Did They Get it Right? – Best Supporting Actress – Oscars 1961

Here are the five nominees: (Winner in Bold)

Fay Bainter (The Children’s Hour)
Judy Garland (Judgment at Nuremberg)
Lotte Lenya (The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone)
Una Merkel (Summer and Smoke)
Rita Moreno (West Side Story)

Biggest Snub:

Pamela Tiffen – One, Two Three

My Overall Thoughts:

This is a year with 5 very good nominees in this category, but two of them were much more powerful than the rest.

My Rankings:

Supporting Actress

5. Lotte Lenya
4. Una Merkel 
3. Fay Bainter
2. Rita Moreno
1. Judy Garland


5. The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone Interesting idea that drags along a bit too much for it’s own good. Leigh is quite good in the lead role and manages to give off the feeling that she is an actress who has reached the twilight of her career and wants to finally enjoy life but isn’t quite sure how that should be done. Beatty is unimpressive in this early role and his Italian accent makes him somewhat laughable here. The film does a nice job though of showing how people deal with fame and good looks even after they start to become fleeting.  The story is able to make a correlation between keeping the flame of fame going and keeping life interesting for some people. Lenya has a small yet significant role as a friend of Leigh’s who tries to help her while she is living in Rome She was able to somehow garner an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her work in this film.
4. Summer and SmokeInteresting look at the different ways men and women look at relationships at different stages in their lives. The issues dealt with here are quite timeless and were relevant back when this film was made (1960’s), at the time when this story takes place (turn of the 20th century) and even now over a Century after the time this takes place.  The story works really well within the context of how it is presented.  The cast is extremely talented and they all shine in these very down-to-Earth kind of roles.  Merkel and Page were both deservingly nominated for Oscars as Supporting Actress and Actress for their performances here.
3. The Children’s HourExcellent film that is able to deal with such a lofty subject in a very appropriate way despite the fact that it discusses issues that were not discussed at the time. The cast is superb and all three leads make us believe that they are real characters dealing with a real problem. The story moves at a great pace and I loved the way that they manage to keep so much of the plot ambiguous throughout most of the film because it allows the viewer to form their own opinion as to what should be believed. The dialogue is superbly written and it allows us to get an even deeper understanding of things especially given the way that things are described and discussed. Bainter is also excellent in her small yet pivotal role and we get to see the character’s range and attitudes that constantly changes during the course of the film. She was deservingly nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her work here.
2. West Side StorySuch an amazing film because it does an amazing job modernizing one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. The songs and music are spectacular choreographed and written and it’s so easily to get caught up in the story yet at the same time hum or sing along with the music. I’m not at all surprised that this film had so much momentum come Oscar time that they were able to garner 10 Golden Statuettes that year. It lost only for best adapted Screenplay and set a record held until today for the most awards of a Musical at the Oscars. Still find it quite funny and silly that these “tough” gang members can dance so well all around the city.
1. Judgment at NurembergSuch a fabulously written movie that truly captures all of the emotions one would think of in a trial like this. Amazing cast led by the always dependable Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster. Despite being over 3 hours long, it moves by swiftly because of the subject matter and the way it was filmed in the courtroom. Hard to say whether this should have beaten West Side Story (1961) because both are very different movies and styles.

Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Yes and No!  RM is excellent in WSS, but JG was even more emotional and powerful in her short role and would have been a very deserving winner.

Let me know what you think about these films and my rankings!

3 thoughts on “Did They Get it Right? – Best Supporting Actress – Oscars 1961

  1. A hard call. Moreno and Chakiris are the saving graces of a movie that hasn’t aged well. But Garland was incredible and I’ll give her the edge. Neither Judgement… or …Story have aged well, both now relegated to the height of middlebrow entertainment category. The best movies of the year, and this would happen more and more, are foreign: La Dolce Vita, Through a Glass Darkly and Yojimbo.


  2. I love West Side Story as a musical and believe that Rita Moreno gave a superb performance as Anita. However, Judy Garland was sublime in Judgement at Nuremberg and would have been my choice for the Oscar.


  3. Agree with Rob and those above -I’ve always felt that Garland should have won what would have been her only Oscar for her devastating turn as a witness in Nuremberg. Her scene on the stand in court was powerful and letter perfect. Nothing against Moreno in west Side Story (or the other nominees), but Garland gave the epitome of a BEST supporting performance in a film that was full to the brimwith fine performances (Tracy, Schell, Clift, Lancaster etc.)


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