michael Apted.

Jenny's Review - Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)

1. I like that this biopic doesn’t try to cover too much, keeping its focus on the relationship of Loretta and Doolittle. The film gives us a good sense of an impoverished coal mining town in 1940s Kentucky, helping us understand the dynamics that brought Loretta and Doo together. We see Loretta’s rise to success without going too far into the business aspect of her career. Her wealth is represented without the typical scenes of buying fancy cars, houses, furs, etc.
2. Tommy Lee Jones’ performance is excellent. It is interesting to see how Doo created Loretta Lynn’s career—buying her first guitar, pushing her on stage, mailing demos, driving her to radio station after radio station.
3. Loretta’s friendship with Patsy Cline—a much-needed strong female role model.

1. A grown man with a 13-year-old girl is deeply disturbing in any context. More recently, the Associated Press obtained Loretta’s birth certificate which puts her at age 15 when she got married, not 13. When questioned by the AP, Loretta’s spokeswoman said that Lynn has told her before in no uncertain terms, "If anyone asks how old I am, tell them it's none of their business!" Sooo… Loretta prefers to let people think she is younger than she really is even if makes her a 13-year-old bride. That’s just weird.
2. As awful as it is to witness Doolittle’s destructive behavior, I suspect his abuse, alcoholism and womanizing was watered down for this film.

Beverly D’Angelo is terrific as Patsy Cline, and I was gobsmacked to read in the credits that she did her own singing. Her voice is spot-on.

Sissy Spacek’s vulnerable portrayal of Loretta Lynn is Oscar worthy.

This film inspired me to listen to the audiobook, Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner’s Daughter, read by Sissy Spacek, which provides a more detailed account of her rise to success. For example, her first record and radio station road trip was funded by a wealthy Canadian businessman who saw Loretta on a local program. It was interesting to learn more about her family, her siblings’ involvement in the music industry, her Native American heritage and even Loretta’s psychic abilities. I recommend watching the 1980 interviews with cast members and director of Coal Miner’s Daughter on Brian Linehan’s City Lights YouTube channel.

Rudy's Review - Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)

1. Such a great movie and an incredible story about an ordinary girl who became a powerhouse of a woman! I can't imagine being married at 13 and surviving it!! Let alone becoming such a big star to boot. I loved Doo's dedication to her and his belief in her. Obviously, it wasn't a perfect relationship, but there was a lot of good stuff goin' on there! Loved the way their story was told. (I read that they were married for 50 years until he died.)
2. Tommy Lee and Sissy Spacek were great! Sissy Spacek was perfectly cast and her singing was great, too.
3. I loved the way the early scenes with her parents and siblings were done. They were all filmed in Kentucky and were so authentic, it put you right there. 

I pretty much liked all of it.

I remember really liking this movie when it first came out. And I enjoyed seeing it again now.

Sissy was great and her Oscar was well deserved. but I am going to withhold final judgement until I see the other films.

David's Review - Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)

Coal Miner’s Daughter scored an Oscar for Sissy Spacek and I can’t figure out why. I was stupefied by this country-and-western cliché bio-pic. Loretta Lynn’s climb from hardscrabble poverty to burned-out superstar is a story seen too many times. Usually the setting is Broadway or Hollywood. Sissy’s instant success took place at the Grand Ole Opry but the plot played out with mind-numbing familiarity. 

Adolescent Loretta wasn’t much of a mother, a housekeeper or a wife, but when her pushy husband bought her a guitar, she sat right down and wrote hit songs. No surprise that success was so great it was too much for Loretta to cope with and she went to pieces but recovered without much more than an onstage faint and a couple of painted-on tears. Bor-ring!

DID I LIKE ANYTHING about this oft-told show biz tale? No. I don’t really like yesterday’s cold mashed potatoes. A Star is Re-Born, once again, but with a twang as she sang. I found the scene played for comedy with 13-year-old Loretta as a child-bride on her wedding night to be totally tasteless. Molestation, not making love.

SURPRISES? I was pleasantly surprised to see Beverly D’Angelo as Patsy Cline doing her own vocalizing, as did Sissy Spacek.

AN OSCAR FOR SISSY? I don’t think so.

Sally's Review - Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)

I saw this film when it came out, and only caught bits and pieces of it on TCM on occasion. I do recall even before the "Me Too Movement" feeling very uncomfortable about the "rape" of a 13-year-old girl at the hands of an adult. The times were different, but I was marching in Washington with others to change laws, and even being run off the road for having an ERA sticker on my car.

1. The fact they filmed on location and not a back lot gives the film a big plus.
2. The performance of Tommy Lee Jones is stellar.
3. Sissy's singing and accent is perfection.

1. The casting of Patsy Cline. She should have been truly more demanding and the relationship between her and Loretta was really a pivotal relationship that was so important.
2. To me the script was weak and too simple, The story omitted Loretta's true soul mate, Conway Twitty. They were a real country western item, and somehow it would have made a better story if it was included.

Did Sissy deserve the Academy Award. I don't know. She portrayed an icon of sorts and her accent and singing are dead on, but I will reserve my opinion until I see the other nominees.

Goldie Hawn nominated for Best Actress as Judy Benjamin
Eileen Brennan as Captain Doreen Lewis
Armand Assante as Henri Alan Tremont
A newly widowed socialite who comes into her own by way of the US Army.
Comedy directed by Howard Zeiff.

Jenny's Review - Private Benjamin (1980)

1. Goldie is funny without trying to be funny. She plays her character straight—a privileged young woman unexpectedly thrust into the rigors of basic training.
2. Smart editing creates many funny moments in the film. Example: When Captain Lewis first encounters Judy in the barracks, Judy explains that she joined a “different Army,” the one with condos and a private room, and she couldn’t possible sleep with 20 women in a filthy room. Captain Lewis responds, “May I see your toothbrush?” Cut to a low angle shot of the bathroom where we see just the lower half of Judy still in her civilian dress and hose, on her knees, scrubbing the toilet with her electric toothbrush.
3. Giant 1980s eyeglasses! OMG! Judy’s mother is hilarious wearing window-pane glasses so huge that they cover part of her hairstyle.

1. I was constantly wondering what’s really allowed in basic training, suspecting women cannot wear the jewelry, makeup, lace underwear and personal pajamas shown in the film. Goldie’s mascara; however, adds enjoyable drama to her tearful episodes.
2. The war games exercise was too silly. Judy could have been the heroine of a much smarter scenario.

This movie is less of a comedy than I remember from my viewing decades ago. Side note: The film’s screenwriter, Nancy Meyers, is also responsible for Baby Boom (1987), Father of the Bride (1991), Something’s Gotta Give (2003) and The Intern (2015).

The only comedic performance in Oscar’s Best Actress category, Goldie was deserving of a nomination but not the win. For the Golden Globes, she was nominated in the Comedy/Musical category with Dolly Parton in 9 to 5, Irene Cara in Fame, Bette Midler in Divine Madness! and Sissy Spacek (winner) in Coal Miner’s Daughter.

Rudy's Review - Private Benjamin (1980)

I am so sorry, but I really didn't like this movie at all. It was boring and just uninteresting to me. I like Goldie Hawn. She's cute and all, but that wasn't enough to save this film for me. I found the entire cast really annoying. I guess it was supposed to be a comedy, but I didn't think it was that funny. And I guess it was a big hit at the time because it was a female empowerment movie, but pa-lease! There were other films from around that same time period that were much more effective. Working Girl comes to mind.
Thumbs down for me.

That anyone was nominated for an Oscar for this movie.

I’m staying with Sissy Spacek so far.

David's Review - Private Benjamin (1980)

I remember liking this movie when I saw it 39 years ago, but found my updated opinion doing a total turnabout. I found the humor to be sophomoric, the script nonsensical and the characters one-dimensional. Today I find it hard to believe that Goldie Hawn was nominated for Best Actress. Granted, she had a surprisingly successful career built on her giggly, whacky persona. Talent? Limited, but likeable and always typecast as a dizzy blonde (although she goes for a carrot-colored frizz coif for the un-funny comedic climax in Private Benjamin. )

Goldie is Goldie and she suffers through a script that’s not to be believed as her character’s groom dies on his wedding night (not funny), joins the all-gal-pals army (fights off a rapist officer before parachuting), falls in love with a super-suave Continental (a Commie who demands a prenup agreement, has sex with the maid and almost leaves now-wiser Goldie waiting at their wedding). I really wondered how this mess of a movie got made, even allowing for the changing awareness of women’s rights (better late than never).

