Monday, July 27, 2009
Hello, Jose from "Movies Kick Ass" here with something that's been bugging me since I watched "Separate Tables" last week. The film features an altogether impressive cast with the likes of David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Gladys Cooper, Burt Lancaster and Wendy Hiller among others. But the one who made the greatest impression on me was the incredible Rita Hayworth. She plays Ann Shankland, an American social climber/seductress who comes to the hotel where the film takes place, looking for her ex-husband John (Lancaster).
In a few scenes, most of which feature long silences, Hayworth creates a character with a fascinating backstory. One that's more interesting because it's only suggested (her backstory might vary from viewer to viewer). Most of the time Hayworth slips quietly in the back, partly because her character's "questionable morals" force her to and partly because she's overshadowed by bigger "actors" who shout, acquire funny accents and succumb to deglam (Kerr particularly who is in full "Ugly Betty" mode).
I was not surprised to discover that out of the three performers that got nominated for Oscars for this movie (Kerr and eventual winners Niven and Hiller) Hayworth was nowhere to be found, what did upset me was realizing that in her entire career Hayworth didn't receive a single nomination! Yes, not for "The Lady from Shanghai", neither for "Blood and Sand" and most shockingly not for "Gilda" where she creates one of the most iconic performances in film history (and performs in what I think is the sexiest scene of all time).
After wondering what prevented her from being recognized for her acting, the most obvious conclusion was that she was ignored because her acting never required her to stop being beautiful. Several other actresses have endured that same "curse" (Marilyn Monroe comes instantly to mind) where their beauty overshadows (or overlights?) their talent and they are forced to submit themselves to Academy regulations of what acting should be about.
Some succumb (Grace Kelly and almost everyone who's won Best Actress this decade are obvious examples) but people like Hayworth only continued to grow more beautiful, and better, with every single performance.
This weird AMPAS standard is best summarized in a line from "Separate Tables" where John tells Ann "The very sight of you is perhaps the one thing about you I don't hate." If only the same were true for their appraisal of talent.