Thursday, September 24, 2015

1973: Glenda Jackson for A Touch of Class

In her second Oscar winning performance, Jackson plays a recent divorcee who runs into a married man and decides to have a brief affair with him. The affair gets off to a very rocky start, but eventually they start to care for each other and try to keep it going longer than they originally intended. But he's still devoted to his wife and kids, which makes things complicated.

There's a little bit of a kick to it, but mostly this is a fairly typical romantic comedy, which is not at all typical Oscar fare. So I was very surprised to learn that it was actually nominated for Best Picture. It lost to The Sting, which was definitely the right choice. But I actually enjoyed this movie a lot more than I thought I was going to, and certainly way more than Glenda Jackson's previous Oscar-winning movie, Women in Love. At least A Touch of Class is entertaining, and Jackson actually gets more of a chance to demonstrate her talent. She has such a fabulous speaking voice, and her delivery of sassy comebacks is simply marvelous. Particularly in the first half of the movie, that's most of what her role consists of, so it works out perfectly. She and George Segal play off each other remarkably well, although they are one of the weirdest couples ever and I'm not sure why someone would think to put them in a movie starring opposite each other. But it actually works. I wouldn't call this one of the best movies ever, or even one of the best rom coms ever, but it's surprisingly entertaining. Jackson's performance isn't mind-blowing or anything, but it's still good. Most of the movie's flaws - like she's a single mom and we never see her kids after the first scene - have to do with the writing and the story itself, rather than her performance. Her character's a little on the ridiculous side, but she clearly had fun with the role, which is what was required. Was it an Oscar-worthy performance? Probably not. I haven't seen any of the other performances she was nominated against (yes, I'm admitting that I haven't seen The Exorcist) so I'm not sure if hers was the best, but I would be very surprised if it was. That being said, far worse performances have won this award, and I'm not at all sorry I had to watch this movie.

This was Jackson's second of two Oscars, and third of four nominations. Her final nomination was for 1975's Hedda. I haven't seen her in much else, but I'm pretty sure that she, like many actresses, didn't win Oscars for her best performances. She did win an Emmy for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I in the 1971 mini-series "Elizabeth R," which I remember being a fantastic performance, although it's been a while since I watched it. Jackson continued acting until 1992, when she was elected to Parliament, making her the first, and so far only, Oscar-winning British MP. She decided to stand down this year, but whether she will return to the screen or simply retire (she is 79 years old, after all) only time will tell.

Next up: Ellen Burstyn

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