I found it to be a fascinating history lesson, a reminder that the Women’s Movement remains an on-going social work in progress.
I did like one thing about “Private Benjamin.” Eileen Brennan. At least she seemed to understand the movie was a comedy (at times, anyway). She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. She reprised the role in a multi-season TV series based on the film.

Goldie Hawn’s hair! Artfully arranged boudoir bedraggled. She still sports the same scrambled blonde and on her, it works.

Should Goldie have swiped the Oscar from Sissy? No way.

Sally's Review - Private Benjamin (1980)

I liked this movie for a number of reasons. Goldie Hawn is believable in an I Love Lucy manner. Her over the top spoiled self absorbed girl is convincing and funny and Eileen Brennans performance is wonderful. The two of them play off each other perfectly.

It is difficult to think of things I did not like. Comedy is such a strangely personal take on life. Women see funny in things men don't, and visa versa. All women, especially before the "Me Too Movement,” met way too many men that were depicted in this film. To see the "funny" outcome to these situations gave this film a sense of lightness. There is a truly an important message, that I believe Goldie Hawn wanted to invoke, and that is that women were ready to come into their own, not just Judy. Goldie Hawn is a power house in Hollywood and is breaking some of the glass ceilings there. I think this film shows women that they have the ability to perhaps one day be President of the United States!!! This message is 40 years old.

Should Goldie have won the Academy Award, no. But it is a good and worthwhile comedy. 

Amanda's Review - Private Benjamin (1980)

1. I liked the ‘idea’ of the movie; pampered and privileged poshie goes to boot camp and (in the most unlikely of settings) finds her inner strength. It was actually a fabulous concept, but (for me) it didn’t deliver.
2. Eileen Brennan! She was the only truly comic spark in an otherwise labored ‘one joke’ comedy (and those ‘jokes’ seemed dated even then; endless ‘sight gags’ involving people struggling with obstacle courses, etc., it felt like I was watching a Carry On movie from the '60s. And was I the only one who thought that Judy’s initial belief that the Army was going to be like a spa retreat unbelievable to the point of idiocy?)
3. I thought Armande Assante was both handsome and devilishly charming (and is it just me, or did he remind anyone else of today’s Diego Luna?)

I know it’s only supposed to be two things we disliked, but please indulge me because there was just so much that I disliked about Private Benjamin!)
1. I thoroughly disliked the suggestion that if a female joins the military, there must be something intrinsically ‘wrong’ with her; Benjamin’s co-recruits were comprised young women who (in one way or another) represented the lost and disenfranchised, and I genuinely felt that this was insulting to women of our Armed Forces.
2. I was confused by the overarching ‘message’ of this movie; Judy joins the Army because her husband dies, leaving behind her life of pampered privileged financed by a man. We are taught that she has grown from her experience in the Army and has realized that she is a strong and independent woman capable of carving a glittering career for herself in the military. And then what does she do? She leaves the Army to marry a man who will give her a pampered and privileged life, essentially putting her ‘back to square one’. Certainly, she stands him up at the aisle after she realizes what a heel he is, but the whole third act of Private Benjamin struck a weird note with me. Why had we just endured all of this facile basic training stuff (endured on the promise that the experience had somehow ‘changed’ Judy), when she was then so quick to return to her pre-Army self? Furthermore, I think it was incredibly patronizing to women to suggest that to have the strength to leave a man who has cheated on you with two different women and makes you sign a prenup in a language you can’t read you, must first join the Army! (Us girlies just ain’t tough enough to walk away from even a bad relationship unless we’ve experienced six weeks with a drill sergeant. Oh, please!)
3. I know we are living in a time of heightened (and welcomed) awareness regarding sexual assault, but really? A scene where an attempted rape is used to ‘comic effect’ (I refer to the parachuting scene) is ‘cheap’ at best, and at worst, incredibly offensive to victims of sexual assault who couldn’t escape it by cutely jumping out of an airplane.

I was surprised that this movie was so popular that it spawned a TV spinoff, and I’m even more surprised that it remains so beloved (by so many!) today. I guess I’m missing something…

Goldie Hawn was charming and delightful, but this was not the stuff of Oscars. For now, I’m sticking with Mary Tyler Moore as the most deserving nominee.

Mary Tyler Moore nominated for Best Actress as Beth Jarrett
Donald Sutherland as Calvin Jarrett
Timothy Hutton as Conrad Jarrett
Judd Hirsch as Dr. Berger
 A family unravels following the death of their eldest son.
Drama directed by Robert Redford.

Jennys Review - Ordinary People (1980)

1. Smart. Smart. Smart. After our two previous viewings, I especially appreciate this intelligent film. The script, direction, casting, acting—all top notch.
2. I love how the story and characters developed in small bits, making us consider and question things along the way. Is there anything behind the cold facade of Mary Tyler Moore’s character? You’ll have to watch and find out for yourself!
3. Stellar performances from Timothy Hutton, Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore and Judd Hirsch. I also enjoyed Conrad’s friends played by Elizabeth McGovern and Diana Manoff.


I’m surprised how much I liked this movie. I hadn’t seen it before, and I’m glad I had this opportunity to watch. It doesn’t get the buzz like other films of the era which is too bad. I now consider it one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. This was Robert Redford’s directorial debut and he deservedly won the Oscar.


Move over Sissy Spacek, Mary Tyler Moore gets my vote.

David’s Review - Ordinary People (1980)

1. Ordinary People is far from an ordinary movie. In fact, I think it is extraordinary, a sensitive story of a family suffering to survive the gut-wrenching pain of losing their eldest son in a boating accident. The surviving son attempted suicide and the family dynamics are painful to observe. Director Robert Redford did a splendid job balancing what could have become melodrama.
2. Mary Tyler Moore’s performance is superb, as is Timothy Hutton who plays her tortured son. Watching this artistic motion picture after the brainless Private Benjamin was a reminder that cinema can be art or gross garbage.
3. I became totally immersed in the family’s emotional dilemma and thought the entire cast was perfectly cast. On the lighter side, I enjoyed observing the luxe '80s lifestyle depicted… hardly “ordinary.” Hey! What happened to Mary Tyler Moore’s eyebrows that were plucked to nothingness? Ah, the whims of Fashion.

Surprise! Yes that adorable teen with the face of a living doll is Elizabeth McGovern long before she married into the Downton Abbey gang. She’s aging gracefully and I was delighted to see her early work. She was charming then and is every bit as charming now.

Mary Tyler Moore’s portrayal of the dysfunctional mother ran rings around Sissy Spacek ‘s country biopic. Her character’s mortal wound was a difficult role and MTM stepped out of her usual sweet role to deliver this brilliant performance. I think she should have taken home the Oscar.

Rudy’s Review - Ordinary People (1980)

1. Timothy Hutton!!! His performance was nothing short of miraculous!!! He blew me away and very much deserved the best Supporting actor Oscar that he received for this. He was 20!!!
2. Great acting, great cast, great writing and directing.
3. It was a brilliant and affecting portrait of this family struck by tragedy. I especially loved its portrayal of the troubled, sweet teen-aged boy and his relationship with his psychiatrist. I could also really relate to the dad who loved his son so much and struggled hard to try and help him, not knowing if his efforts were going to do any good.

I didn't get how MTM's character could be so distant with her son who was so lovable. That scene where he hugged her and she couldn't hug him back was pivotal. When Donald Sutherland said to her that he didn't know if she had buried her love with their son, or if she had ever been capable of loving at al—that was the question. What was her deal??? MTM played the part of this enigmatic character well. Ironically the same year as the movie, her only child, Richie, died at the age of 24 of an accidental gunshot to the head while cleaning a small .410 shotgun. Just heartbreaking.

The young Elizabeth McGovern. How much fun is it to see her sweet young face and tender performance after watching her for years as Cora on Downton Abbey!

