Welcome to Season 3 of Oscar Justice, a weekly feature at IceCream4Freaks. 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: May Robson in Lady for a Day
1933 Best Actress, Lady for a Day – Lost to Katharine Hepburn, Morning Glory
Mary Robson was born Mary Robison in New South Wales, Australia in 1958, but moved to London as a child. She ran away from home at the age of 18 to get married. Her and her husband relocated to Fort Worth, Texas in 1877, but relocated to New York City. Following the death of her husband, she supported her children through odd jobs. She began her stage career in 1883 in the show Hoop of Gold. Her name was misspelled, but she kept it that way for good luck.
She flourished on the stage as a comedian as well as a character actress, even establishing her own touring theatrical company in 1911. She moved to Hollywood in 1927 to begin her career as a “senior woman” in pictures. At the age of 75, she starred in Frank Capra’s Lady for a Day, earning her lone Oscar nomination for Best Actress. She was the first nominated Australian and (for many years), the oldest nominee.
Robson had other notable roles in the live-action Alice in Wonderland, Anna Karenina, Bringing Up Baby, and A Star is Born (1937). She passed away in 1942 at age 84. She will forever be the earliest-born woman nominated for an Oscar.
May Robson defeats Katharine Hepburn at the 1933 Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
WHY THIS JUSTICE?
This particular justice is two-fold.
First and foremost, Robson is incredible. She drips with sympathy as the put-upon street peddler Apple Annie. All she wants in life is to make her daughter proud, no matter the cost. Luckily for her, a large group of people (fellow peddlers, gangsters, politicians) all want to help. Her Cinderella transformation to an upstanding woman of class fits like a glove. She is single-minded in her love and devotion to her daughter. She knows it’s too late for herself and doesn’t care about her own improvements. But, she knows her daughter still has a chance. Her pleading with the world to help in her charade is heartbreaking and endearing. A masterful performance.
Secondly, I suggest you all go watch Morning Glory. It’s only 70 minutes long. Katharine Hepburn is an undeniably stupendous actress. She has delivered some of the most indelible on-screen performances of any actress before or after her. She is bad in Morning Glory. This was not my first exposure to Hepburn, so I was assuming a Hepburn-type is what I would be getting. Instead, you get this goofy caricature of how an aspiring floozy actress is supposed to be. She is unlikeable and unlike anything else she would play in the future. A truly bizarre performance.
These things don’t always have to be difficult. Hepburn won four Oscars. I took one away as a consequence of the Mary Tyler Moore episode. Taking this one away from Hepburn and giving it to Robson still leaves Hepburn with two. I have no intention of messing with her tied trophy from 1968. I’ve gone back and forth on her win for On Golden Pond in 1981, but I’m probably going to leave it alone.
Robson gets her statue, Hepburn is still left with two.
May Robson wins Best Actress in 1933 over Katharine Hepburn