Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sandra Bullock: The Ginger Connection

Sandra Bullock's Best Actress win is already considered by many to be undeserved. I see a strong connection to the 1941 Oscar ceremony, when none other but Ginger Rogers was awarded her little gold man for Kitty Foyle.
Both Rogers and Bullock underwent surprising transformations in their persona before their respective wins. As we all know, Ginger began as a wise-cracking chorine, then she became an art deco ingenue and a screwball comedy queen. Then in 1939, the hair went dark and two films, Primrose Path and Kitty Foyle, both about poor youmg women working through adversity, surprised the academy enough to earn her an Oscar. But her win is not enough. What makes Ginger's win so special is that she beat the following legends of the screen:
Martha Scott in Our Town
Joan Fontaine in Rebecca
Bette Davis in The Letter
and Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story

Those four nominated performances are some of the best in Hollywood history, not just in the filmography of 1940. Many people call this award a major upset, and I can see their point. Kitty Foyle is a pretty forgettable film for someone who isn't a Ginger maniac.

Similarly, The Blindside will probably not be remembered as a hallmark of filmmaking in 70 years. I haven't seen it, but from what I hear it was a good film that certainly made a lot of money (just like Kitty Foyle).
The important thing to learn from these two awards given 70 years apart is that the Academy often looks at the arc of a career or a persona. They saw that Sandra Bullock brought something new out of herself that we did not see in Hope Floats, Practical Magic, or even this year in All About Steve. They see when a performance is special, not just an actor, and I like that. Gabourey Sidibe will win an Oscar, and if not she will be remembered as the woman who always should have won. The same goes with Carey Mulligan. They are both at the beginning of their careers and have nothing but stars to come. They will be the Katharine, the Bette of their time. Give Ginger her chance to shine!


  1. You mean there are people who AREN'T Ginger maniacs??? Oh well, their loss.

    I was SO excited to see Sandra win last night. I walked out of that movie and said "Oscar nomination" and it was fully deserved. As fabulous as Meryl was in Julie and Julia, Sandra carried Blind Side on her shoulders -much like Ginger in Kitty Foyle.

    It is so obvious to me that Kitty Foyle was an Oscar role, Ginger fan or not. She is in every or almost every scene and runs the gamut of emotions. Love it!

    Youre right, this years Oscar race does mirror the 1940 Oscar race. Ginger Rogers, never been nominated wins over Katharine Hepburn, the most nominated (or would become the most nominated) actress in history. Sandra Bullock - never been nominated beats Meryl Streep (who I believe this year just overtook the title of most nominations. Although I still dont get why Tracy Lord got Kate an Oscar nomination I guess people just loved the movie.

    Okay Ill stop rambling now!

  2. ...Great post, Maggie! You are correct in that the 'prior work' of an actor/actress does typically influence their 'stock' when they go 'serious'... remember, Tom Hanks was in some pretty sophmoric comedies prior to lining up 'Philadelphia' and 'Forrest Gump'... Jamie Foxx is another good example, for 'Ray'... can't remember if he won, but was definitely nominated...

    Ginger's Oscar triumph actually started with Primrose Path, as mentioned...she was going to be nominated for that one, but the subject matter was a bit controversial for the day, and it didn't play in a lot of places, including regions of the south (where I am... think how ruffled my feathers would be if I was around here in '40.."WHAT??? YOU AREN'T SHOWING THE NEW GINGER ROGERS MOVIE???" ...followed by a lot of wailing and thrashing about...)
    But the Ginger/Kate and Sandra/Meryl similarities are pretty interesting... wonder if Meryl threw water on Sandra's mink after the show... :-] (of course, mink is strictly verboten now...)

  3. I guess you might have a point with comparing Bullock to Rogers. Except that Ginger never annoyed the hell out of me before going serious.