Mary Tyler Moore was very good as the uptight and constipated mom, but I'm still going with Sissy Spacek.

Amanda’s Review - Ordinary People (1980) 

1.   The performances, all of which were extraordinary. I particularly liked Donald Sutherland as the tragically cheerful ‘pleaser’, and young Timothy Hutton was particularly sympathetic as the troubled teenage son. But of course, it was Mary Tyler Moore who stole the movie, her portrayal of a bereaved and emotionally inhibited control freak such a dramatic departure from her warm and likeable role as ‘Mary Richards’.
2.    The palette; all those browns, greys, beiges, and mustards that not only spoke to the era, but to the emotional tone of the movie. This extends to wardrobe, which (as a fashion history professor) I particularly liked, as it depicted so perfectly that subtle move from style of the Seventies to that of the Eighties.
3.    The recurring motif of water; Bucky drowns, much of the surviving son’s plotline revolves around his success (or lack of it) on the swim team, and whenever Beth feels she’s losing ‘control’ (of a conversation or situation), she drinks from a glass of water. Water becomes a signifier for both stress and sadness; I thought this was subtle and clever.
1.  The therapy scenes. Although Judd Hirsch was terrific in the role of Dr. Berger, I felt the dialogue was somewhat clunky and cliché, and I could have lived without a few of those encounters.
2.  The overuse of Pachelbel’s Canon (and I love Pachelbel’s Canon!).
3. I didn’t like how much it upset me! I first saw it in 1980 when I was 15 and haven’t seen it since. I remember enjoying it, but it didn’t rip my heart out. It did this time!
I was surprised at how ‘contemporary’ it felt in theme; forty years later, teen suicide is higher than ever, and I couldn’t help but feel that the dynamics we see at play in this family are being played out in middle-class homes with troubled teens today. This could be updated so readily as a Netflix Original, with an SUV-driving ‘Alpha Female’, uber feminist ‘soccer mom’ in the Beth role (I would love to see Julia Louis Dreyfus breaking away from comedy and showing her acting chops in this role, just as Mary Tyler Moore did), her depressed teenage son addicted to gaming and escaping into an online world. I can see Paul Rudd taking on the Donald Sutherland role, and who better to play the ‘tough love’ psychiatrist than Oprah Winfrey?? 
Damn, this casting is so genius I wish this remake existed!
Mary Tyler Moore, of course! I remember at the time I felt she should have won; her fellow nominees had ‘flashier’ roles, and to play such an emotionally closed-off and cold character and still garner audience sympathy is quite a feat.

Ellen Burstyn nominated for Best Actress as Edna Mae McCauley
Sam Shepard as Cal Carpenter, Richard Farnsworth as Esco,
Roberts Blossom as Edna’s father, Eva Le Gallienne as Edna’s grandmother.
A woman attains healing powers after a near-death experience.
Drama directed by Daniel Petrie.

Jenny’s review - Resurrection (1980)

1. Ellen Burstyn’s honest performance. I believed her.
2. The ring of truth in the story threads: the father wants her in his life only if she behaves on his terms, the boyfriend’s grappling with his religious beliefs, Edna’s conviction to stay true to herself.
3. Ellen’s bad teeth. In today’s landscape of facially corrected stars, it’s honestly refreshing to see a leading lady with yellow, crooked teeth and an overbite to boot.

1. Lack of chemistry between Ellen Burstyn and Sam Shepard.
2. Edna’s aging bothered me. Her long, grey hair somehow made her face look younger.

The story unfolded exactly as expected so no surprises other than Cal’s reaction at the end was more extreme than I anticipated. And where was the press? You’d think a miraculous healer would be bombarded by the media.
Here’s another surprise: Eva Le Gallienne received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her tiny on-screen role as Edna’s grandmother. Better known for her stage work, Eva’s Broadway career started in 1916!

If I’m just comparing Ellen vs. Sissy two, I prefer the more vulnerable performance of Sissy Spacek.

Rudy’s review - Resurrection (1980)

1. It was interesting in a quirky way. A bit uneven, but engrossing.
2. Ellen Burstyn did a good job of not going over the top in the role. It could have been really camp given the nature of the subject matter, but I found her to be very convincing. It was nice to see a film from that time where the woman obviously liked sex. I think it was part of her holistic nature that touching and loving and healing were all interconnected in a lovely way that made her character so warm and caring. It drew you to her.
3. I loved the scene where she and her father stopped at The last Chance Gas and she meets Richard Farnsworth (Esco). It was so tender. I just knew she would end up there. the scenes between her and her grandmother were also very sweet.

1. The worst soundtrack in the history of movies!!!! The music when Sam Shepard goes ballistic with the shot gun is really cheesy.
2. Low budget quality.
3. The costumes! What were those outfits she was wearing???? And the way she looked at the end with the crazy white unkempt hair!! Wacko!
4. I didn't really like the Sam Shepard character. It wasn't clear to me what was going on with him. And then, suddenly, he's loading a shot gun. What? What was she doing with him anyway??

Interesting that, like Ordinary People, there was a situation where the child is yearning for love from the unloving parent.

THE OSCAR? Sissy Spacek.

David’s review - Resurrection (1980)

I am surprised that I was so engrossed in this somewhat poorly executed mystical/ spiritual movie. Ellen Burstyn is an actress I very much like and I think she was disadvantaged by an overwrought story line. Her character underwent a dramatic transformation into a miraculously effective healer, but she took it all in her stride somewhat nonchalantly. A near-death experience, self-healing her paralyzed legs, casual sex with the gun totin’ rebel son of a crazed holy roller, being introduced to a two-headed snake—nothing fazed her or disturbed a lock in her dazzling orange coiffure. 

I LIKED the fact that there was no “action” in this movie—no car chase through a big city, no comic book hero or heroine, ‘nary an explosion, no drug addiction, no provocative sex scenes and best of all, no f..king f-word dialogue. I liked seeing some interesting faces in the small country crowd scenes instead of Beverly Hills beauties with Hollywood dentistry and copious Botox.

I DISLIKED the location, supposedly rural Kansas that looked too much like the Dustbowl of the ‘30s Depression. I also did not buy into the not-so-special effect depiction of The After-Life (which I guess is a lot like Studio 54 in the '70s.) 


Although I usually find Ellen Burstyn interesting, it seemed to me that she didn’t deliver her usual performance. I blame the script that did not explore her character’s motivation. I wanted to know more about her troubled relationship to her taciturn father. And where was her mother? I’m sticking with Mary Tyler Moore as the most deserving of the Best ActressAward.

Amanda’s Review - Resurrection (1980)

I ultimately found myself quite absorbed by this movie, but it took a while to get there.

1. The scene with the always underused Richard Farnsworth as the gas station owner with the two-headed snake. One of our greatest actors, the late Farnsworth’s appearance in the movie was a high point for me, and I wish his work hadn’t been limited to just one scene. (I recommend the movie, The Straight Story, for those of you who may not have seen it. Farnsworth's last—and greatest—role).
2. Ellen Burstyn’s performance, which was sensitive and exuded warmth, even though there was very little character development.
3. A movie with a message of Love (with a capital ‘L’) is always a good idea.
1. I hated the way that 1970s Kansas was depicted as if it were the Dustbowl of the Great Depression. I don’t know if this was a stylistic choice (and if so, I thought it was not only a poor one, but poorly rendered) or based on a Hollywood ignorance of what the ‘flyover states’ are actually like, but those who inhabited the prairie states in the late 1970s did not dress as if they were in a Dorothea Lange photo! I Googled ‘Kansas families 1970s’, and everyone was dressed in typical (and sometimes rather groovy!) '70s attire. I felt that this portrayal of farming folk was both insulting to them and confusing to the viewer.
2. The ‘flash forward’ didn’t work for me; how old was she have supposed to have aged? Clearly, she’s a young woman at the start of the movie and an old lady at the end, so at least thirty years must have passed, yet there is no attempt to make the family who stop at the gas station look anything other than a '70s family. I then thought that perhaps I’d read the earlier scenes incorrectly and that it WAS supposed to be set in the '30s, but then I remembered the digital clocks, the cars, etc., so clearly, the movie was set contemporaneously (late ‘70s), and so the '30 years in the future' ending  was badly done, in my opinion. How hard would it have been to dress the family with the sick child in ‘slightly’ futuristic clothing? Or give them a vehicle that was NOT a Seventies’ issue RV?
3. I didn’t understand why, once she learned that she had this incredible gift of healing power, she was just instantly accepting and almost blasé about it. We know from an early scene that she was a successful working woman (she states she can pay off over $200 a month on the car she bought for her husband, which correlates to over $300 today), so clearly, she was an intelligent woman with a high paying job, and yet she displayed no curiosity as to why she suddenly had this gift. Certainly, she ‘saw the light’ (literally), but she later says that she isn’t a follower of a particular faith, so this experience didn’t covert her. If it had, I would have been more accepting of her lack of curiosity as to why this was happening to her; it would be a matter of faith.

