The sexpot goes serious, and the serious actresses go sexpot…it’s a weird year in 1961!
Sophia Loren, who singlehandedly defined sexy in Europe (and much of the rest of the world) in the Fifties, made a play to be taken as a serious actress — and won — with Two Women, which may have been the first movie to show a gang rape:
Audrey Hepburn minted another iconic performance with that little black dress and an orange cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s:
Piper Laurie had her career-defining role as Paul Newman’s love interest in The Hustler:
Natalie Wood actually filmed a nude scene in Splendor in the Grass, in a serious attempt to recast herself as an adult actress rather than a juvenile star, but studio head Jack Warner nixed it:
The final nominee was Geraldine Page, going Tennessee Williams loony in Summer and Smoke:
The Academy missed three outstanding performances which all deserved nominations.
The first was Marilyn Monroe, trying to pull the same move as Sophia Loren, in her last film, The Misfits:
The second was from the 1961 American release of Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Throne of Blood. No less a personage than T.S. Eliot thought Isuzu Yamada was the best Lady Macbeth he had ever seen.
Finally, Deborah Kerr gave an atypical performance as a governess not quite in charge of her faculties — or perhaps she is really seeing those ghosts in The Innocents:
As you can see, a rich year for actresses!
Feel free to make other suggestions below in the comments!
As always, I have much more to say in my book: http://www.amazon.com/WHO-Won-Irreverent-Look-Oscars/dp/069232318X/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
And now, please vote!