(one installment in a quick series counting down from 50 to 26!)
JANE WYMAN IN THE BLUE VEIL (1951)
The competition (me – 4 for 5):
Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire
Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen
Eleanor Parker in Detective Story
Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun
This was a HARD film to track down, and watching the blurred, ghostly VHS transfer that UCLA had available almost felt like I was watching a film disappearing before my eyes. Yes, the movie does run intermittently on TCM, but working with a compressed time, this was the best I could muster. The film, a remake of a French original, follows Jane as a governess touching the lives of the numerous children in her care–the private life of Mary Poppins, if you will. Some of the subtleties of her performances were lost in the version I saw, but the underlying yearning to become a full mother to these children, precariously kept in check by her self-abjuring resolve, still shone through. While a healthy dose of maternal melodrama is spread throughout the film, Jane doesn’t suffer as abjectly as she does in Johnny Belinda or as exquisitely as in Magnificent Obsession; instead, she works her charms quietly on an impressive range of characters parading through her life (including Charles Laughton, Natalie Wood, and fellow nominee Joan Blondell). For 1951, it’ll be hard to deny the Academy’s choice, Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire, but I’m saving the other big heavyweight for the very last (Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen) before I render final judgment.