I was surprised to learn that the actress who played her grandmother was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, as she was in no more than five minutes of the movie, and although her performance was good, there was nothing about it that struck me as particularly ‘Oscar Worthy’.
I am (for now) sticking with Mary Tyler Moore for Ordinary People. Ellen Burstyn’s performance in Resurrection was warm and touching, but the role did not offer the same challenges that Ms. Moore was faced with, and that she conquered with such aplomb.
It took a while for me to feel emotionally engaged with Resurrection; I think the ‘idea’ of a woman having a near-death experience and (consequently) having remarkable healing powers is a good one, but I don’t think the themes were developed in a particularly interesting way. Although Burstyn’s performance was strong, the script didn’t allow for much character development, and as a result, she didn’t read as a ‘real’ person to me. I enjoyed watching it, but (for me) I think it is one of those movies that looked better “on paper” than on the screen.

GLORIA (1980)
Gena Rowlands nominated for Best Actress as Gloria Swenson
John Adames as Phil Dawn (the kid)
Julie Carmen as Jeri Dawn, Buck Henry as Jack Dawn
A mobster's former girlfriend is on the run with the neighbor's boy.
Crime drama directed by John Cassavetes.

Jenny’s review - Gloria (1980)
Why? Why? Why? That’s the crux of my experience watching this film. Maybe I'm too unfamiliar with the mob movie genre to grasp what was going on. Or maybe this was a bad screenplay. I’d like to do nothing but complain, but I’ll try to come up with some pluses.

1. I liked having the opportunity to see a younger Gena Rowlands in a lead role. Previously, I enjoyed her more mature roles in Hope Floats (1998) and The Notebook (2004).
2. The violence was toned down.
3. I liked the single uninterrupted shots. Example: In the restaurant scene, Gloria gets up from her table with Phil, walks away from camera to the table of mobsters and begins a conversation with them. The camera stays on Phil while this sequence plays out in the background.

1. I hated the opening music. The moaning vocals and sad sax said to me, “you’re not going to like this movie.”
2. Why?
Why did Phil’s family open the door when they knew they’d be murdered? Why not hide? Or run away? Or get protective custody from the Feds?
Why did Gloria have two apartments?
Why couldn’t Gloria wear something other than a skirt and high heels? With all that running from the mob, slacks and sneakers would have been super.
Why didn’t Gloria and Phil immediately don disguises and get out of town?
When Gloria couldn’t get a room at a high end hotel, why did they go to such a seedy place? Surely there were options in between.
Why not turn the book over to the mob and be done with it?
Why did the mobsters succumb to Gloria’s demands? Oh yes, we’ll empty the bullets from our guns and leave the restaurant. Yes, we’ll walk right into this closet for you. Yes, you may leave the mob boss’s home with your life intact.
Why was the kid essentially unfazed by the murder of his entire family? Although, I have to admit I found it fascinating to observe the kid’s poor, one-note performance. Side note: John Adames received a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor, tied with Laurence Olivier in The Jazz Singer.


I’m surprised this was a critically praised movie.

Jenna had a strong performance in a weak film, but my vote goes to Mary Tyler Moore.

David’s review - Gloria (1980)

Gloria is a little film from the husband/wife team of John Cassavetes (writer/director/actor) and Gena Rowlands (blonde glam star/gifted dramatic actress). They are famous for their collaboration on ten interesting, artistic films with an Indie feeling. If it had been filmed in black-and-white instead of Technicolor, Gloria would qualify as a truly classic Film Noir. The plot line is simple. The mob rubs out a young family whose father is an FBI informant/dishonest accountant. Gena’s character happens to be present when the bad guys arrive and despite her dislike of children, she escapes the massacre with the six-year-old son (a quirky little Latino). They race through unsavory parts of Manhattan, lost and ignored by the crowds, hiding out in a shabby flophouse and a borrowed apartment. The city in '70s urban decay is an authentic setting, gritty and dangerous. We learn that Gena was the mistress of the top mobster and more importantly she packs a rod and frequently uses it, a cold-blooded sharpshooter. She is forced to abandon the boy whom she has grown to love, justifying a few murders along the way to Newark with a brief stop in a cemetery en route. Spoiler alert! The film has a far-fetched happy ending. Yes, really. 


The look of the film has a definite Indie aura, rough cut that reveals the nerve-wrecking underbelly of the over-populated, graffiti-defaced '70s city that never sleeps. I was pleased that the script did not stoop to introducing a strong male presence in order to add a cliché romantic subplot. 


Being a fashion pro for so many years means that I sometimes become distracted by a character’s wardrobe. I was troubled to see Gloria race through this action-packed movie wearing a single pair of delicate, high-heeled sandals that could not have possibly withstood the wear and tear of the violent chase. 


In my opinion, Gena Rowlands missed the opportunity to maximize the emotional impact of her character’s growing sensitivity from self-centered career woman to a brave and responsible mother-figure for an endangered child. Mary Tyler Moore continues to get my vote for Ordinary People

Rudy’s review - Gloria (1980)

I enjoyed the film overall in a low key way, but it wasn't a stand out film.
1. Gena Rowlands is a marvel! A great performance in an underwhelming film.
2. That little boy's face grabbed my heart.
3. Gloria's Emanuel Ungaro wardrobe!!

1. Stupid title.
2. Watching Gloria running all over town in those heels!!! 
3. I had trouble seeing mousy Buck Henry as a man married to such a beautiful young woman. He didn't seem to fit in with his family and I had trouble believing they were a unit. 

Those paintings in the opening credits and the crazy music were very unique and interesting and set the tone for an off beat film experience. 

Now that we've seen all the films, I think that except for Goldie Hawn's average and adequate performance, all the women in the running were powerful and compelling. My vote still goes to Sissy Spacek for channeling Loretta Lynn so beautifully in a film that I liked very much.

Amanda’s review - Gloria (1980)

1) I was surprised how much I enjoyed the story, as I tend to shun plot-lines involving The Mob, 'gangland', organized crime, vendettas, and all that Godfather/Goodfellas stuff. I tend not to like 'gritty' movies, either. That understood, I thought the story was really engaging, and the dynamic between tough-as-nails Gloria and the adorable little boy she's protecting elevated this movie enormously for me. I never imagined I'd cry at the end, because I never imagined I'd get the ending I wanted, which I'm sure is the ending we all wanted, and so I'm happy that John Cassavetes "played to the cheap seats" with the sweet conclusion to this harrowing story.
2. In anyone else's hands, Gloria would have been played by a twenty-something 'hottie', and I loved that Cassavetes cast his 50-year-old wife in the title role. It made for a far more believable story, and showed Hollywood that you don't have to be young to be beautiful and badass!
3. Gena Rowland's hair! It was MAGNIFICENT!

1. I though the soundtrack was cheesy and cliche; it was almost like a 'spoof' soundtrack for a 'gritty' crime parody.
2. Apart from Gina Rowlands, there wasn't much glamour in 'Gloria', and (because I am extremely superficial) I need more glamour to be truly happy with a movie.

I was surprised that Emmanuel Ungaro costumed Gina Rowlands; no wonder she looked so great!

I adored Gena Rowland's performance in Gloria, but this was a 'flashy' role that gave her lots to work with. That understood, I'm sticking with Mary Tyler Moore's underplayed unpleasantness in Ordinary People.

