July 10, 2014

Actor Round-up: 1929-1930

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7. GEORGE ARLISS AS THE RAJA IN THE GREEN GODDESS
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"...it would seem as though Arliss' Raja is exactly the same as Arliss' Disraeli except with a darker tan and a drag queen's wardrobe. But even still, Arliss looks and feels incredibly disengaged throughout most of The Green Goddess...Thus, the sole character who's responsible for driving the plot and is supposed to be the most interesting ends up being boring. Arliss here is lethargic, lackluster, and ultimately not worth remembering in the least."



6. MAURICE CHEVALIER AS PIERRE IN THE BIG POND
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"Chevalier does his best at making the film bearable, but everything the script calls for was a bit too frivolous for my tastes. Pierre is a very simple character and there's not much there for an actor to really flourish...let's watch Maurice Chevalier smile! Now let's watch him sing a song, and another song, and another song...Now let's watch him look perplexed as he tries to assimilate to the American way of life!...doesn't have much to offer outside of being somewhat pleasant fluff."



5. GEORGE ARLISS AS DISRAELI IN DISRAELI
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"fascinating...but for all the wrong reasons. His is a performance that embodies what it means to be "old-fashioned", from the stiff poses, to the bug eyes and the much-too-demonstrated emoting, to his habit of awkwardly elongating his lines, and there is precious little to Arliss' acting that would translate as modern to a 2014 viewer. It's an old-school style of acting that believes in emphasizing, and as jarring as Arliss can be at times, it's kind of fun in a way to watch such an antiquated technique play out."


4. RONALD COLMAN AS MICHEL IN CONDEMNED
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"Condemned is a surprisingly entertaining film, made all the more watchable by Colman's brand of relaxed charm and well-mannered poise. He doesn't have any particular moments that are noteworthy and you could hardly call the role itself as challenging...However, there is still an inexplicable allure to the way Colman works, a kind of combination of good looks, sultriness, and magnetic charisma that held onto my interest and sort of transcends the simple material and any clumsiness that comes with early talkie flicks."



3. MAURICE CHEVALIER AS ALFRED IN THE LOVE PARADE
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"The Love Parade makes use of the imaging of an exotic European who is suave, drips with sex appeal, and lifts us off our feet...and both the picture as well as Ernst Lubitsch utilize Chevalier's strengths (his good looks, his musical performance abilities, his exoticism) and weaknesses (his exoticism, lack of acting ability) quite well, tying them all together into a performance that mostly keeps pace with an rather peculiar and zany picture. I'm still unsure of how capable Chevalier is at true acting, but his work here is still pretty solid and he managed to keep me smiling for most of the film with his effortless charm and his myriad of quick and witty facial expressions."



2. WALLACE BEERY AS MACHINE GUN BUTCH IN THE BIG HOUSE
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"...that bulldog mug of his can be goofy and lovable as well as brutish and terrifying when the situation calls for it...Beery has got the tough guy type down to a t, and yet there are shades to Butch that make him pretty adorable, like a cuddly bear if you will...unruly and immature, controlled by authorities...he's such a silly, stupid goof that it's made all the more shocking when he morphs into the very savage killer his name suggests later on in the picture...a completely different person, filled with animalistic rage, and I found it to be a chilling characterization."



1. RONALD COLMAN AS DRUMMOND IN BULLDOG DRUMMOND
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"This isn't the type of performance that'll move you in any way--rather it's the kind of swashbuckling work that is effortless and reminds you how fun the movies can be. His Drummond has all the helpings of a magnetic hero--debonair yet childlike in his thrill seeking, cool yet terrible sassy--there was never a moment where I found myself bored by him...Colman stands out pretty vividly as the most contained, most confident, and least affected performer. This isn't an actor or a performance that tries to take itself too seriously nor does it have to rely on a schtick such as transformation or singing--it's just pure fun and excitement that holds 85 years later...easily one of the most enjoyable performances by an actor in the 1929-1930 period."


IN CONCLUSION: Well...a fairly uneven year. Obviously I wasn't able to watch Lawrence Tibbett in The Rogue Song, a film that doesn't really interest me whatsoever outside of the fact that it is directed by the next year's winner Lionel Barrymore. I've watched a few clips of Tibbett (promoted dramatically in the film's trailer: "There are many movie singers--but there is only one Lawrence Tibbett") and...I can't say that that is a type of performance that would score very high with me anyways. One wonders why Ronald Colman didn't win for Bulldog Drummond, especially seeing as the film was a smash-hit. I suppose the board of voters could have felt that George Arliss' showcase of age-old tics would be a more "important" winner. I'm not really sure what prompted the Academy to give these actors two nominations for two different films as opposed to the single nomination for a body of work, because wouldn't you assume that body of work would be a consideration for an Academy member in picking a winner anyways? In any case, I'm assuming Chevalier, Colman, and Arliss got double nominations because of their respective successes in the 1929-1930 period, a shame really because Arliss' and Chevalier's respective nominations for The Green Goddess and The Big Pond likely took away Lew Ayres' potential nomination for All Quiet on the Western Front (really quite perplexing that he didn't get a spot, given their obvious love for the film) or a potential nomination for Chester Morris in The Big House (another picture of which the Academy apparently adored) which is interesting given that Morris also starred in yet another Academy favorite that year (The Divorcee) as well as already having been nominated the prior year for Alibi. But as we ought to know, the Academy didn't make much sense in his first few years, so...oh well. Onward march!

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for giving us an insight on this category. :)

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  2. I always love to read about this category since there are so many performances I haven't seen yet. I loved you reviews but I have to be honest that I don't care to watch any of them...I'm just a Best-Actress-guy :)

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    1. Trust me Fritz, I am first and foremost a Best-Actress guy as well :) My passion will always be with that category. I am however a sucker for a powerhouse male performance too...but I only cover Best Actor because I'm such an obsessive compulsive completist! If it weren't for that, I definitely wouldn't bother watching quite a few of these films...

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