The brackets in our Best Actress game are arranged in roughly chronological order. Both of our contestants in today’s match had long and distinguished careers. But they both rose to prominence in the late 30’s and early 40’s. For the purposes of today’s article, I’ll be concentrating largely on this part of their careers. We’ll continue exploring the career of the winner in the next round.
But first, let’s take a look at the results from our first match.
This one was close. Honestly, it was closer than I expected it to be. I figured the iconic status of Scarlett O’hara would carry Vivien Leigh to a relatively easy victory. But Bette Davis didn’t go down without a fight. Ultimately, two votes separated these legendary actresses. Leigh did come away victorious with just over 50% of the votes. We’ll take a look at her second Oscar win in round two where she will face off against the winner of today’s match.
In the thirties, Olivia de Havilland costarred with Errol Flynn in several of the matinee idol’s most popular films including Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade and The Adventures of Robin Hood. The role she is probably best known for is Melanie Hamilton in Gone With the Wind. De Havilland had to convince Jack Warner of Warner Brothers to allow her to make the movie for a rival studio. Her efforts paid off in the form of her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Her costar, Hattie McDaniel, actually won the award but de Havilland would be nominated again.
Two years later, de Havilland was nominated for the first time in the Leading Role category for Hold Back the Dawn. Her sister, Joan Fontaine, took home the prize for the Alfred Hitchcock thriller, Suspicion. (A movie not unlike one we’ll be talking about soon). Then in 1946, de Havilland finally won her first Oscar for Best Actress in the WWII romance, To Each His Own.
De Havilland’s win resulted in an infamous Oscar moment. She and her sister had feuded since they were children. Fontaine, who had already won an Oscar, had just presented the award for Best Actor. She stuck around backstage to congratulate her sister on her victory, but de Havilland wasn’t having it. Photographers captured the moment when she snubbed her sister reportedly saying “”I don’t know why she does that when she knows how I feel.”
De Havilland went on to win her second Best Actress Oscar in 1949 for The Heiress. But we’ll save taht for the second round in case she makes it that far.
Ingrid Bergman was a Swedish import brought to Hollywood by legendary producer David O. Selznick. In 1942, she starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca which made her a star. Bergman received her first Oscar nomination for the big screen adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. But she lost to Jennifer Jones who was nominated for The Song of Bernadette.
In 1944, Bergman won her first of two Best Actress Oscars for playing a woman slowly driven crazy by her husband in Gaslight. In the movie, which is based on a British play from the 1930’s, Charles Boyer slowly dims the lights while trying to convince Bergman that the rooms haven’t grown darker. The term “gaslight” has taken on new relevance in our “post factual” society as at least one prominent leader has been accused of gaslighting the country.
Bergman would be nominated again in 1945 for the Bing Crosby sequel, The Bells of St. Mary’s and in 1949 for Joan of Arc. In the 50’s, the actress was caught up in a scandal that could only be a scandal in the 1950’s. Her affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini ruined her Hollywood career. In a development that may remind some readers of modern events, Bergman was denounced in the Senate for her extramarital activities and fled the United States. But we’ll talk about that in greater detail should Bergman advance to the second round.