Monday, December 9, 2019

9 Must Watch Christmas Classic Movies by David Wolfe

Merry Movie Christmas Paper Dolls and Pop Trivia
by David Wolfe

Nine Must Watch Christmas Classic Movies

What better way to get into the holiday spirit than cuddling up with a classic Christmas movie? For the past 17 years, artist and Hollywood historian David Wolfe has shared his love of such holiday treasures through his annual paper doll Christmas cards, shown on Click on the "David Wolfe" tab to see each and every one. Keep an eye on his paperdollywoodblog for his 2019 card. By popular demand, David depicts nine of his favorite films in one special book, Merry Movie Christmas Paper Dolls, available from For the month of December 2019 it's on special from for just $8, regularly $12.50! 

Rosemary Clooney as Betty Haynes in White Christmas
WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) is a high-gloss musical romance. Crooner Bing Crosby and comical Danny Kaye play post-war buddies who have become top show-biz stars. They connect with The Haynes Sisters played by sweet songstress Rosemary Clooney and ambitious dancer Vera-Ellen. The buddies discover that their retired general owns an inn in Vermont that is failing until Bing and Danny organize a military reunion and it starts to snow, snow, snow, becoming a finale that looks like an old-fashioned Christmas card.

Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street
MIRACLE ON 34th STREET (1947) is the sentimental tale of a Santa look-alike old man (Edmund Gwenn) who insists he’s Kris Kringle. He is hired by Macy’s to play Santa in the famous department store. Kids and parents love him as he initiates a “miraculous” advertising ploy of Christmas spirit above retail profits. Non-believer, young Natalie Wood has been raised by her single mother without fantasy stories but the little girl wonders if Kris Kringle is really Santa. Is he or is he not? Ho! Ho! Ho!

Henry Travers as Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) is the all-time great classic film, neglected for years until wide TV exposure made the heart-wrenching movie famous. George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, is in financial distress and is stopped from ending his own life by Clarence, an angel trying to earn his wings. Clarence shows George what the town would have been like without him. Coming to his senses, George rushes home to his family, and in the last scene his young daughter Zuzu (Karolyn Grimes) declares, “every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

Judy Garland as Rose Smith in Meet Me in St. Louis
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) is a sentimental turn-of-the-century musical with Judy Garland crooning “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to copiously teary Margaret O’Brien. The film is a perfect period piece, lavishly produced and an example of MGM’s legendary excellence.

Will Farrell as Buddy the Elf in Elf
ELF (2003) is Buddy (Will Ferrell), a ludicrously adult elf who towers over the little workers in Santa’s workshop. When he leaves the North Pole he confronts a realistic world that needs his saccharine sweetness. His well-meaning comedic misadventures bring heartfelt joy to the world. 

Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989) stars adept comedian Chevy Chase as bumbling Clark Griswold, a big-hearted guy who wants to celebrate an old-fashioned family Christmas including millions of malfunctioning lights trimming the house. However, his holiday dreams and schemes go wrong again and again with side-splitting results.

Favorite Christmas kids - Zuzu, Tootie, Susan, Ralphie, Kevin and Timmy
A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) mixes sweet sentiment and high hilarity in a nostalgic tale, wryly told by Jean Sheppard. Obsessive, adorable Ralphie ( Peter Billingsley) tries to make sure he gets his dream gift, an Official Red Ryder BB Gun, but every grown-up worries that he’ll put out his eye. Of course, he doesn’t and his Christmas wish comes true.

HOME ALONE (1990) turns a disaster into uproariously slapstick comedy when young Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is accidentally left behind as the rest of the family jets away for the holidays. Two inept thieves (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) become the battered victims as the resourceful boy cleverly thwarts their every evil action plan. The film was such a hit that it spawned several sequels.

HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949) is a kindly Christmas fable about Timmy (Gordon Gebert), a fatherless boy who mistakes an electric train from his mom’s job as a gift for himself. Timmy manages to get the train and a new dad in a surprisingly sweet role for Robert Mitchum. This film, long neglected, is just now gaining well-deserved popularity.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Best Actress Oscar Nominated Films of 1939 - Hollywood's Best Year

Five Best Actress Films of 1939

Reviews by:
Jenny Taliadoros, Eileen Rudisill (Rudy) Miller, David Wolfe and Sally Biondi

Our Best Actress Movie Club is growing! David Wolfe's sister Sally has joined us to watch and review films from 1939. Sally was David's first fashion muse. In the 1960s he created trend-setting looks for her, even choosing her hairstyle and makeup. Her look was so fabulous she was signed by The Ford Modeling Agency in New York! Today Sally is a professional artist, selling her watercolor landscapes and house portraits from her home base in Virginia.

Arguably the best year in cinematic history, David chose 1939 so he could re-visit some of his favorite films of all time. This year is so inspiring to David that he created an entire paper doll book on the subject, 1939 Paper Dolls: Hollywood's Golden Year, available from

Shown above along with David's 1939 book are paper dolls of our best actress nominees: Vivien Leigh by Marilyn Henry, Bette Davis by Jim Howard, Greta Garbo by Norma Lu Meehan and Greer Garson (1944 reproduction). The Vivien Leigh book was the very last paper doll published by Merrill in 1980. It's hard to find on the collector's market and I'm glad I have a copy of my own. Bette Davis (2011) and Greta Garbo (2009) were both done through my publishing company, Paper Studio Press, but I'm sorry to say the licensing has expired and they're both out of print. One of my favorite memories: When her friends would ask what she was working on, Norma Lu would very proudly respond, "I'm doing Garbo!" 

It's astonishing to consider the number of great films produced in that one year: The Wizard of Oz, The Women, Wuthering Heights, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Only Angels Have Wings, Young Mr. Lincoln, The Hunchback of Notre Dame—just to name a few. 

But here we're focusing on the Best Actress Oscar nominated films from 1939: Gone With the Wind, Love Affair, Dark Victory, Ninotchka and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Visit Be Kind Rewind to learn more about these actresses.

Would you like to watch with us? Next we're jumping to 1980.

BEWARE: Reviews contain spoilers.

Vivien Leigh WINNER for Best Actress as Scarlett O’Hara
Clark Gable as Rhett Butler
Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Hamilton
Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes
A southern belle’s survival of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era.
Directed by Victor Fleming.
Vivien Leigh Paper Doll (Merrill, 1980) by Marilyn Henry
Jenny's Review - Gone With the Wind (1939) 

Three things I liked:
1. Every facet of Vivien Leigh. She acts with every aspect of her being—her voice, her face, her eyes, her gestures, her posture, her movement, even her hair communicates her mood, thoughts, and desires. Every inch exudes Scarlett O’Hara.
2. The production is phenomenal! And it was 1939! It’s a brilliant adaptation of the book. The clothes!! Thank you, Walter Plunkett.    
3. This very well could be my favorite film. My appreciation grows with each viewing. 

Two things I disliked:
 1. Well, it is very long.   
 2.  It’s frustrating to watch Scarlett and Rhett’s marriage fall apart basically due to lack of communication. But if things were tied up in a neat bow the story would not be as compelling.    

One thing that surprised me:
I’m surprised how modern Scarlett is. She’s outspoken, determined, fearless, driven, manipulative, selfish, and yet she can be selfless and compassionate. She’s one hundred percent herself.   

Who should have won the Oscar? I bow down to Vivien Leigh. 

Rudy's Review - Gone With the Wind (1939) 

 Rudy's Scarlett design
for The Franklin Mint.
Three things I liked:
1. GWTW is just a gorgeous, grand, well done epic of a movie!  
2. Walter Plunkett's costumes!!! I drew them all so many times in the years when I worked as a product designer for The Franklin Mint. I watched the movie and replayed scenes over and over again. We did a million GWTW projects. Figurines, mini figurines, bell jars, decorated and sculpted eggs, and dolls! 
3. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. Are there two more iconic movie roles? Clark Gable was my mother's favorite actor, so whenever I watch GWTW I think of her. 

