1. Giulietta Masina for Nights of Cabiria (1957): If you've never seen this performance, you've missed one of the cinematic gems of the previous century. It's magnificent. Federico Fellini had such compassion for society's poor and disenfranchised. Here, he directed his real-life wife as a simple prostitute who's neither the sexiest nor the smartest hooker working the boulevard. But Cabiria is a survivor, an independent survivor.
2. Mia Farrow for Rosemary's Baby (1968): A young, well-read, sophisticated New York City wife is trapped in a modern-day psychological horror story.
3. Mia Farrow for The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985): Farrow really showed her acting range and versatility in her movies written and directed by Woody Allen such as Radio Days, Alice and Broadway Danny Rose. This bittersweet comedy/fantasy is one of her best. She's Cecilia, a clumsy, abused wife in the 1930s who works as a diner waitress in New Jersey. She's an avid movie fan and the movies heal her lonely heart.
4. Miranda Richardson for Dance With A Stranger (1985): I saw this film when I was new to New York. When the film ended, I felt like I was pinned to my seat because I was so totally wowed by Miranda Richardson's biographical portrayal.
5. Jean Simmons for Elmer Gantry (1960): Like Elizabeth Taylor, she was a British-born beauty who started acting in her youth and delivered exceptional performances in her adult years. She had British classics like David Lean's Great Expectations, Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, Black Narcissus and the original The Blue Lagoon to her credit. For Hollywood, she was the leading lady in The Robe (1953), the big budget Biblical epic that was the first movie ever shot in Cinemascope. Jean Simmons was the only actress who starred opposite Marlon Brando in more than one film. They were lovers in Desireé. He played Napolean. Brando and Simmons sang and danced in the movie version of Broadway's Guys and Dolls. Opposite Kirk Douglas, she played the wife of Spartacus. I was talking with a friend a few years ago about Elmer Gantry, with its screenplay based on the Sinclair Lewis novel, and we both agreed that hers is one of the best Hollywood performances by an actress that did not get an Oscar nomination.
1960 was a great year for hookers. Melina Mercouri was a Best Actress Oscar nominee for playing a happy-go-lucky Greek hooker in Never On Sunday. The winner was Elizabeth Taylor was playing a call girl who falls for a married man in Butterfield 8. Future TV sitcom mom, Shirley Jones, changed her good girl movie musical image by taking on a whorehouse role in Elmer Gantry and took home some Hollywood gold for doing so.
Peter Ustinov won Best Supporting Actor for Spartacus starring Kirk Douglas...and Jean Simmons.