Oscar 1984: Best Actress Contest

Women's Contest

Best Actress Nominees

Sally Field, Places in the Heart
Judy Davis, A Passage to India
Jessica Lange, Country
Vanessa Redgrave, The Bostonians
Sissy Spacek, The River

Oscar Context

Three of the Best Actress nominees, Field, Lange, and Spacek, were nominated for playing strong wives-mothers in rural dramas, past and present, prompting journalists to label them as “Hollywood Farm Trilogy.”

Sally Field won her second Best Actress (the first was in 1979 for “Kramer Vs. Kramer”), not because she gave the most distinguished performance, but because her film was nominated for Best Picture and it also was the most commercially successful of the three; “Country and The River” were flops at the box-office.

Compared with previous years, there was no consensus among critics as to the single best performance by a female. Hence, Vanessa Redgrave won the National Society of Film Critics for her role in “The Bostonians.” Kathleen Turner was the recipient of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for her turn in the comedy-adventure, “Romancing the Stones.” But Turner failed to get the Academy recognition; she was nominated two years later for Best Actress in Coppola's “Peggy Sue Got Married.”

At the Cannes Film Festival, held in May, Brit Helen Mirren received the acting kudos for the movie “Cal.”

There was also disagreement as to what constitutes a lead and a female performance. Thus, Dame Peggy Ashcroft was nominated for and won the Supporting Actress Oscar for David Lean's “A Passage to India,” a film for which the Academy voters singled her colleague Judy Davis for Best Actress nod. However, the New York Film Critics bestowed on Dame Ashcroft their lead acting award for the same film.
Best Picture Nominees

The Killing Fields
A Passage to India
Places in the Heart
A Soldiers Story