Award Winners & Nominees

Although Canadian women have undoubtedly had a long and successful career in the world of film and Hollywood, the accomplishments of Marie Dressler, Mary Pickford, and Norma Shearer comprise the pinnacle of success. The three actresses are renowned for not only winning three of the first four Academy Awards for Best Actress, but these wins remain the only ones of their category achieved by Canadian Actresses.

This watchlist is comprised of some of the films which earned Dressler, Pickford, and Shearer their Academy Awards, as well as the ones for which they were nominated. They represent each actress at their strongest, embodying a talent to be awed at by all.

DVD cover of "Their Own Desire"

Their Own Desire (1929)

Starring: Norma Shearer

Genre: Romantic Drama
Academy Award Nomination

This film follows a young woman who must navigate her feelings towards her father, his new wife, and a new love interest of her own who has surprising connections to her wider family dynamic. Norma plays Lally, the young woman who must navigate personal and familial love.
DVD cover of "Coquette"

Coquette (1929)

Starring: Mary Pickford

Genre: Drama
Academy Award Win

In her Academy-Award winning performance, Mary Pickford plays Norma Besant, the daughter of an overbearing southern doctor who wants to determine her love life for her. When they each try to take matters over her relationships into their own hands, matters come to a boiling point of murder, trial, and interpersonal drama. In what was her first speaking role, Mary plays Norma as a strong and loyal, but conflicted, young woman, forced to choose between love and family.
 
DVD cover of "Min and Bill"

Min & Bill (1930)

Starring: Marie Dressler

Genre: Comedy-Drama
Academy Award Win

Marie Dressler won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Min, a fierce but loving dockside inn owner. In the film, Min must protect her surrogate daughter from the corrupting elements of prohibition-era underground America as well as unexpected visitors from their respective pasts. Marie conveys the persona of the lioness, caring and fiercely protective of her charge, willing to cross any line for her safety.
DVD cover of "The Divorcee"

The Divorcee (1930)

Starring: Norma Shearer

Genre: Drama
Academy Award Win

In this Academy Award-winning role, Norma plays Jerry, a New York socialite who finds herself in a love triangle with two male friends. When feelings for one come out stronger than for the other, Jerry finds herself in the middle of a dramatic divorce, changing her relationships forever.
DVD cover of "A Free Soul"

A Free Soul (1931)

Starring: Norma Shearer

Genre: Drama
Academy Award Nomination

In A Free Soul, Norma plays Jan, the daughter of an alcoholic defense lawyer who must balance her father's professional and lifestyle struggles, a failed romance, and an illicit affair. When Jan finds herself attracted to Ace, a gangster and client of her father's, she must decide between choosing love and what is best for her father. In this role, Norma embodies a young woman torn between love and criminality or the law and her daughterly concern for her father.
Image

Emma (1932)

Starring: Marie Dressler

Genre: Comedy-Drama
Academy Award Nomination

In another of Marie Dressler's fierce yet motherly roles, she plays the titular Emma, an aging housekeeper to the Smith family. Written by Frances Marion, the film follows Emma as she becomes elopes with the father of the family, who dies shortly thereafter. When the spoiled Smith children accuse Emma of manipulating their father for his money, she must prove her innocence with the help of her favourite and the only of the children to believe her innocence, Ronnie. Marie embodies the selfless, motherly Emma wonderfully, creating a character who is sympathetic and engaging to watch.
Image

Romeo & Juliet (1936)

Starring: Norma Shearer

Genre: Tragedy/Drama
Academy Award Nomination

In this adaptation of Shakespeare's classic tragedy, Norma plays Juliet Capulet, the star-crossed lover of Romeo. When a family conflict between Romeo and Juliet's families gets in the way of their love, they must find a way to escape the strife and be together. Norma, who was in her thirties during the making of the film, brings a youthful and elegant, yet strong characterization to Juliet, embodying both the beauty and tragedy of the character.