The Academy Awards have been around for nearly a century, and a wide variety of performances and performers have won or been nominated for these prestigious awards. The impressive and growing list of Oscar winners and nominees is unique among their peers. These include Best Supporting Actress as young as ten, actors who won Oscars and Tonys for the same role, and even a male actor who won two Oscars for one role! However, the one thing these illustrious Academy Award nominees and winners have in common is that they get ample screen time to showcase their extraordinary performances. But does that mean that if you’re relegated to a limited role, your performance will never get the recognition it deserves? Well, a memorable Oscar nominee put that idea to rest — Hermione Baddeley.
One of the most famous Oscar nominations came at the 32nd Academy Awards in 1960, when Hermione Baddeley won the top floor room. The film received positive reviews and was nominated for a total of six, with two wins. But what makes Baddeley’s nomination stand out is that despite the nearly two-hour running time of the film, she has less than two and a half minutes of screen time!
What is “The Top Room” about?
top floor room is a 1959 British drama film about Joe Lampton (Lawrence Harvey), an ambitious young man who moves from his dreary hometown to the big city in order to improve his economic status. While pursuing his career ambitions, he began courting Susan Brown (heather sears), the daughter of a wealthy industrial magnate in his new city.Yet amidst the ups and downs of this romantic career, Jo also begins an affair with an older married teacher: Alice Aisgill, narrated by Simon Signoret. Drama ensues as Joe is torn between his two love interests while entangled himself in marriage, responsibility, and the prospect of financial gain or ruin.
The film received a very positive reception, winning Best Supporting Actress (Baddeley), Best Actor (Harvey), Best Director (Jack Clayton) and Best Picture. In addition to these categories, the film also won Oscars for Best Actress (Sinolet) and Best Adapted Screenplay. Signoret received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Alice, a lonely old woman who develops a passionate relationship with Jo. However, the pitfalls of her marriage and Jo’s mistakes and reckless ambitions ultimately lead to her own unfortunate downfall. Joe’s romantic pursuits are torn between Susan, who represents the high-society success that brought him to the city in the first place, and Alice, who represents true, passionate love.
Ultimately, Joe chooses Alice and a future of true love and happiness over the wealth and social status that Susan offers. But their vision of a happy future is halted by society’s pitfalls and past decisions. Alice’s husband refused to sign the divorce papers and threatened to ruin the couple if they continued to see each other. To make matters worse, Jo’s previous tryst with Susan had impregnated her, causing her father to force him to marry his daughter despite his promise of the financial security he once so desperately wanted. When Joe told Alice he had to marry Susan, the heartbroken woman threw herself off a cliff in gloom and took her own life. Joe is distraught, and even though he ends the film with everything he wanted in the first place—a wealthy wife and elite social status—he regrets the loss of the genuine relationship he once had.
What makes Hermione Baddeley’s 2-minute performance worthy of an Oscar nomination?
Looking back at this synopsis, it’s worth noting that Hermione Baddeley’s character doesn’t feature enough to be included in a brief summary of the film’s plot. She was still nominated for an Oscar, however, for her impressive performance in the rare bright moments. Baddeley’s performance in this 1959 British drama confirms an old adage: there are no small roles, only small actors.In 115 minutes of runtime top floor roomBaddeley’s actual on-screen time was a whopping 2 minutes and 19 seconds.
Hermione Baddeley plays Elspeth, Alice Asgil’s best friend, in only three scenes. She only speaks in two of the three scenes. Elspeth first appears when Joe and Alice are at the latter’s apartment. She is portrayed as Alice’s cheerful but loyal neighbor and close friend, and Alice will actually play a little piece on the piano before making love to Jo. She reiterates how lucky Jo is to have Alice, and, being a dutiful friend, she looks him seriously in the eye and asks him if he loves her. When he responds in the affirmative, she delivers him a haunting warning that he shouldn’t hurt Alice, who is more obsessed than she realizes.
Elspeth brings Alice back after her death, this time far from her first friendly appearance. When she saw Joe, she was filled with righteous indignation and yelled insults at the man who killed her friend. Her anger is palpable when she calls Joe a pig, a jerk, and a dirty little vampire and nearly kicks him out of the apartment. Elspeth was last seen at Joe and Susan’s wedding. This time, Baddeley doesn’t say a word, and shows his friend’s grief and grief with a serious expression; all viewers need to understand.
Hermione Baddeley’s ‘Top Room’ Performance Shows Breadth and Emotional Depth
Hermione Baddeley’s top floor room The performance, no matter how brief, showcases her incredible acting ability. She delivers a variety of strong emotions in the few scenes she does, painting a full-bodied character in less time than the average commercial. Baddeley is able to portray a convincing best friend for Alice; she walks into their apartment with a grounded sense of comfort, like she has lost count of the people who have been there. She takes a seat at the piano as if it’s reserved for her, and when she talks to Jo, you can see her affection for Alice expressed through her sincere desire to protect her friend from pain. There’s a natural authenticity to the way she speaks to Jo, from her friendly small talk to her quieter tone of deeper inquiries and warnings.
When Baddeley next appears, she steals the screen with her portrayal of ferocious negativity that now transcends her character. Her anger is palpable when she yells at Jo, and after her earlier warnings, it’s incredibly satisfying to see her completely at ease with the man who hurt her friend. Baddeley’s final moments in the film are brief moments of silent sadness. She expressed her condolences with a mournful bow and quivering lips as she watched Joe marry another woman. The moment is made all the more impactful by the lack of dialogue. There was nothing she could do, and there was nothing she could do, but that didn’t take away the sadness she felt.
2 minutes and 19 seconds is not time at all, but for a performer as skilled as Hermione Baddeley, it is enough time to pull off a good performance. Her ability to express such different emotions at the highest intensity without feeling too over the top is what has earned her such recognition. From affable friendliness to relentless rage to jaded sadness, Baddeley’s performance proves that it’s not just lead actors who can shine in performances. Although she didn’t win, her nomination broke records and remains the shortest screen time of any Oscar nominee.
The Oscars ceremony has seen many memorable moments in its long history, but Baddeley’s nomination is a good reminder that, at its core, the Academy Awards celebrate the achievements and successes of actors and great filmmakers.