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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?

goodlead
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#1
Posted: 9/17/20 at 4:29pm
I've been watching Joanne Woodward's version, but there have been so many notable actresses playing Amanda, and I wonder who people think was the best.

Possibilities (from Broadway and television) include:

Maureen Stapleton
Jessica Tandy
Julie Harris
Jessica Lange
Sally Field
Cherry Jones
Katharine Hepburn
Joanne Woodward

I assume no one on this board saw Laurette Taylor or perhaps even Gertrude Lawrence in the first movie versiun.
LarryD2
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#2
Posted: 9/17/20 at 6:15pm

The best Amanda I've ever seen on stage is Judith Ivey, in the production that began at Long Wharf Theatre and moved to Roundabout's Off-Broadway space. She was absolutely perfect, and the production was creative in concept without overpowering the play (as Sam Gold's did).

Runners up would be Julie Harris in the '94 Broadway revival and Shirley Knight in a superb production from McCarter Theatre in Princeton, from the early '90s. That production also had Dylan McDermott as Tom and Judy Kuhn as Laura -- both great.

I thought Cherry Jones was miscast and Sally Field misdirected. (I didn't see her in the Greg Mosher-directed Kennedy Center production.) Jessica Lange had some interesting ideas that never fully coalesced into a harmonious performance.

I don't think any of the actresses who have done the part on film have been entirely successful, but Hepburn and Shirley Booth in the 1966 television version come closest. There is nothing technically wrong with Woodward's performance, but I find it very bland. (John Malkovich is the best Tom I've ever seen though, live or on film.) The Gertrude Lawrence version from the '50s is available in its entirety on YouTube if anyone is curious. It's a very liberal adaptation, sometimes completely misguided, and Jane Wyman is quite weak as Laura. But Lawrence has her moments and is entirely believable as a Southern belle.

THE GLASS MENAGERIE is my favorite play of all time. I've don't think I've ever seen a production that got everything exactly right. The Judith Ivey production came the closest.

Dollypop
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#3
Posted: 9/17/20 at 8:10pm
I did see the Gertrude Lawrence film and I'm sure it's available SOMEWHERE. On stage, my favorite was Julie Harrus
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goodlead
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#4
Posted: 9/17/20 at 8:19pm
Larry D2 --

I completely agree about Malkovitch. He made it clear that he wasn't just going to the movies.
Jarethan
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#5
Posted: 9/17/20 at 11:25pm

Of the original list, I saw all but Sally Field and Jessica Lange and did see the Gertrude Lawrence version.  I ALWAYS wondered why they hired her, because I did not like her at all.  Of the filmed ones, I preferred Joanne Woodward the most.  I still remember Katharine Hepburn's 'rise and shine' more vividly than anyone's but I could never get past the face that she was Katharine Hepburn.

Of the staged performances, I think that both Stapleton and Tandy gave their most disappointing performances.  I know that I saw Harris, but I really don't remember her performance.  So I guess I would say that I liked Cherry Jones' live performance the most, but that I still preferred Joanne  Woodward.

I did not see Judith Ivey, but I can certainly picture her in the role.

iluvtheatertrash
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#6
Posted: 9/17/20 at 11:50pm
I realize it’s rather impossible anyone on here saw Laurette Taylor, but considering many say it was “the greatest performance ever”, I’m surprised to see nary a mention of her.
"I know now that theatre saved my life." - Susan Stroman
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Jordan Catalano
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#7
Posted: 9/17/20 at 11:54pm
Judith Ivey was the closest to the perfect Amanda that I’ve ever seen. I saw the Lange production a number of times and her performance drastically changed from start to finish. By the end she was really mesmerizing and I wish more people would have gotten a chance to see her like that.
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AC126748
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#8
Posted: 9/18/20 at 9:29am

I saw the very first preview of the Long Wharf/Roundabout Glass Menagerie, and Judith Ivey was already giving a performance that made it seem like the role of Amanda Wingfield was written for her. Easily the best performance I've seen of the role AND the best performance I've ever seen in any Tennessee Williams play (and I've seen a lot).

"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
Owen22
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#9
Posted: 9/20/20 at 12:58pm

I did not see Julie Harris and I SO wish I had.

But Sally Field, in the Kennedy Center Tennessee William Celebration production, not the odd Broadway revival, was the best I have seen!   You could easily see the young girl beneath, the belle with a trail of gentleman callers at the door. She had lost some of that in the different production she did on Broadway. I almost wish I hadn't seen that as it somewhat sullied my memory of her performance in DC.

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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#10
Posted: 9/20/20 at 2:18pm

My mother had an older friend who actually saw MENAGERIE with Laurette Taylor (her first musical as a child was a 1930 production of BABES IN TOYLAND). She's in her mid-nineties now but still recalls the show because of the unforgettable performance given by Taylor. I recall what impressed her the most was her delivery of three simple words, "Rise and Shine." She said her line reading summed up the character's sorrows, pathos, and regrets in life in one fleeting moment.

She told me about her experience seeing the show after we watched "Broadway: The Golden Age" together. If interested, I highly recommend watching this theatre documentary since it's one of the rare times one can actually see footage of Taylor on film. The amazing thing is you can't tell she's actually acting because she's so natural in her delivery. You think she's talking to a crew member before filming commences.IIRC, it's the first time her great-nieces were able to see her on film.     

