Looking back on the films and the nominees now, there would probably be no question as to who the winner would be in this category. Janet Leigh. Her performance in Hitchcock’s now famous and classic Psycho was a career making role. But in 1960, things were a little different in Hollywood.
Mary Ure attacked the screen in 1960 for her sexually-emancipated Clara Dawes in Sons and Lovers. Some called her performance riveting, others called it over acted. Whichever it may have been it awarded her her first and only nomination.
Born in Pretoria, South Africa, husky-voiced actress Glynis Johns was the daughter of British stage actor Mervyn Johns. Her performance of the hotel keeper trying to lure Peter Ustinov to marry her was memorable, but not as memorable as her role in Mary Poppins a few years later and certainly not one of her better roles.
An expert at playing disturbed modern women, Shirley Knight trained at the Pasadena Playhouse before making her film debut in FIVE GATES TO HELL (1959). A bright, and outspoken leading lady, she earned early critical acclaim in Hollywood for her Academy Award nominated role in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, but remained dedicated to the theater. After losing the best supporting actress race for the second year in a row, she wasn’t interested in returning to the West Coast. In one of the best all-time appraisals of Tinseltown, she told a reporter later in 1963 in New York, “Hollywood — that’s where they give Academy Awards to Charlton Heston for acting.” She did periodically make more movies, but never gained another Oscar nomination.
Janet Leigh was Hollywood’s All American girl in 1960, and everyone thought she would walk away with the award that year in Hitchcock’s thriller, Psycho. Unfortunately she didn’t and also she never received another nomination.
Some can say what they want, but Shirley Jones played her role as the prostitute in the acclaimed film Elmer Gantry superbly. Typecast to that point as sweet, naive females, mostly in musicals, Shirley won the Academy over with her against type performance. One of the many female winners that won playing prostitutes.