1972- Best Supporting Actress Breakdown
Geraldine Page in “Pete ’n’ Tillie”
“Pete ’n’ Tillie” is a strange and forgotten dramedy and Geraldine Page’s small role as the main couple’s rich friend does have a few fun, standout scenes in a rather dull film. The film did make a lot of money at the box office, but I suppose it was mostly due to the heavy marketing, Walter Matthau being in the leading role and Martin Ritt being the director. The Academy had a clear admiration for Geraldine Page, this was her fifth nomination, but it took them a while to give her a win. She didn’t really ever have a major frontrunner status (until Bountiful) and was usually the ‘second place’ or was up against someone better. For her performance in this film, she only received a Golden Globe nomination. It wasn’t necessarily an expected nomination but it also wasn’t unexpected. The film really only received any form of popularity due to the fact that it was written by the man who wrote “Casablanca”, Julius J. Epstein. To my estimation, she was the “last in line” to win.
Susan Tyrell in “Fat City”
John Huston, a man who worked as a director for several decades in Hollywood, came back to the scene with “Fat City”, his first film success after a few flops. Susan Tyrell wasn’t an actress who was too well known but did receive some critics' award nominations and general praise for her emotional and scene-stealing performance. “Fat City” wasn’t a huge film, so her nomination was never seen as something exactly unsurprising, but she is a standout and pulled through.
Shelley Winters in “The Poseidon Adventure”
Ah, yes. The big hit of the year. “The Poseidon Adventure” was a massive success financially and garnered surprisingly good reviews from critics. It was one of the first films of the star-power disaster genre from the 70s (Airport (1970) started it, The Towering Inferno (1974) came after). It was the second highest-grossing film of 1972, only behind The Godfather. Onto Shelley, an already two-time Academy Award-winning actress. She was the only person at the time to have two Oscars for Best Supporting Actress and only one person has achieved that since, Dianne Wiest. Her performance in “The Poseidon Adventure” is loud, boisterous, and, by today’s standards, a bit dehumanizing. She was able to win the Golden Globe for her sheer star power and some believed she would take the Oscar due to her status as an Academy darling and the major success of the film. However, the fact that she had two wins already and wasn’t in a ‘serious film’ did slightly deteriorate from her chances.
Jeannie Berlin in “The Heartbreak Kid”
The Heartbreak Kid is an indie romantic comedy-drama that is directed by the iconic Elaine May and the film still holds up today! Jeannie Berlin plays Lila, Lenny’s initial wife before he leaves her during their honeymoon for Kelly (Cybil Shepherd). While she may only be in the film for the first half, she is striking in her fun comic timing and memorable quirkiness. She was the critics’ awards darling, taking home the New York Film Critics Circle Award, National Society of Film Critics Award, and was nominated for the Golden Globe. She wasn’t exactly an “it-girl” but was supposed to be a bright new star who would have a long and successful career. The “runner up” in my mind.
Eileen Heckart in “Butterflies are Free”
And of course, Eileen Heckart, your winner. Now, Eileen Heckart might not have garnered any critics nominations or even a Golden Globe nomination (which is odd considering they liked the film), she seemed to be a favorite. She originated this role on Broadway in the play of the same name, and people absolutely loved her there. When the film adaptation was announced as a thing, she was cast very quickly and won audiences over once again. The film itself did well at the box office considering it was actually quite cheap to make and made for a great “summer afternoon” flick that people really had fun with. This is the type of performance that would’ve won the SAG award if it had existed back then. While the Academy might have viewed this nomination and said “it’s her time”, it is an enjoyable performance from an actress who seems lovely and, in reality, walked away with the award on Oscar night.