Best Actress Bracket Game: Bette Davis Vs. Vivien Leigh
Awards season is officially upon us. Unfortunately, my work schedule hasn’t left me a lot of time to see the latest crop of Oscar nominees. But I still wanted to get in on the glitz and glamour, so I figured why not look back at Oscar winners from the past? Daffy has already done bracket games for the Best Picture and Best Actor categories, so this year I decided to pit the Best Actresses against each other and see what happens.
Any time we introduce a new bracket game, there’s got to be some discussion about who was included and who didn’t make the cut. This year will be the 89th Academy Awards ceremony and to date 74 women have taken home the Best Actress statue. As a starting point for making my list, I decided to look at all of the actresses with multiple wins. Quantity doesn’t necessarily equal quality, but I figured it was as good a place as any to start. And indeed, this formed the backbone of the brackets. I did toss a couple because I figured readers might not be all that familiar with the likes of Glenda Jackson or Luise Rainer. But most of the actresses in our game took home at least two Best Actress statues.
The objective was to find 16 actresses who could represent a sampling of the history of the awards. But also to pick actresses that readers would know well enough to want to see advance in the game. I found myself a little heavy in the 1970’s, so I could find room for the likes of Louise Fletcher. I also gave extra attention to the winners of 1987 and 1997 given our recent attention to those years. But I couldn’t find room for Cher or Helen Hunt either.
All in all, I’m pretty happy with the list I have complied. Obviously when you have to cut nearly 80% of the potential participants, there’s going to be some difficult choices. If your favorite Best Actress winner didn’t make the cut, I’ll apologize in advance. You never know. Maybe we’ll revisit this topic in the future with a different line-up.
Before we get in to the details of today’s match-up, I have one final bit of house-cleaning to do. When Daffy ran the Best Actor bracket game, he was dealing with very specific performances. For example, voters were encouraged only to consider his Oscar-winning performance in Raging Bull when voting for Robert DeNiro. I am going to do things a little differently this time. Readers can vote based on whatever criteria they see fit.
I’m going to talk about each actress’ multiple wins and even nominations. The reason for this is twofold: One, it gives me more material to work with as we get deeper and deeper into the game and two, it lets me off the hook in that I don’t have to choose whether to include an actress like Jodie Foster for The Accused or Silence of the Lambs. As is usually the case, I’m going with the option that makes things easier for me. 😉
Bette Davis had a very close association with the Oscars. In fact, she became the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She was also the first person to receive ten nominations in acting categories – a feat which remains rare to this day. Only two actresses have surpassed this number and both of them are included in our game.
When Davis was not nominated for the 1934 drama, Of Human Bondage, it resulted in an uproar. The outcry was so loud that Academy president Howard Estabrook actually allowed for write-in candidates for the first and only time in Oscar history. When Davis won her first Oscar the following year for Dangerous, she called the award a consolation prize for having been passed over for Of Human Bondage.
Davis won her second Oscar for Jezebel in which she played a Southern belle. That made Davis a leading contender for the part of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. But legendary producer David O. Selznick wasn’t interested in Davis for the role. Selznick was in the middle of conducting a highly-publicized search for the perfect actress to play the part.
Actress Vivien Leigh eventually walked away with the role of a lifetime despite concerns that she was “too British” to play a Southern belle. The shoot proved difficult for Leigh. She had been cast by director George Cukor who had been replaced by Victor Fleming. Leigh and Fleming quarreled on the set and she secretly met with Cukor to discuss her performance. Leigh also fought with costar Leslie Howard and had a hard time dealing with being separated from her lover, Laurence Olivier. She complained to Olivier that she hated film acting and did not want to make another movie.
But despite her protests, Leigh continued appearing in film. Twelve years after Gone With the Wind, Leigh won her second Best Actress Oscar for playing Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire.