Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Geraldine Page in Sweet Bird of Youth

Geraldine Page received her third Oscar nomination for playing Alexandra Del Largo, a depressed, movie star in the movie Sweet Bird of Youth. Geraldine Page won the Golden Globe for this performance of hers so I suspect she received many votes from the members of the Academy, too. I think she was third behind Anne Bancroft and Bette Davis. The fact that she had lost the previous year for Summer and Smoke must have helped her a lot, too. Poor Geraldine, I think she was always either second or third or at least fourth and that's why she had to wait so much for the win.

Although Sweet Bird of Youth is not a masterpiece, it's quite a decent movie. It doesn't have the tension of Richard Brooks' earlier Tennessee Williams adaptation, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. One can easily observe that in Paul Newman's performance. His work here was just uninspired and bored (unlike in Cat... where the character's inner pain almost burned the screen) though never really bad. He just didn't stand out. Ed Begley's nomination and eventual Oscar win is a mystery unsolved. I guess... no I don't. He just won. Same goes for Shirley Knight's nomination.

The only reason why people still remember this movie is Geraldine Page's performance as Alexandra, the mentally unstable actress. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't watch a movie like this twice. She's the only reason to watch this movie and it's so strong. Geraldine Page was born to play Tennessee Williams' heroines. Her neurotic persona and the unique, radiant presence of hers makes her the ideal choice for such roles. All of my greatest memories of Geraldine Page are in connection with her famous nervous ticks. When I think about Geraldine Page, I see the hysterical Eve in Interiors crying theatrically next to the window or the hopeful old lady from A Trip to Bountiful who's desperate to go home once. In short, I love this woman and I would be stupid not to love her most delicious performance as Alexandra.

Alexandra (as I said) a typical Tennesse Williams heroine: she's broken down, mentally unstable and yet she's hoping for a better future. She has a lover that she never takes really seriously. Somehow, things work out for her in the end. She's a diva in the best sense of the word. Despite all this (or because of this), I felt so sorry for her. Geraldine was not afraid of making Alexandra (or as she likes to be called "Princess") a miserable creature. Her breakdown at the cinema, the tragic falshbacks all add to the dramatic effects of this performance and Page uses the opportunities that she's given. From the first minute to the last, you just cannot take your eyes off her and she has a very magnetic presence.

However, something is working against Geraldine: her movie. In all fairness, she's not given enough time to shine and therefore she's less brilliant than she could have been. I mean, the story of Chance and the Finleys take away so much time from her and as a result, she never becomes the leading character that she deserves to be. This is not Geraldine's fault but it's a setback for her, unfortunately. If I'm really honest, I just don't see why she was needed in this movie. Just for the sake of a great female character? I really don't want to criticise Geraldine with this, I'm just angry about this thing.

Still, denying Geraldine's greatness here is totally useless as she stil owns her movie. She offers many unforgettable scenes. For example, her big exit where she frankly tells Chance what to do :D and when things work out for Alexandra. Geraldine plays masterfully with Alexandra's emotions and she leaves a really strong impression. You know, I'm a sucker for great theatrical acting. I imagine I would have orgasmed over Geraldine's last scene had I seen it on the stage. This way it's just a brilliant experience.

I would kill to see this performance on the stage but instead I have to make do with a great motion picture performance that's nothing short of excellent. Geraldine Page makes Alexandra a very fascinating character and she single-handedly makes the movie worthy of watching. This work is a real treat. Truly-truly memorable effort by a great actress.

What do you think?

I sleep to the ranking. Conclusions: tomorrow!


Fritz said...

I can't wait to see here!

And my ranking is still possible but I think that you might have Kate on 3 and Geraldine on 4...still, I stay with my original prediction (no guts, no glory).

Anonymous said...

I think it will be:

1. Bancroft.
2. Davis.
3. Hepburn.
4. Page.
5. Remick.

Louis Morgan said...

I thought she was terrific as well.

mrripley said...

Funny when you talk of her tics because my first viewing of page was in interiors so i was experiencing her with fresh eyes and was mesmerised by her.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, I AM a Garland aficionado, always will be, fell in love with ASIB, but have come around to seeing arguments for the Kelly choice insofar as Kelly played against type here, moved more out of her comfort zone as Georgie than did Garland as Esther. And Kelly had a strong year in other films in '54.