Oscar: Best Actress–Lange, Jessica in Blue Sky

Jessica Lange won the 1994 Best Actress Oscar for the marital melodrama “Blue Sky, “which became Tony Richardson’s last feature movie.  This was Lange’s second Oscar, having won the Supporting Actress Award for “Tootsie’ in 1982.

A throwback to marital melodramas of yesteryear, “Blue Sky,” a long-on-the-shelf Orion picture, deserves a good shot at a theatrical life before being placed in video land. This 1991 production was the last film directed by Tony Richardson, and it happens to be one of the more creditable efforts of the latter part of his career.

Old-fashioned but well-acted, “Blue Sky” is character study of a long-married military couple, who go through midlife trouble. Jessica Lange plays Carly Marshall, the wife of Army scientist Hank Marshall (Tommy Lee Jones), whose irrepressible sensuality and wild spirit can’t be reined in even by the military.

It’s the early 1960s, and at the outset, she friskily teases and tempts the local officers in Hawaii with her Marilyn Monroe look. One of the military wives says to Carly: “Women like you are the reason men like women in the first place.”

When Hank, Carly and their two girls are transferred to a base in Alabama, the provincial, confining place sends Carly into a deep funk. Hank is the only person who understands and can calm Carly down, but her violent mood swings are alarming, especially to her teenage daughter Alex (Amy Locane).

Predictably, Carly gets carried away on the dance floor with the camp’s commanding officer, Vince Johnson (Powers Boothe), causing embarrassment for all involved. When Hank is sent to Nevada to observe an underground nuclear test, the door is opened for Vince to court Carly.  Unfortunately, their late night tryst is witnessed by Alex and her new beau, Vince’s son Glenn (Chris O’Donnell).

Rama Laurie Stagner’s story, adapted into a screenplay by Arlene Sarner and Jerry Leichtling, takes a turn for the worst in the last reel, which is defined by nonsensical contrivances of plot.  Hank is threatened with court-martial, forcing Carly to takes matters into her hands, by suddenly developing political consciousness, will to risk her life to save her husband from career oblivion.

Richardson died in 1991, after completing the picture, which was released three years later. Main reason to see the film is Jessica Lange, who won a Best Actress Oscar. Cast in a showy role, Lange grabs the opportunity to stretch, rendering a dominant performance that’s impressive on any level, physical, emotional, and mental.

Oscar Nominations:

Actress: Jessica Lange

 

Oscar Awards: 1

Actress

Oscar Context

Jessica Lange became the second actress in Oscar’s annals to have won the Best Actress award after winning a Supporting Actress Oscar before (for the comedy “Tootsie, in 1982). The first was Meryl Streep, Lange’s peer-competitor, who first received the Supporting Actress in 1979 for “Kramer Vs. Kramer,” and then the Best Actress Oscar for “Sophie’s Choice,” in 1982, the same year Lange was nominated for the lead award in the biopic “Frances.”

Credits

Produced by Robert H. Solo

Directed by Tony Richardson

Screenplay: Rama Laurie Stagner, Jerry Leichting, Arlene Sarner, from a story by Stagner

Camera: Steve Yaconelli

Editor: Robert K. lambert

Music: Jack Nitzche

Production design: Timian Alsaker

Art Direction: Gary john Constable

Costume design: Jane Robinson

Running time: 101 Minutes