Two things I disliked:
1. I first saw GWTW when I was a teenager. It was probably its 30 year anniversary re-release and my mom took me. I hated it! I couldn't stand Scarlett. I found her a most annoying and unappealing heroine. When I saw the film again in my thirties, I was a single working girl and I loved her!! I found her to be a strong female character and I admired her cunning, her resilience and her bravery. Now, later on in life, I still feel that way. She is an interesting, complex character played to perfection by Vivien Leigh. Who, by the way was British, which makes her take on a Southern belle in the 1800s even more impressive. 
2. It's really long!! 

One thing that surprised me:
The last time I saw GWTW was a few years ago with my husband, who had never seen it (!), and another couple. For the first time I felt a bit uncomfortable with the whole subject of nostalgia for the glorious days of the Old South and slavery and the plantations like Tara. I understand there are many sides to every story, but in today's culture it's hard not to be mindful of the damage that history inflicted on a whole race of Americans. That being said, the losses incurred by the southerners were indeed painful and well portrayed in this story.    

Who should have won the Oscar?  VIVIEN LEIGH.

David's Review - Gone With the Wind (1939) 

What I liked: 
1. I feel that Gone With the Wind is somehow imbedded in my DNA. It was my favorite movie before I even saw it. Being a voracious reader as a kid, I was allowed to borrow books in the adult section of the local library (my favorite hang-out). I was eleven years old when first I read GWTW, undaunted by the 1,000 or so pages in the heavy tome. When Rhett famously said, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” I simply went back to the beginning and read it again. I knew there had been a movie and I wished I could see it, but this was before the days of VHS and DVD. I bugged my parents with endless questions about the film. I found a record of the magnificent musical score and played it over and over again. I found a few, very rare stills from the film and copied them in drawings that I pinned up on my bedroom wall. My favorite was the silhouette of Scarlett against the sunrise, vowing to “never be hungry again.” You cannot imagine how excited I was when the film was revived in theaters (I guess that was in the '50s or '60s), I think I’ve watched it a dozen or so times, never growing tired of it. I realized long ago that the reason I like it is so understandable. GWTW is simply the best movie ever made. It is the jewel in the crown of great movies made in 1939, a year generally regarded as the peak perfection of motion picture storytelling. 
2. When I discovered the paper doll artist/collector community, I was delighted to discover that GWTW is very popular with the group and was even the theme for the 1989 convention in Atlanta. Sidebar story: Ann Rutherford, '40s teen star, came to many LA paper doll parties and at one she told of how as a teen she played Scarlett’s kid sister, Careen, and shared this tidbit. She said that she’d told David O. Selznick NOT to allow the make-up man to give Vivien Leigh the pencil line brows that were generally popular in the 1930s. Nice bit of trivia, isn’t it?
3. More things I like about GWTW: The musical score—so evocative and symphonic. The adherence to the novel despite having to edit, edit, edit. The artistic visuals, the silhouettes and special visual effects. Vivien Leigh’s breathtaking beauty. 

What I disliked about GWTW:
Absolutely NOTHING! 

Best Actress Performance Comparison: 
In my opinion, Vivien Leigh out-classed the other ladies with a multi-dimensional portrait of a survival-heroine you just gotta love. She got a role that demanded a tour de force and she delivered, deserving the Oscar. Her role was more complex than the other excellent nominees. Bette was only dramatic. Irene Dunne was only soignee. Garbo was only funny. Greer was only heartful.

Sally's Review - Gone With the Wind (1939) 

What I liked:
1. What can be said about a flawless motion picture? I have viewed this film numerous times and each time I am taken with its perfection. The adaptation and writing are wonderfully crafted, the direction is seamless although directed by two different directors. Could there be a better casting of characters? I think not. The times certainly dictated a Hollywood star to have the lead, but the choice of Vivien Leigh is so astounding. The makeup is timeless which keeps this movie totally watchable when trends and fashion could have dictated hair styles and make up. 
2. Vivien Leigh's performance is so subtle. With the slightest raise of an eye brow, or a sideway glance she evokes the anger, disgust and even fright that Scarlett exhibits. While Scarlett is a self absorbed, selfish, and somewhat immature girl, we cheer her on because she is so strong and a true survivor.  
3. Then there is the musical score. Max Steiner's score is haunting but not overwhelming. It, too, is perfection. 

What I disliked:
Is there anything that bothers me about this film?I am hard pressed to say.  However, Clark Gables's midwestern accent is troublesome. While all the other actors, although many were English, mastered a Southern accent, Clark seems to have felt that he just needed to be Clark.

Best Actress commentary:
Vivien Leigh won hands down. BUT I cannot help to think if the Academy had not given Judy Garland a "special Academy Award" for The Wizard of Oz would I feel as convinced? Judy's performance is so wonderful, and the idea of Shirley Temple playing Dorothy makes me cringe. Judy was able to play Dorothy with such genuine naivety, and sweetness that it is a performance that should be acknowledged.

Bette Davis nominated for Best Actress as Judith Traherne
George Brent as Dr. Frederick Steele, Humphrey Bogart as Michael O’Leary, 
Geraldine Fitzgerald as Ann King, Ronald Reagan as Alec 
A socialite is diagnosed with brain cancer and falls in love with her doctor.
Directed by Edmund Goulding 
Bette Davis Paper Doll (Paper Studio Press, 2011) by Jim Howard

Jenny's Review - Dark Victory (1939) 

Three things I liked:
1. Bette Davis - watching her personality change from headstrong socialite to grateful patient to drunken brat and finally a content country wife.

2. The ridiculousness of another era - Driving a car against an obvious video backdrop. Everyone smoking everywhere. Attire for a doctor’s appointment: patient in a fur trimmed dress, doctor in a formal suit. “Tell me, doctor, on what part of my head will you operate?” “Now, now. That’s my worry.”

3. It was fun to see Ronald Reagan as Judith’s tipsy society friend. 

Two things I disliked:

There really isn’t anything I dislike about this film. I appreciate it for what it is: A melodramatic story from another time.

What surprised me:
The expression of love between Judy and Ann - when they said “I love you” before Judy’s surgery, and their dramatic scene together in the garden. 

Bette Davis or Vivien Leigh for the Oscar?

Vivien Leigh for sure. Vivien was Scarlett O’Hara and Bette Davis was still Bette Davis.

Rudy's Review - Dark Victory (1939) 

As far as Bette Davis melodramas go, this one is good fun, but I am more partial to Now, Voyager. 

Three things I liked:
1. Bette Davis (even though she is a consummate over-actor) is fascinating to watch.
2. I liked the supporting cast ( although I'm not sure I liked Bogart as the Irish horse trainer) and the great chemistry between George Brent and Bette Davis.
3. The costumes with the fur trim. To die for!!! I found a fun blog with most of the costumes: The Blonde at the Film. The  I've not yet done a Bette Davis paper doll, but it's on my list. Would love to draw some of those outfits!!

Two things I disliked:
1. So over-the-top melodramatic!!! But I guess that was the point. Cheesy death scene.
2. The white halter dress. Davis was too busty to pull it off.  And the acorn beanies she wore to cover her surgery were silly looking.

One thing that surprised me.
Seeing Ronald Reagan on screen. Funny to see him in the movies knowing he would later be president. His hair was the same throughout his entire life!!!

Who should have won the Oscar?
I haven't seen any of the other films yet, except GWTW, but I imagine Vivien Leigh as Scarlett would be hard to top.

David's Review - Dark Victory (1939) 

What I liked:
1. Bette Davis! A “woman’s picture” that allowed (and encouraged) Bette’s larger-than-life emotional tsunami. Whereas sometimes she seemed to be over-acting in many of her roles, this movie had such mellow dramatic highs determined by medical and romantic circumstances that anybody would be forgiven for reacting (or over-reacting) as the sorrowful story unfolds. I hate to be shallow, but I must confess that Bette’s wardrobe impressed me… her lavish furs and bejeweled t-shirt top, but not the beanie hat that looked like an acorn top. 

What I disliked:
Geraldine Fitzgerald’s superlative performance was spoiled by her mis-matched false eyelashes (her left-eye lashes were too long and reached her brow, distracting in close-ups. OK, so I’m being shallow again). 

