The Penultimate Mile: Nancy Carroll in The Devil’s Holiday

(one installment in a quick series counting down from 50 to 26!)

NANCY CARROLL IN THE DEVIL’S HOLIDAY (1930)

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The competition (Cliff: 7 for 7!!):

Norma Shearer in The Divorcee

Ruth Chatterton in Sarah and Son

Greta Garbo in Anna Christie

Greta Garbo in Romance

Norma Shearer in Their Own Desire

Gloria Swanson in The Trespasser

It feels cruel to lavish five hundred words on Gloria Swanson in The Trespasser and have only a fraction as much to say about her fellow nominee, Nancy Carroll.  As I mentioned earlier, the two films start off in an extraordinarily similar direction, with a comely working girl netting a guileless young man for marriage.  The stories diverge from there, however: where Gloria bravely sets out on the high road of single motherhood, Nancy’s character slings her pick over her shoulder and gleefully delves into the low business of gold digging, before a pair of curiously inverted finales: Gloria’s longed-for husband finally reuniting with her and Nancy redemptively returning to the man she played for a sap.  The film doesn’t hold much to make it memorable, and while Nancy’s youthful sparkle is offset by her lack of dramatic range, I do particularly enjoy the gusto with which she embraces the scenes that reveal the sharp woman on the make underneath her phony romantic wiles.  I wonder what kind of a femme fatale she might have made if she’d hit the scene in Hollywood a decade or so later.  But now that I’ve finally finished the record seven nominees for the 3rd Academy Awards (1929-1930), I’m pretty giddy to finally cast my vote for Greta Garbo in Anna Christie, a stunningly humane and minutely observed performance that I saw at the very beginning of this quest.

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One thought on “The Penultimate Mile: Nancy Carroll in The Devil’s Holiday

  1. Mr Jerome says:

    I’m going to start holding back perhaps, not sure how much of a conversation is really needed here – but I think Anna Christie is pretty great. And although Marie Dressler can do no wrong and is great in the drama (and lightens up what could be so heavy handed), the studio (MGM) also made a German language version which has aired on TCM. (don’t think eddie brand’ts has it). With Salka Viertel in the Marie Dressler role. It feels different – and the underlying text is originaly English, but the German version I think has a better perfomance by Garbo. (imho)> Would be interesting to hear your comments after you see it someday.

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