Geraldine Page received her second Oscar nomination for playing Alma Winemiller, the shy, sexually frustrated daughter of a minister in Summer and Smoke. Although Page won the Golden Globe for Best Actress (drama), I don't think that she had much of a chance of winning the Oscar that year. Too many stars were competing in that category and they all starred in very succesful movies that are now considered classic. Still, I feel that Page was ahead of Piper Laurie.
Summer and Smoke is a very entertaining movie. I mean Tennessee Williams was such an excellent writer and he created some of the best stories ever. This is not one of his best, though but that doesn't say much as even his weakest is among the best and this is not his weakest effort. Summer and Smoke (apart from the great story) is very well directed, acted, in short it's a really quality piece. Laurence Harvey is not an actor who's admired by many (my beloved Jane Fonda was not one of his fans, either as it seemed) but I think he was able to be really great and this performance of his is the best I've seen from him (besides Room at the Top). I really believe that he should have been nominated. Una Merkel did receive a nomination but she was quite unworthy of it, I think.
Geraldine Page seems to be dividing people much more than I used to think. Some are crazy about her skills and her immense talent (F. Murray Abraham is one of her biggest fans) and some are criticising her for being too over-the-top and self-aware. Personally, I admire her very much. Yes, she can be a little bit theatrical but I so love stage actresses in movies because of the energy that they give to the motion picture roles. Interesting enough, what I saw in Summer and Smoke justified both the love and the hate for Ms. Page.
She plays the neurotic preacher's daughter, a shy spinster who's terrified even by a touch of a man. However, she falls badly for Laurence Harvey's character and we get to see how their "relationship" goes. I really liked their chemistry on the screen and I was surprised how believable their "romance" was. I mean, I've seen actresses portraying spinster who are desperately in love with a man but this relationship was so different from them. Alma is neither too shy nor possessive. There's a bit of this and a bit of that.
As I said, this performance can be a justification for the both the admirers and the haters of Geraldine Page. In the beginning, Page is obnoxious and unbearable. She played Alma in such way too theatrically. I just felt so confused about her and I had trouble warming up to her work. It felt like watching a menstruating Deborah Kerr. In short, I didn't like her at all. That lasted for about 15 minutes and after that there seemed to be a wonderful change in either me or the performance.
In this movie, we can see many of Geraldine Page's famous nervous ticks and she excellently uses them when she needs to. I really loved her mentally unstable character in Interiors and her breakdowns there were so delicious and enjoyable so I hoped I would see something like that here. And I did, in fact. Whenever Page looked at Laurence Harvey, I felt that Alma's character is actually more controlling and manipulative than one would think and deep she tries to corner him emotionally with her breakdowns. Although John is also fooling around with Alma, Alma is not that different from him.
After all, Page got the shy personality of Alma right and she played that aspect of the character very well, despite the fact that the huge emotional scenes were the real highlights. Her big breakdown towards the end when she realizes the truth about her love is just excellently played by her. I really felt the character's pain and that scene was really intense.
Still, I don't think that this performance of Geraldine Page is all that special. I mean, she's great and she has a lots of great moments but altogether, she's not that brilliant. Apart from the beginning, she played Alma just like she had to and she put on very decent work that could be expected from an actress of her calibre. However, she's not as amazing as some say.
What do you think? (I forgot to grade Piper last time but she'll also get a 4.)