"I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actresses of all time. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one actress (that is an obligation) and add his/her own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. The idea is to make this a long race, so that enough bloggers get a chance to remove and add an actress. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actresses. It will also mean that those who follow this relay race will get to know new blogs as well!"
Here’s the progression of the list since it began on May 1:
The actresses who have been selected:
Who I’m Taking Out:
Again, this was no easy decision. Big apology to Ruth (who just put Dench in the mix yesterday), and certainly nothing against the Dame herself, but I just had to do it. For the record, I am an incredible admirer of Dench’s work. Loved her in Mrs. Brown (which is saying a lot, because that is not my kind of movie, at all) Iris, Pride & Prejudice, and so on. I love her as M in the James Bond flicks. And I find her work in Notes on a Scandal to be simply revelatory. There’s no way Helen Mirren was going to be dethroned from Oscar glory for playing the Queen, but damn if Dench didn’t deserve to win that year.
Who I’m Adding:
My instinctual move was Liv Ullmann, no question. But looking back throughout the race, I noticed Ullmann had a solid run, so instead of adding her again, I’m including the great Gena Rowlands, who delivered my favorite female acting performance of all time in A Woman Under the Influence. (Big shout out to Martin Teller for mentioning Rowland’s performance in this film in his relay write-up.)
Most widely known today for playing the aging Allie in The Notebook (which was directed by her son, Nick Cassavetes), Rowlands broke through by starring in 10 of John Cassavetes’ films. The two were married for 35 years until John died in 1989, and the work they made together is some of the finest films ever released by an American independent filmmaker.
Faces, Opening Night, Gloria, Love Streams – Rowlands is miraculous in all of them. Other notable roles include performances in Night on Earth, Hysterical Blindness, Paris, je taime, and Broken English (directed by her daughter, Zoe).
But really, a performance as flawless as her Mabel in A Woman Under the Influence is reason enough for Rowlands to be on this list. Originally, Cassavetes wanted the material to be a play, but Rowlands said there was no actress in the world (including herself) who to dish out that insane level of emotional intensity demanded of the role night after night. Instead, they made a film, and in that film is as devastating, horrify, honest and beautifully tender a performance as you’re likely to find. The first time I saw A Woman Under the Influence, my jaw was dropped for most of it. Mabel hasn’t left my mind since.
Now that it’s time to pass it along, I have a profound interest in seeing who Tyler from Southern Vision will add to (and drop from) the list. Have at it!