Who Should Have Won the Best Actress Oscar for 1961?

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!


  1. I think the best leading actress performance of 1961 was Vivien Leigh in THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. STONE. However, I have Leigh down for Best Actress in 1939 and 1951, and I don’t think she was in enough films to deserve three Oscars. Piper Laurie is great, but I’m not sure that she belongs in the lead category. That leaves me with Audrey Hepburn, who was never one of my favorites. I actually think she gave the third best performance in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S after Neal and Peppard. But the performance is so iconic that I’m going to go with her anyway.

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