Ruth Gordon won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing Minnie Castevet in Rosemary’s Baby.
Rosemary’s Baby is one of my favorite horror films – it’s probably right up there with The Exorcist for me, even though both films are completely different in style and tone. Rosemary’s Baby is sightly campier and comical, but what I truly appreciated about it is how it relies entirely on suspense and paranoia to bring out the horror of its story. The movie never relies on scary makeup and gore to scare its viewers. It makes you fear almost everything in the story, from that “ordinary” chocolate mousse, to the “lucky” charm and the “eccentric” neigbours. Seriously, this is probably the only movie I’ve seen that can make an anagram so scary. You can say whatever you want about Roman Polanski, but when it comes to movies, the guy is a master. Mia Farrow would also have deserved a best actress nod for her portrayal of the frail and vulnerable Rosemary, who ends up being a victim of an evil scheme.
Ruth Gordon plays Minnie, the extremely nosy neighbour. This performance is probably one of the most popular best supporting actress winners ever, and while I don’t share that love, I can understand it. The performance is extremely unique and original – Gordon never goes for the “creepy” neighbour cliche. She plays Minnie as an “ordinary”, charming old lady who cannot mind her own business but also gradually reveals herself to be a part of an evil plan. What I find brilliant about the performance is how you constantly feel this sense of unease whenever you see Minnie. Unlike Minnie’s husband Roman (played by Sidney Blackmer, who also should have been nominated) and his creepy stares and vibe, Gordon never explicitly reveals Minnie’s true nature, and yet it is always implied in her annoying mannerisms. I also read a comment about how Minnie never makes direct eye contact with Rosemary. It was something which I initial overlooked, and I think it’s brilliant that Gordon adds all these tiny details to imply what’s wrong with Minnie. They all build up brilliantly to her chilling final scene, where she finally looked Rosemary in the eye and told her the truth. It’s a performance with many hidden gems that can be easily overlooked at first, but when you spot them, you’ll really appreciate how tricky and clever Gordon is in creating that “ordinary” image for Minnie.
Ruth Gordon’s performance is a classic case of a supporting one – the material is limited, the character isn’t the most complex, and yet I think she does a whole lot with it. She’s charming, funny, extremely manipulative and creepy. It’s easy to see why Rosemary fell for her traps initially, because of how “ordinary” she appears. Like I said, it’s hard to put a finger on what’s so off about her, and it’s all thanks to Gordon’s brilliant performance.