Who Should Have Won the Best Actress Oscar for 1931-32?

The original winner was Helen Hayes for The Sins of Madeline Claudet. Want to know what producer Irving Thalberg thought of his own movie? “Let’s face it. We win Academy Awards with crap like Madeline Claudet.” Want to know what I thought? “No Oscar should have been given, especially for any performance in a film that tries to convince us that a bad paint-by-number is art — or that the purpose of a woman’s life is self-sacrifice for a male.”

As for the other nominees, Marie Dressler snagged another nod, this time for Emma:

And finally, theater superstar Lynne Fontanne in The Guardsman:

One of my favorite unknown gems I found while digging around for my books is Frank Capra’s Platinum Blonde, with Jean Harlow as a society girl, the forgotten Robert Williams as a reporter, and Loretta Young as his pal. Platinum Blonde is a witty, unexpectedly fresh Frank Capra film, with excellent performances from every one. Well worth seeing!

Miriam Hopkins was also excellent in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as the intended paramour of the monstrous Hyde:

Greta Garbo also rescues the potboiler Mata Hari from mediocrity, on the strength of her performance alone:

And finally, in one of her finest performances, in one of Frank Capra’s hardest-hitting films, we have Barbara Stanwyck in The Miracle Woman. This is the film Elmer Gantry was trying to be. As I said in v.1, “Americans in 1931 weren’t ready for this film; they aren’t ready for it now.”

If you would like to make other suggestions, please do so below in the comments!

As always, I have much more to say in my book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OPEELH0

And now, please vote!


  1. I voted for Sylvia Sydney, “Street Scene.” Of those listed for consideration, my choice would easily be Stanwyck for “The Miracle Woman,” my favorite Stanwyck pre-Code performance and one of my favorite Stanwyck performances of any kind. For me it’s right up there with “Stella Dallas,” “The Lady Eve,” and “Double Indemnity.”

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