Stockard Channing in “The Fortune”
As an heiress duped by A-list money-hungry fellas Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty, Stockard Channing’s Oscar buzz surely stemmed from the novelty of her “Introducing” tag. This was her debut performance on film (in a Mike Nichols film no less) and so those ‘next big thing’ notices clearly got people talking about her chances at a nomination in a fractured year. Evidently regarded as not quite ready for the big time in 1975, it’s possible that she was undone by the film’s spring release, or simply that –as we’ve learned—AMPAS don’t always warm to performers in the way that you expect them to. It took Channing another eighteen years after this performance to grab that elusive nomination, in an adaptation of John Guare’s stage play, “Six Degrees of Separation.”
A passive object of affection and an eventual target for murder, Channing’s Freddie begins as a foolish young woman lured into adulthood, and genuinely excited by the prospect of a world away from her stuffy roots. The early nature of Freddie requires the actress to be goofy and naive in interaction with the two boys, and her distant, understated degree of passion allays the character's prioritisation of liberation over love. Once those early scenes subside the script feels so unconcerned with Freddie, limiting her to bouts of frustration and muted drunken stupors, and in the only instances afforded to Channing as a platform for her comic chops she ends up coming off as an intensely dislikeable shrew. "The Fortune" evolves into the kind of sprawling crime caper that the Coens would have fun remaking, but Channing's performance suffers when the focus is blurred. This is an Actress I’m generally fond of, but it isn’t difficult to surmise why this particular, heavily-campaigned performer may have tested the patience of Academy members a little too much.
Accolades: Golden Globe Nomination (Debut Performance by an Actress)