…In relentless pursuit of all performances nominated and won!
[Hello everyone – because of my move in October and various other happenings which have kept me very busy, as you can tell, I have taken a full break from my Best Actress Challenge blog. I watched Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette way back in September, and started the following -incomplete – blog. Because it’s been a while, I am publishing what I had written without elaborating on too much else, as it’s been a while since I have seen the film. Look for another blog on the 1953 little-seen film The Moon is Blue, starring nominee Maggie McNamara. Unfortunately, it’s been months since I have seen that one too, but I will do my best with it. As awards season is now back in full swing, I figured it’s time I pick this back up! Enjoy…]
Norma Shearer’s performance as flamboyant Marie Antoinette is anything but understated. Indeed, she tosses herself full-throttle into portraying the doomed queen from her giddy, almost teenage start to her devastating finish. For most of the film, she is dressed beautifully in the highly-coiffed powdered wigs and wide-hipped, ornate gowns with cinched waists so typical of the period and almost a trademark for this famous matriarch. She is rather stunning to behold, even in black and white (reportedly, filming this movie in the original intended Technicolor was scrapped, as they were already well over-budget). While the childish and silly head shakes prior to running and embracing and overall goofiness of Marie Antoinette as a younger queen in the first half of the film grow tiresome, it is still perhaps indicative of how this flamboyant queen may have behaved in the earlier years of her reign. That being said, Shearer must have done her homework. The fall of her family in the second half of the film, while still glamorized by Hollywood, is a little more grittier. There is a definite line of demarcation between the first half and the second half, and Shearer displays more acting chops in the closing scenes of the film as she comes under fire during the French Revolution. In the final scenes prior to her decapitation at the guillotine, the beautiful Shearer even eschewed any kind of makeup treatment, making her belabored trip to execution even more stark and realistic.
While Shearer lost the Oscar to Bette Davis (in Jezebel) for this ambitious period piece (reportedly her favorite role), she may well have uttered the – supposed – words of Marie Antoinette herself – “let them eat cake”, as she already touted a Best Actress Oscar for her solid work in The Divorcee a few years prior to this nomination. This was not the last time Marie Antoinette would be translated to film; most recently, Kirsten Dunst portrayed her in a 2006 production.