(one installment in a quick series counting down from 50 to 26!)
NATALIE WOOD IN LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER (1963)
The competition (Cliff: 4 for 5):
Patricia Neal in Hud
Leslie Caron in The L-Shaped Room
Shirley MacLaine in Irma la Douce
Rachel Roberts in This Sporting Life
The first of two 1963 nominees about unwed women grappling with pregnancy, this Mulligan-Pakula production is social commentary with a light touch (abortion is not on the table), a good alternative to the Stanley Kramer School that dominated the award around the same time. The movie really rests on the stars, and Steven McQueen is diverting as a lunkhead clumsily trying to figure out the right thing to do, but the movie rests on Natalie Wood’s star power–here at its finest. A little pre-date moment in front of the mirror, battling her cleavage, says it all. Still, the Academy got it right this year, with the soulful Patricia Neal in Hud.