Performance Profile # 1 – Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951) [SEASON 1]

November 11, 2010

approximately 32 minutes and 58 seconds

27% of the film

Category: Supporting


The Performance Itself:

Shelley Winters as Alice Tripp

1951 was the year where Vivian Leigh had ruled the Best Lead Actress category. Up to now, she is the only one who is well-remembered. One nominee in this category seems to have been a real contender, but her status in this film is totally debatable. Her screentime and the actual character construction speaks supporting, but the impact that she has is something that only lead actors can do. Nevertheless, she creates the most fascinating character in the whole film. Maybe it would be better if we call her co-lead, but I’d be more comfortable if she’d be supporting (actually, it hurts because I consider some performances leading even if they’re shorter than Winters).

Playing a simple factory worker with no vice or whatsoever bad about her could be an easy role to take for an actress. But for it to be different from all of the cliched portrayals of the same character, you must be a skillful actress. Thankfully, Winters is one. She has the role of the drab working girl, but she totally brings it to the next level.

Right from the first scene that she appears, giving that glimpse to George (played by Clift), we know her life wouldn’t be the same. That feeling of expressing the interest, the instant attraction that she experiences, was immediately and effectively conveyed using only her eyes. She continues to work, but she has her eyes on him. In those small scenes at the start, she immediately establishes the connection that she needs from the viewers that she will totally need later without even begging for it.

Of course, she is not a widow. She takes some simple pleasures like going to cinema to watch a movie with a date. As she gets closer with George, and as we get to know her, we just love her more.

Her subtle approach to the simple of Alice is arresting because she grasps the realism of the character – Alice is humble, kind, and gentle, but she’s no saint. She has her ego to be protected, she has dreams, and she will be tough if she’s asked by the situation. In these ways, we can she how she dives in to the character and never lets her guard down even if Clift has a bigger character.

She’s luminous all throughout, but as soon as everything goes wrong, her desperation starts to unravel and we know she’s in for something that will cause her trouble. The screenplay limits her to someone that is always at the background. For some scenes, yes she kinds of steps in, but barely enough to make her a real lead. But still, enough for us to care for her.

If we are talking about her skills, we have no question. Winters was able to convincingly breathe in this character of someone who wants more thatnwhat she has by not being too ambitious. But also, she believes that George can give her the happiness that she had been seeking. In these parts of the performance, Winters manages to stay on the character and, while anchoring the right amount of subtlety, never gets tiring to watch.

When she gets pregnant, she wants him by her. And only by her. In these scenes, she experiences overflowing emotions – would she be happy because she can already have George? Or worried because she was not ready yet? Or scared because George might leave her? Or lonely because George was not that enthusiastic?

All of these questions are those that she evokes in her scenes after she visited the doctor. She’s not fully happy because of the fear that she has in terms of her relationship with George. She starts to worry about him since he starts to feel cold about their relationship with him, she uses every way that she can just to keep him because she needs him for her to survive it. He has fooled her, and she believed him, so she was depending on him.

She clings, or grips on him, but as she does that, he starts to be closer with an another woman. And when she knows that, she is decided to put up a fight. Her transformation from the humble factory worker to the desperate lover is shocking to see but beautiful to experience and realistic in portrayal.

She is ready to kill herself if he wouldn’t go back to him. Her phone scene when she threatens him to go back or else, she may not be able to control herself, is truly brilliant. She never holds back in shouting the lines, her determination turning to desperation, and she’s almost nude in saying those lines. She wants them to be married, but they cannot be because it’s holiday. Her reaction when she sees the sign announcing Labor Day, that sudden fall of happiness, that immediate transition to helplessness is a true brilliant scene.

Finally, her last moments in the film were in the lake where she had a talk with George while boating.

Suddenly, she goes back to the humble Alice, but with that feeling of childish joy, mainly because she feels totally safe and romantic in having a tour to the lake with the one that she loves. In that scene, Clift is the one that experiences more inner conflicts because he can’t decide whether he’d continue the plan or not. The crisis Clift portrays in this scene is thoroughly well-executed, but Winters is the one that brings you to the edge of your seat.

Later on, she worries because it is already dark. He started to panic, and she also feels uneasy. In these scenes, Winters slowly experiences an emotional dilemma caused by Clift’s behavior. In this scene, this might me Winters’ most versatile scene in the film because the range of emotions can be clearly seen and yet, the line between the emotions seem unexplainable. As if she was blending all these colors to make something beautiful but totally unspeakable.

For the very last moments, she is totally affected by the remarks of George. In those only moments, she, as Alice, faces the truth: George doesn’t love her. She still loves him, but the feeling is already with regret. Of course, the fate of her character is tragic and abrupt, if you’re asking me.

The Verdict:

This has go to be one of the most daring performances that a co-lead has ever given. There is something stunning about the way she moves, the way she talks, the way she looks, and the way she says her lines. Only a real actress can do that, and I’m really glad that Winters was able to totally get the spirit of Alice Tripp.

But then, is she really deserving to be called as lead? Well, she’s a co-lead. But considering these things: she only appears at a small time, and she’s only in on the first half of the film. Some actors appear shorter than her, but they’re in the whole film. Meanwhile, her character construction damages her chance to be deservedly called a lead one. Of course, I think I’m being unfair to her, but did she really lead the film? I don’t think so.

Even then, she creates a truly memorable performance. Fascinating, devastating, shocking – I can’t think of much words. Even if I think she is supporting, I can easily see why people may call her as lead. I won’t argue since she has a very huge impact, she makes use of her small time wisely, and I can’t say anything more except that it gets .


What can you say, dear reader? Do you agree or not?



To continue what I have started…

November 9, 2010

This is Malcolm, yeah, the guy from The Final Oscar which moved to The (New) Final Oscar. Here I am to continue what I have started – the performance reviews. But you’ll see, I’d start slow, but expect updates once in a while.

For those who haven’t seen my former blog yet, here are what you will see in a performance profile:

  • Approximate screentime (voice included, pictures not, with estimated number of seconds and minutes and percent).
  • About the film where the performance was included
  • The review itself
  • Rating

Season 1 is already ready, but you can just drop your suggestions at the comment box and I’ll do my best do have it.

The performances are picked by me, but their arrangements are by lottery.

Thanks for your consideration.

Malcolm Gunderson