Supporting Actress Smackdown reviews the nominees for 1973, the year of The Exorcist, American Graffiti, and The Sting. What made my eyebrows arch was how the vaunted New Hollywood bore no influence over this set of nominations, and even the nominations for Candy Clark, Tatum O’Neal, and Madeline Kahn were in films in which their directors apotheosized their adolescence or an adolescence that didn’t exist. The only hint of changing attitudes is letting the little girl possessed by Beelzebub say “fuck” to a priest. Pictures of a counterrevolution more like.
Linda Blair – The Exorcist
I won’t say much about the movie other than it did spook me at fourteen, leave me in stitches at sixteen, and offend me by how crass its sexual politics are — Regan is punished for having a promiscuous and agnostic mother? This is New Hollywood? Affectless and uninhibited as a kid in a fabric softener commercial before the demon makeup comes on, she relinquishes the performance to Mercedes McCambridge. Consider the nomination a consolation prize to her worried parents.
Candy Clark – American Graffiti
Blondes-with-brains are such Oscar bait that I had to watch/endure an hour of George Lucas’ breakthrough to see if Clark redeemed the role, which is too kind to the movie because Clark doesn’t have a role. I don’t understand AG’s appeal, not when Diner and Ellen Barkin in Diner exist.
Madeline Kahn – Paper Moon
As the, ah, dancer whom Ryan O’Neal brings along for the ride in Paper Moon, Kahn’s wit and vividness siphon O’Neal’s exertions. I imagine the hillside scene got play on Oscar night.
Tatum O’Neal – Paper Moon
Nathaniel correctly mentions this winner as the most egregious example of award fraud in Academy history; she’s in every scene, and it’s not like the list of the year’s Best Actress finalists was replete with worthwhile nominees. Regarding Paper Moon itself I’m in the minority: a competent, nice, ephemeral throwback that somehow became a box office hit. O’Neal deserves credit for giving real life dad Ryan O’Neal some friction.
Sylvia Sidney – Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams
Known for her work in Fury and Sabotage, in which her empathy and alertness has a beautiful luminous quality, Sidney got her first nomination in this Joanne Woodward vehicle. I haven’t seen it in ages — from what I remember it’s a female Save the Tiger — and Sidney doesn’t rise beyond the description on Nathaniel’s site (“old prickly woman, who lunches weekly with her daughter, has a heart attack”), but like Kahn she’s odd and has no trouble with the acerbic. Watching her first in Beetlejuice doing the same thing in a comedy had the same effect as watching Marlon Brando in The Freshman before The Godfather.
MY (UNENTHUSIASTIC) PICK: Madeline Kahn.