Welcome to Oscar Justice, a weekly feature at Ice Creams for Freaks. It’s a simple concept: I give an Oscar to someone who rightfully deserved it, then I follow the repercussions down the line until I am satisfied.
This week on Oscar Justice: Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
1957 Best Actress, Raintree Country – Lost to Joanne Woodward, The Three Faces of Eve
1958 Best Actress, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Lost to Susan Hayward, I Want to Live!
1959 Best Actress, Suddenly, Last Summer – Lost to Simone Signoret, Room at the Top
1960 Best Actress, BUtterfield 8 – WINNER
1966 Best Actress, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – WINNER
It feels odd remembering a time when Elizabeth Taylor was not a movie star. Her undeniable beauty and talent at a young age vaulted her into the studio system at nine years old. She worked consistently through the 40s and culminated it with the cover of Time Magazine in 1949.
After turning 18 in 1950, Taylor immediately shot to movie stardom with roles in big Oscar players Father of the Bride, A Place in the Sun, Quo Vadis, and Ivanhoe. Her true breakthrough came as the female lead in George Steven’s southern oil epic Giant in 1956.
Following that film’s success, Taylor received Oscar nominations in four straight years, culminating in an Oscar victory in 1960 for BUtterfield 8. If anyone was seen as overdue, it was Taylor and it finally paid off. She would add another Oscar six years later for another stage adaptation, this time for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Taylor’s personal life took the spotlight in her later years, but her legacy was already secure.
Elizabeth Taylor defeats Susan Hayward at the 1958 Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
WHY THIS JUSTICE?
Complex female characters are hard to come by when it comes to Oscar success. Taylor’s role as Maggie is a mix of survival, idealism and manipulation. She simultaneously plays a smitten wife who can’t come to grips with her husband’s ambivalence towards her, while also trying to avoid alienating him and jeopardizing her financial future.
Taylor’s devotion is even more impressive as she lost her husband to a plane crash in the middle of filming. More than anything, Taylor characterization is now the gold standard at which Maggie is portrayed in follow-up adaptations. It is an unrealistic ideal, but one that many a theater actress has attempted to recreate.
Also, when is the last time you have had a conversation about BUtterfield 8? The cultural impact of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof perseveres for both positive and negative reasons. One thing that can’t be argued: Taylor is sultry perfection in the film.
If you know anything about me and how this series has been going, you know how much I like to spread the wealth. With Taylor’s victory in 1958, Susan Hayward loses her actual Oscar, but she has four other nominations to work with. I don’t want to take an Oscar away from Anna Magnani in 1955, Shirley Booth in 1952 or Loretta Young in 1947. But, Olivia De Havilland has an Oscar to spare.
Olivia de Havilland was nominated for Best Actress three times in four years and bookended it with a pair of wins for To Each His Own and The Heiress. I’m only taking the win for The Heiress away and giving it to Hayward for My Foolish Heart. Of de Havilland’s other three nominations, I am keeping the winners of Hattie McDaniel, Joan Fontaine and Jane Wyman. De Havilland will only have the one Oscar.
With the win for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Taylor has three Oscars to her name. I will never take away her Oscar for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but I will be taking her Oscar for Butterfield 8. This gives me the chance to award six-time nominee and zero-time winner Deborah Kerr with an Oscar for The Sundowners!
Just like that, I turned three Oscar winners into four.
Susan Hayward wins Best Actress in 1949 over Olivia De Havilland
Elizabeth Taylor wins Best Actress in 1958 over Susan Hayward
Deborah Kerr wins Best Actress in 1960 over Elizabeth Taylor
Next week on Oscar Justice…Albert Finney gets his Oscar for a stage adaptation, which takes a three-time winner down to two