best film: The Wizard of Oz is a masterpiece and one of the all-time greats for both fantasy films and musicals. The story and performances (nobody in the rest of the strong supporting cast is anywhere near Garland in terms of her achievement here) are key to the film’s success. It is a wonderful film to get lost in. Meet Me in St. Louis and A Star is Born are second and third in this category- but this is clearly her best.
best performance: The Wizard of Oz. Garland’s achievement here is monumental. Her scene performing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is the star-maker and full arrival of an actress and future celluloid icon. Garland’s Dorothy is as sympathetic a character as they come. Another way to think about Garland’s value here is to try to picture another actress in this role- impossible to imagine.
stylistic innovations/traits: Garland had roughly thirty (30) total screen credits as an actor after subtracting shorts and vocal work. This is a low number for any Hollywood actor during the Golden Era of the 1930s and 1940s especially when Garland started working for MGM as a teen. Garland had only nine (9) archiveable films- a low number for any actor on this list. Garland passed away at age forty-seven (47) but seven (7) of her nine (9) archiveable films were made before she turned twenty-seven (27). Still, very few actors can match her top three performances. Garland is a uniquely gifted both actor and musician and, of course, both skill sets are on brilliant display in The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis and A Star is Born. She gives one of the best performances of the year in 1939, 1944 and 1954. Garland is a better singer than she is a classically trained actor- but that is not insult to her as an actor- but praise for her talents as a singer.
directors worked with: Vincent Minnelli (3) and then George Cukor, Victor Fleming once.
top five performances:
- The Wizard of Oz
- A Star is Born
- Meet Me in St. Louis
- Easter Parade
- The Clock
|1937- Broadway Melody of 1938|
|1939- Babes in Arms|
|1939- The Wizard of Oz|
|1944- Meet Me in St. Louis|
|1945- The Clock|
|1948- Easter Parade|
|1948- The Pirate|
|1954- A Star Is Born|
|1961- Judgment at Nuremberg|
Just curious about your ranking system so here’s a hypothetical situation, an actress XYZ with one MP and 2 MS and probably 2 HR. All great performances ranging from drama to comedy and dialogue-heavy to silent. And her total archivevable films are 7-8. Which slot she’ll get? What will be her ranking?
@M*A*S*H- I try to take more into account than that. Although resume (and you covered this well in this example) is the most important part- I do try to factor in talent, range, screen presence. I use the year by year archives as a guide looking for those actors that had one of the best years. From there I assign a number of associated points to their accomplishment that year (like Mia Farrow’s 1968 with Rosemary’s Baby is worth more points than her 1986 with Hannah and Her Sisters). That point totals after adding up the 100+ years of cinema sort of gives me the list that I work off of. I double check for things I missed, actors I forgot, performances I overlook, etc. I do have many actors tied or near the same level and use the other factors mentioned to split those ties.
Okayy so let me create a fake filmography for you of my imaginary actress.
1984: blood simple
1987: raizing Arizona
1987: broadcast news
1993: the piano
2017: the big sick
So it’s a brief filmography (a combination of holly Hunter and Frances mcdormand- haha (because I secretly wish there was version of nomadland and blood simple with Hunter)).
There’s silent performances (the piano, blood simple), dialogue heavy (raizing Arizona, broadcast news) and realism (nomadland).
Where does this filmography/ actress rank?
@M*A*S*H- haha interesting hypothetical but I have a hard enough time doing this with real actors and real resumes. But no doubt this would be an impressive body of work here for any actor here.
Setsuko Hara should be atleast in top 20.
@Alt Mash – I can already tell you the follow up response – Who are you removing to make room?
She has an interesting career, was in 67 films prior to Ozu, made 6 films with Ozu and then retired the year of Ozu’s death and became a recluse.
Okay maybe not in the top 20, but she was not even on the list last time. Hope she gets included this time. Those 6 films with Ozu are some of the greatest films.
@Alt Mash- Thank you for the comments and for visiting the site. You are quite right here about my oversight on Hara on the prior list. That will be remedied here with this update for sure.
I accidentally found your site while researching about Shimura Takashi. I’m loving your lists and reviews. I really like your approach to film criticism, based on cinematic visuals. Also your site helped me a lot to navigate through unknown foreign films ( American and European films).
@Alt Mash- I love hearing that- and I look forward to reading your comments.
@Alt Mash – not sure if you have Criterion Channel but if you do they have 11 of her films including all 6 of the collabs with Ozu