Kim Stanley received her first Oscar nomination (out of two) and her only one in the Best Actress category for playing Myra Savage, a woman in possession of a strange "gift". I'm a bit uncertain if I think about Stanley's chances of winning that year. Although Anne Bancroft swept the high-profile awards, Stanley got all the important acclaims from the critics. Still, the movie was too British (much like The Pumpkin Eater) and she wasn't as much of a movie star as Bancroft. Stanley was basically a stage actress and did not make many movies.
Seance on a Wet Afternoon is a very weird and tough movie. It's really full of tension and it's quite different from the other movies of Bryan Forbes. It's not a real kitchen sink drama like The L-Shaped Room and The Whisperers, it's just a very intense psychological drama. Richard Attenborough, who went on to receive an Oscar for Best Directing the year Kim Stanley was nominated for Frances, gives an excellent performance as the coward, terrified husband of Myra. He was totally robbed of the nomination, in my opinion. Anthony Quinn was better as Zorba but Attenborough was great anyhow.
Kim Stanley's performance is so interesting and I am so full of emotions about it. I don't know her work very well and as she worked mostly on the stage, I really doubt that I can see that much of her later. She was a real method actress and that's really visible in this performance. She totally becomes this very complicated woman and Stanley, the actress completely disappeared. As I was watching the movie, I always saw Myra Savage, the British psychic and not Kim Stanley, the American actress.
Myra Savage is a character that requires someone who's an actress first and not a star. She's a very ordinary woman with an ordinary face and a very annoying personality. I mean, we should just imagine Elizabeth Taylor playing her. We would get the tears, the shouting but we wouldn't get the simplicity of Myra. Although it's a very tough and hard role to play, Stanley handled it with visible self-discipline and she never went too over-the-top with her. The part had some traps and difficulties but Stanley managed to avoid all of them.
Kim Stanley added all the layers to this character, step by step. First, Myra seems to be obsessed woman who seems to be acting a lot. However, she sinks deeper and deeper into her madness and her obsession with a terrible secret, which Stanley always suggests us with her acting. She gives little clues with short sentences, words and we just can't see the truth behind them. And it's just astonishing how Stanley managed to always keep Myra very mysterious. Whenever you feel that you're getting to know her, something very extremely surprising comes and you feel so shocked.
Furthermore, Stanley's always so frightening in those seance scenes. One can always feel that Myra really believes that she has this gift and that she's really talking to spirits. It's extremely hard not to talk about this performance without giving away much about the movie and it all the twists of the plot. However, I can say that Stanley's responisble for the suffocating tension of the movie and even its overall effect on you.
Also, Stanley and Attenborough have a marvelous chemistry and they work together astonishingly well. There's a huge confrontation scene between them, which is just perfect. It's great that they never try to outdo each other, they truly co-operate and the result is just fantastic. Attenborough is the more subtle and quite one, Stanley is more loud and emotional and as a result the performances keep the balance and that's amazing, I think. They always remain very believable and one just doesn't have any doubt that they have been indeed married for a long time.
This performance (very much like Bancroft in The Pumpkin Eater) is extremely hard to judge. It's full of fantastic scenes and it's overall effect is just brilliant and just like with Bancroft, I am not really sure what I am going to think about her. However, I just cannot overlook that Kim Stanley was able to put on a fantastic, chilling and unforgettable performance as Myra Savage. Great work.
What do you think?