(one installment in a quick series counting down from 50 to 26!)
ELISABETH BERGNER IN ESCAPE ME NEVER (1935)
The competition (Cliff: 4 for 6):
Bette Davis in Dangerous
Claudette Colbert in Private Worlds
Katharine Hepburn in Alice Adams
Miriam Hopkins in Becky Sharp
Merle Oberon in The Dark Angel
Okay, back to shorter posts for a while (hopefully) after a couple of doozies. Elisabeth is one of the most obscure nominees ever; her film has only 45 votes on IMDb, including mine, and she is one of the ten least-gotten answers in a truly hardcore quiz to name every Best Actress nominee. A Russian-born British actress, she left more of a mark on the stage than on the screen, and more of a mark in Britain than in Hollywood. Indeed, I’ve barely heard of anyone in this British production’s cast, though I perked up at the very beginning of the film when I learned that was shot by Gregg Toland and edited by David Lean!
The craft really is the strongest thing in this ornate European melodrama about two composer friends and the urchin woman/girl they take under their wing. The film is practically a parody of subdued English drama; there’s even a character named Sebastian. Bergner as the urchin girl, who eventually bears the child of one of the composers and loses it tragically, has a certain self-abandon in front of the camera, but still feels like a stage actress and gets very little chance to shine in the film anyway (this was the last year before Lead and Supporting categories were separated). The film and the performance are certainly oddities, and while I still have two whole performances to see, Bergner runs distantly behind Katharine Hepburn in Alice Adams and Miriam Hopkins in Becky Sharp.