Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Three of a kind, in a way

TCM's prime time conceit during 31 Days of Oscar this year is to take a particular Academy Awards category from a particular year, and show the nominees from that particular competition, presumably letting the viewer judge for himself which nominee is the best. Tonight's lineup is the Best Supporting Actress of 1963. I was quite surprised to see that TCM is showing only three 1963 films in conjunction with the category. Who were the other two nominees, and were they from films TCM couldn't get the rights to?

So I made my way over to the Academy's own awards database, and discovered, to my surprise, that three of the nominees were from the same movie! Diane Cilento, Dame Edith Evans, and Joyce Redman were all nominated for Tom Jones, which kicks off tonight's lineup at 8:00 PM. For the record, the other two nominees were Margaret Rutherford (who won) trying to get to the USA in The VIPs at 10:30 PM, and Lilia Skala getting Sidney Poitier to build her nuns a church in Lilies of the Field at 1:00 AM.

This of course wasn't the first time that three people were nominated in the same category from the same movie. It most famously happened in 1935 when Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, and Franchot Tone were nominated against each other in Mutiny on the Bounty. I don't think Tone was really one of the leads in that film, but back in 1935, there was no Supporting Actor category. It was instituted the next year, and I tend to believe that it was having three actors go up against each other for the same movie that led to the creation of the Supporting Actor and Actress categories.

Of course, there have been people nominated against others from the same movie since then, and not just with Tom Jones. One of the more interesting examples might be All About Eve, since there were two women (Bette Davis and Anne Baxter) nominated in the Best Actress category and two women (Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter) nominated in the Supporting Actress category. To be honest, I don't think any of the four should have won; as good as their performances may be, I think they were up against better performances. George Sanders, however, deservedly won his Supporting Actor Oscar in my opinion.

The other really interesting example would be in 1944, when Bing Crosby won the Best Actor Oscar for Going My Way, even though he was nominated against co-star Barry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, for his part, was also nominated in the Supporting Actor category, which he won. The Academy closed that loophole the next year. I don't think either of them deserved their awards, although that might just be part of my personal prejudices against Going My Way, a movie I intensely dislike. Based on the five nominees, I think I would have voted for Alexander Knox in Wilson, who gives an excellent performance regardless of the extent to which I think the script whitewashes Woodrow Wilson's flaws.

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