My favorite performance of the decade occupies the royal first position in the list below; thereafter, the nine other performances are listed alphabetically by last name.
1. Self-directed in Henry V (1944), Laurence Olivier brings devastating irony to these victorious post-battle remarks by King Henry, among the saddest lines that Shakespeare wrote:
Let there be sung Non nobis and Te Deum,
The dead with charity enclosed in clay.
And then to Calais, and to England then,
Where ne’er from France arrived more happy men.
I especially like, the night before the battle, when Olivier’s Harry, incognito, sounds out the loyalty and feelings of his troops, displaying a common touch but also, when he deems fit, the steely spine of a king.
Olivier as Henry V brought us all “a little touch of Harry in the night.”
2. Charles Chaplin, Monsieur Verdoux (Chaplin, 1947).
3. Bette Davis, The Letter (William Wyler, 1940).
4. Setsuko Hara, Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu, 1949).
5. Celia Johnson, This Happy Breed (David Lean, 1944).
6. Michèle Morgan, Symphonie Pastorale (Jean Delannoy, 1946).
7. Lisbeth Movin, Day of Wrath (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1943).
8. Chishû Ryû, Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu, 1949).
9. Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944).
10. Margaret Sullavan, The Mortal Storm (Frank Borzage, 1940).