What surprised me: 
Humphrey Bogart cast as a randy horse trainer with a lust-crush on Bette. Ronald Reagan as a society playboy who also was smitten by Bette. Unlikely POTUS, but who can second-guess politics? 

The Oscar? 
I think Bette’s sensitive, but over-the-top portrayal of doomed Judith gave Vivien Leigh a run for her money. The source material mattered. GWTW was a sprawling epic while Dark Victory was a tear-jerking novella. 

Sally's Review - Dark Victory (1939) 

What I liked:
I have seen this film many times, and always enjoyed it. It is a Bette Davis movie, and I would watch it as just that. This time I looked at it with a critical eye and realized her performance while usually over the top, made this a melodramatic performance, while it could have been a truly touching and moving one.  When she finally trudges up the  stairs I was not shedding a single tear, not because I am cold hearted, but I just didn't really care. Is that what she wanted to convey? I think not.  I felt more empathy for her supporting cast. Geraldine Fitzgerald and George Brent play their parts with sympathy and make you truly feel the gravity of the situation.  Humphrey Bogart gives an exceptional non-ganster performance that is so beautifully underplayed. 

What I disliked:
What was disturbing was the way cigarettes were used. I realized only the women were smoking in almost every scene, not the men, not even Humphrey! Geraldine Fitzgerald is holding and smoking even though she must not have smoked in real life as she looks oddly awkward. Bette of course uses them as part of her image. I think the tobacco industry may have helped finance this film, and truly wanted to convince the American woman that smoking was glamorous and acceptable in the best homes. When Bette tells the doctors to help themselves to cigarettes in the other room, I realized it was a very brainwashing suggestion.

The Oscar?
I do not think Bette deserved an award for this role. 

Irene Dunne nominated for Best Actress as Terry McKay 
Co-Starring: Charles Boyer as Michel Marnet, 
Maria Ouspenskaya as Grandmother Janou. 
Directed by Leo McCarey. 
A shipboard romance ends with a plan to meet six months later at the top of the Empire State Building.
Irene Dunne Paper Doll from Classic Drama Queens (Paper Studio Press, 2016) by David Wolfe.

Jenny's Review - Love Affair (1939) 

Three things I liked: 
1. This is a simple, sweet story. Watching this film is a gentle sedative to overproduced movies of today. The love affair between Terry and Michel is primarily nonverbal. We know exactly how they feel about each other through their eyes.
2. I enjoyed “getting to know” Irene Dunne. Although I’ve watched a few of her films, including I Remember Mama (1948) and The Awful Truth (1937), she didn’t stick in my memory like other actresses of her era such as Lana Turner and Bette Davis.
3. Maria Ouspenskaya is terrific as Michel’s grandmother.

What I disliked:
There’s nothing to dislike!

What surprised me:
I’m surprised that I prefer this version over the 1957 remake, An Affair to Remember, in which I found Cary Grant to be a little too Cary Grant.   

Who should have won the Best Actress Oscar?
No one had a chance against Vivien Leigh.

Rudy's Review - Love Affair (1939) 

Three things I liked:
1. I have not seen a lot of films with Charles Boyer or Irene Dunne. I loved them both in this.
2. The scene where they kiss behind the door is stunning. I believe it's the only kiss in the whole film. After the kiss, he leaves and she is standing alone wearing a drop-dead backless halter gown and the camera freezes on her looking off into the distance. It's really gorgeous.
3. I love the repartee between Michel and Terry.

Two things I disliked:
1. That scene where she sings in the nightclub. Ugh! That singing style makes me cringe.
2. I've always had a hard time with Terry's decision not to tell Michel about her accident. It makes no sense to me. But, obviously we need it to be that way to make his discovery at the end so moving.

One thing that surprised me:
I adore An Affair to Remember with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant. It's been a favorite since I first saw it as a teenager on the late show. I'd never seen the original until now, and I found it just as charming. So romantic!

Who should have won the Oscar?
Still going with Vivien Leigh.

David's Review - Love Affair (1939) 

What I liked: 
 As always, I liked Irene Dunne and was able to put up with Charles Boyer, but found them to be an unlikely couple, thereby making me unable to suspend disbelief. Irene gave her usual sprightly performance and Monsieur relied upon his smarmy French accent that apparently made the ladies swoon in 1939. I didn’t dislike the movie, but I will never watch it again and I am likely to repair my memory by re-watching Cary and Deborah fall in love and bring me to tears for the all-time great romantic ending. 

What I disliked: 
I was looking forward to seeing Love Affair once again, having seen it many, many years ago. I remembered it as being elegant, glamorous and super-sophisticated. My recollection is evidently faulty and I was very disappointed. I think I must have scrambled my memory and confused it with the '50s remake retitled An Affair to Remember. That remake, starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, was indeed elegant, glamorous and super sophisticated. The 1939 version was obviously a low budget, rather maudlin, corny soap opera romance from cheapie RKO Radio Pictures. 

What surprised me: 
I was surprised (and delighted) that I HAD remembered an over-the-top, oversize, monster of a fur jacket that looked like it could be yeti fur. I was surprised by the archaic cinematography, the pedantic, plodding script and the faked rear-projection scenery. How could this old-fashioned effort be made the same year as the brilliant screenplay, visual artistry and performances in Gone With the Wind?

Who should have won the Oscar? 
It’s a big surprise to me that Irene Dunne was even nominated for this film. She delivered an adequate performance, but is the least likely to have won against Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, Greer Garson and especially Vivien Leigh’s pitch perfect portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara. 

Sally's Review - Love Affair (1939) 

This film is so bewildering on many levels. While the story is a good story, as it proved in two remakes, this version is really dreadful. It seems that Irene was not told that this was not a comedy. She is smug and delivers a performance that doesn't fit the story at all. Then there are the tedious musical numbers that are too long and uninspired. Perhaps the most bewildering aspect is that she should be nominated for an Academy Award for this performance. The musical score is dreadful and sounds as if it should be cartoon background music. 

Somehow the director has made a movie that should have been released no later than 1930, it is so visually "old fashioned." However, the performance that Charles Boyer gives is touching and solid. He is a likable cad in the beginning of the movie and although the plot is heavy handed at times, he is believable. When he confronts Terry about her absence and is sarcastic (while Irene acts coy and silly) his hurt and anger seem genuine, and finally when he realizes the truth he is touching without being too sentimental. 

I would not recommend this film to anyone who is not a true movie buff.

Greta Garbo nominated for Best Actress as Ninotchka
Melvyn Douglas as Count Leon d’Algout
Ina Claire as Grand Duchess Swana
Directed by Earnst Lubitsch.
A Russian diplomat goes to Paris to assist in the sale of confiscated jewels and discovers love along the way.
Greta Garbo Paper Doll (Paper Studio Press, 2009) by Norma Lu Meehan.

Jenny's Review - Ninotchka (1939) 

What I liked:
There are a lot of witty lines in this film. (Billy Wilder was one of the screen writers):
1. Grand Duchess Swana at her dressing table, chatting incessantly to Leon: “It’s really a wretched morning… wretched. I can’t get myself right. I wanted to look mellow and I look brittle. My face doesn’t compose well. It’s all highlights… How can I dim myself down, Leon? Suggest something. I am so bored with this face. I wish I had someone else's face. Whose face would you have if you had your choice? Oh, well, I guess one gets the face one deserves.” 
 2. Ninotchka noticing a strange, cone-shaped hat in a Parisian shop window: “Tsk, tsk, tsk, how can such a civilization survive which permits women to put things like that on their heads.” 
3. Waiter: “Now what shall it be?” Ninotchka: “Raw beets and carrots.” Waiter: “Madame, this is a restaurant, not a meadow.” 

Two things I didn't like:
1. Leon’s wooing is rather disgusting: “Look at the clock. One hand has met the other hand, they kiss… Why do doves bill and coo? Why do snails, coldest of all creatures, circle interminably around each other? Why do flowers slowly open their petals.” Gross, but hey, it was eighty years ago. 
2. The mock firing squad conducted by the two lovers. Yikes. 