 

 

 

jo
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#11
Posted: 9/20/20 at 2:46pm

I've seen only one version of Glass Menagerie on stage - with Jessica Lange on Broadway  ( with Christian Slater).  Jessica touched me with her sensitive portrayal of the faded southern belle in difficult circumstances.

Dramatic plays like this deserve to be filmed for posterity and for aspiring drama students.

ViniFromBrazil
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#12
Posted: 9/20/20 at 3:41pm
Shirley Booth on TV (Hal Holbrook was the best Tom!!)

Zoe Wanamaker on stage (recorded)

Judith Ivey on stage (live)

Meryl Streep in the procution I played in my head

EDIT: honorable mention to Saundra Santiago, even though the production was weak.

Updated On: 9/20/20 at 03:41 PM
NJGUY
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#13
Posted: 9/20/20 at 3:46pm

Jessica Tandy gave a quite remarkable performance in 1983.  I still remember her delivery of the line: A little silver slipper of a moon. Look over your left shoulder, Laura, and make a wish !  Like poetry.  The rest of the cast did not meld well, but Jessica Tandy hit it out of the park 100%.

ViniFromBrazil
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#14
Posted: 9/20/20 at 3:50pm
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhYIGIzFM6s

For those who haven't seen Shirley Booth in the role.
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greensgreens
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#15
Posted: 9/20/20 at 6:34pm
I loved Harriet Harris at the Guthrie!!!
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GlindatheGood22
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#16
Posted: 9/20/20 at 7:33pm

Here's a video of Laurette Taylor doing the jonquil monologue - starts at 4:45.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21dfjBV4wwY

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Zion24
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#17
Posted: 9/21/20 at 5:35pm

Funny enough, I am fortunate to have seen Jessica Lange, Cherry Jones and Sally Field- three incredible actresses- as Amanda, and all three were upstaged by other performers, I thought.

Well, Field was just misdirected into oblivion, so maybe not a good example. I thought Lange and Jones did fine work but Sarah Paulson's performance made me forget Lange almost entirely, and both Zachary Quinto and Celia Keenan-Bolger walked away with the 2014 production. (Though to be fair, the night I saw Ms. Jones, she was clearly struggling with her voice/projection, in the middle of a cold winter run). 

but six months into this covid game, id kill to see any of them read anything. anywhere.

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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#18
Posted: 9/22/20 at 1:14pm

I really hated the Judith Ivey production, but she was very good in it. Conversely, the best production I have ever seen is the Cherry Jones production, but I thought she was the weakest in the cast (though that's not saying much since I thought all of them were extraordinary). But comparing her to other Amanda's, I think I like Cherry the best.

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uncageg
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#19
Posted: 9/22/20 at 3:59pm

I have only seen the Cherry Jones production and the night I saw it she was also the weakest in the cast. Really disappointing as I was dying to see her after seeing her in "Doubt". She just chewed up the scenery. (I think I did hear that she had a cold at the time I saw it in January.) Brian J. Smith walked off with the show. But unfortunately Ms Jones' performance seemed to throw the whole evening off. The rest of the cast was fine.

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carnzee
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#20
Posted: 9/22/20 at 4:04pm
The only one I've seen is Shirley Booth in the long lost (until recently) TV movie. Other than being hard to believe as a faded southern belle, she was perfect. Natural and touching.
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#21
Posted: 9/23/20 at 7:25am

uncageg said: "I have only seen the Cherry Jones production and the night I saw it she was also the weakest in the cast. Really disappointing as I was dying to see her after seeing her in "Doubt". She just chewed up the scenery. (I think I did hear that she had a cold at the time I saw it in January.) Brian J. Smith walked off with the show. But unfortunately Ms Jones' performance seemed to throw the whole evening off. The rest of the cast was fine."

I saw this production fairly early in the run, shortly after opening, and Jones' performance was already quite hammy. In general, I feel like her stage work since DOUBT has been overly broad and not particularly memorable. 

"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
Owen22
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#22
Posted: 9/23/20 at 1:24pm

I also want to throw a bone to Joanne Woodward.  She was the strongest Amanda I have ever seen, the only one who assured me she and Laura would be fine after Tom left.  It was nice not to leave the play completely devastated with worry...

ScottyDoesn'tKnow2
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Who was the best Amanda Wingfield?#23
Posted: 9/24/20 at 10:26am

I grew up on the Joanne Woodward version and I don't know...there's just something missing for me. I don't know if it's the pacing, the way it was filmed, the blocking, or what but it just doesn't have that snap I'd like. It's kind of sleepy, which I get because it's a "memory" play and everything is supposed to seem like it's from Tom's memory and have that effect.

Anyway, I remember the Katharine Hepburn version vividly when it was available on Netflix. Katharine Hepburn was miscast but I liked the conviction in which she played Amanda...but again, totally miscast. Sam Waterson was too bland for me, but Michael Moriarty and Joanna Miles as Jim and Laura respectively were standouts. IMO, by far the best Jim and Laura captured on film. I can see why they won Emmys for those performances. They brought real life, energy, character, and flavor to the roles while still being faithful to the material and characterizations.

The worst I've seen was my university's production. I know it's not fair to compare a school production to any professional one, but I don't know what the director learned from studying the play but he made Laura truly have a limp that thudded throughout the stage all performance and that seemed to go against the original intent of Williams since she's also a character totally capable of walking all over town in the cold to avoid typing class which shows she's not nearly as physically or emotionally disabled as the other characters perceive her to be.