What surprised me: 
I was expecting to see cinema’s most beautiful woman step onto the screen, but instead was introduced to a severe Russian agent in drab dress, barking out orders in a dull, measured cadence. But the writing is on the wall—or script as the case may be. Garbo falls under the spell of love and transforms from drab diplomat to chic sophisticate, topped off with the high fashion hat she previously poo-pooed in the shop window. Her hair style is hilarious. Most of it is quite normal—simple, straight, curled under at the chin, but things take a turn at her forehead with crazy, curly curtain-like bangs. In other words: it’s a party in the front, business in the back. 

Before watching I only knew two things about his movie: the title and Garbo’s Best Actress nomination. Expecting a serious drama, I was delighted to find myself watching a comedy, a political satire to be precise. Although the story is light and silly, it is shadowed by the brutalities of Russia’s dictatorship. Released at the time war was breaking out in Europe, I wonder how audiences responded. Perhaps, like Garbo, they just had a good laugh. 

Who should have won the Oscar? 
Vivien Leigh for sure. Although Garbo was terrific as Ninotchka, her acting is more on the surface, whereas Vivien acts from the inside out. Perhaps Garbo displays more acting chops in her other roles. 

Rudy's Review - Ninotchka (1939) 

Overall, I liked and enjoyed the film, but I wasn't totally won over. Actually, I fell asleep twice and had to go back and rewatch parts of it. 

Three things I liked: 
1. I loved the three Russian sidekicks who eventually became Ninotchka's friends. (That counts as three things, doesn't it?) 

What I disliked:
1. It was interesting watching Garbo. I've not seen many of her movies and I enjoyed studying her. She's got a brain. That being said, I must confess, I've never quite gotten the whole Garbo fascination. I still don't. There's nothing soft about her, even when her character lightens up later in the film.  
2. I wasn't crazy about Melvin Douglas. He played his part well, but I don't find him that attractive.

What surprised me:
I was surprised at how political it was. And very smart. 

Who should have won the Oscar? Vivien Leigh gets my vote so far. 

David's Review - Ninotchka (1939) 

Three things I liked: 
1. I was captivated by the simple romantic tale that was as intoxicating as the champagne which played an important role in liberating Ninotchka. I loved the film’s determination to have faith in romance even as civilization was about to suffer a cataclysmic war. 
2. Garbo’s carefully nuanced performance was sensitive and believably comic. I so enjoyed the supporting cast of characters—the three comic comrades, the wise butler, the calculating Grand Duchess—all superb. 
3. I felt the aura of sophistication propelled the story arc beautifully. And Garbo is always incandescent, in my eyes. 

What I disliked:
That hat! It should have been giddy but instead it looked like a hollow sweet potato. 

The Oscar? 
I believe the Oscar rightly went to Vivien Leigh. “Garbo laughs!” was the famous tagline used to promote the film and it was fun to see her so gleeful but not worthy of the prize (which should have been hers often in the past). 

Sally's Review - Ninotchka (1939) 

What I liked:
1. This film is a delightful experience. Garbo is exactly perfect as Ninotchka, and made a fan out of me. I have always found her "silent movie acting" somewhat embarrassing. It often was passable because of her roles, but in Ninotchka she has great comic appeal and a softness she never exhibited before. 
2. Melvyn Douglas is wonderful as a besotted playboy fascinated with this odd creature, and of course her three comrades make the film a delight. 

What I disliked: 
The only fault is the wardrobe. Surely they could have designed better clothes for her. 

The Oscar? 
Comic performances seldom, if ever, get Academy Awards, and the fact that Garbo was in the running with Vivien Leigh makes it obvious that Ms. Leigh should win. 

Greer Garson nominated for Best Actress as Katherine
Co-starring Robert Donat as Mr. Chips
The love of a wonderful woman brings out the best in a shy school teacher.
Directed by Sam Wood. 
Greer Garson 1944 Reproduction Paper Doll (2007 Paper Studio Press)

Jenny's Review - Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) 

Three things I liked:
1. Along with the characters in the film I instantly fell under the spell of Greer’s performance. I was truly enchanted by her fairy-godmother-like persona. 
2. I liked watching the decades-long growth of Mr. Chips’ character, going from meek school teacher to happy husband to respected headmaster. 
3. I enjoyed observing the Victorian era—how people interacted with each other and the language used. Then, an orgy was a tea party! 

Two things I disliked:
1. At the beginning of the film, Robert Donat’s exaggerated portrayal of elderly Mr. Chips was so contrived, reminding me of Dick Van Dyke as the old banker in Mary Poppins. However, watching Mr. Chips’ progression through a series of flashbacks, I became more accepting of Donat’s performance. 
2. Yawn! The gentle story put me right to sleep. I needed popcorn and three viewing installments to get through the movie.   

One thing that surprised me:
I was not expecting such impertinent behavior from school boys of the 1800s. Apparently, if they can get away with it, kids will be bad whether it’s 1879 or 2019.   

Who should have won the Best Actress Oscar? 
Although her appearance in the film was short, I found more depth in Greer’s performance than some of the other nominees, but still no match for Vivien Leigh. 

Side note: On David’s recommendation I watched MGM’s 1969 musical remake starring Peter O’Toole and Petula Clark. Unlike David who adores this movie, I did not care for it. Mr. Chips and Katherine were given more dynamic storylines, but the “thought sequence” songs were cringeworthy, sung very slowly with little melody.

Rudy's Review - Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) 

What I liked:
1. What a sweet movie!! I had not seen it before.
2. I loved the characters. They were all so kind-hearted.
3. Greer Garson is so warm and beautiful.
4. I thought the way they aged Robert Donat was very successful.

What I disliked:
Greer Garson's role was too brief. I was devastated when she and the baby died. So sad.

What surprised me: 
I had never even heard of Robert Donat before and I was surprised to read that he won an Academy Award for this movie. Not that he didn't deserve it, but I'm just mystified that I had never heard of him.

Who should have won the Oscar? Vivien Leigh

David's Review - Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) 

What I liked?
There is very little to like about this oddly bland and boring movie that (belatedly) launched Greer Garson’s impressive career. She had been “discovered” on the London stage by Louis B. Mayer who was on a talent-scouting trip in Europe. Greer was already in her 30s, too mature for the usual “starlet” treatment. After a long wait in Hollywood, Greer landed the ridiculously brief role of Mrs. Chips, a sweet little vignette that brings a bit of life to the otherwise plodding film. 

Greer’s charm is evident even though her sweetheart make-up and curly coiffure leaves her looking like a Busby Berkeley doll-like chorus girl. It seems likely to me that the studio may have orchestrated Greer’s nomination for this insignificant role, the first step up to well-deserved regal stardom with box office clout. Soon she was cast as Mrs. Miniver, winning the Oscar and looking like the beauteous Queen of MGM for the following decade. 

What I disliked:
Robert Donat. His portrayal had two notes. As a young professor he was charmless, unpopular and effete until he meets Greer and instantly falls in love. As an elderly Head Master he switches to a somewhat comic performance, looking a bit daffy, beloved by his pupils. 

The plot is so expected that I was never surprised. 

Oscar for Greer’s screen debut? 
Not for this thankless role that should not have been nominated. Vivien’s Oscar deserves her well-deserved award. 

Suggestion: I recommend the brilliant, heartfelt musical version made in the '60s and starring Peter O’Toole as a lovable, loving Mr. Chips who falls for Petula Clark, an adorable soubrette. 

Sally's Review - Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) 

What I liked:
If I am only reviewing the Greer Garson aspect of this movie, I would give it thumbs up without any hesitation. The moment she appears, like a beacon in a foggy sea of a mediocre script and performances, the film is so enjoyable, She always has a wonderful presence, but there is an earthy quality to her in this role. The fact that the film is nostalgic about World War l seems quaint, knowing that in 1939 World War II was looming around the corner makes those of us from the future feel sorry for the poor souls living their safe lives in Britain.  

What I disliked:
The only thing I don't like is the script. I never read the book, but may just do that to see if there is some explanation for Chips' reclusiveness. Also I am not a fan of Donat in any role, so that, too, detracts from my liking the film.

The Oscar?
There is too little of Greer Garson, who truly lit up the screen. Her tiny role hardly seems to deserve a Best Actress award.