July 31, 2014

Round-up: Actor 1930-1931


For some reason I didn't hate Richard Dix's performance as much as everyone else on my initial viewing, and admittedly it does feel strange giving him 3 statues given the disdain that his performance seems to summon. Upon re-watching some major scenes of his to refresh my memory, certain moments were cringeworthy enough for me to reevaluate my feelings for him. Ultimately, I realized that I was neither passionately for nor passionately against changing his mark--I'm somewhere right in the middle, and I guess that's essentially what a 3 is, and so I guess I'll keep it at that. He's adequate at what he's supposed to do...far from amazing work, but sufficient enough that I can't really deem it as awful.


Little Jackie Cooper comes in fourth, which almost doesn't seem right either because I liked Cooper pretty much exactly as much as my number three. Ultimately the tiebreaker came down to technique, and as much as I enjoyed watching Cooper cutesy it up for over an hour, I didn't think he had much to offer by way of immersing into his character, nor did it really feel like he worked as hard as my number three. It's still an amusing little performance which is highly watchable and a hell of a lot better than many other child performances.


Like Dix, my appreciation for Barrymore's performance ended up being considerably less than on my initial viewing. Barrymore's tics became all the more glaring and the part was much smaller than I had remembered. Still, I thought that Barrymore had some great heartfelt moments, namely the scenes in which he is suffering from withdrawals from being freshly off the bottle. It's scenes like that which gave him the upper hand between a fourth and third placing, only because these moments were much more profound than anything Cooper could have achieved and could only be delivered by an actor with more experience and skill.


I was having quite a crisis for about a day because I could not figure out who to place second and who to give my win. I really enjoyed Menjou's Walter Burns, and there's a slight chance that I may one day change my mind on this placing, but for now he nabs the runner-up spot. Walter is so funny and heinous, which is normally just right up my alley in terms of what I enjoy in a character. But what kept him from the win was my realization that I liked this performance more so because of the material as opposed to the actual thespian behind the material. I think that any actor with a strong voice, good comedic timing, and a tough persona could have made a fun performance out of Walter, and I didn't feel that Menjou dug deep enough to really make the character his own. It's good bitchy fun nonetheless, just not as transcendent as I'd have liked.


And with that, Fredric March takes the top spot out of this year's resilient batch of contenders. It's the opposite case from Menjou really; March is just as funny, but he takes it up a notch by transforming himself into a psychotic, zany, colorful character. His Tony Cavendish is nothing like his Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde or his Norman Maine. He clearly studied up on John Barrymore's mannerisms and did his best to emulate the man's mad style of acting, in turn creating a performance that's stirring, pure fun. I wondered for a while if the smaller size of his role should be a factor in deciding whether or not he got the win, and in this case I feel that it's not important. That's because Tony is sort of like a sweet treat...moderation is important. Too much of Tony and his craziness may take a toll on you. March steals every scene and brightens up the film whenever he's around, and there's a noticeable lapse in delight when he's gone. A gripping performance that grabs your attention and doesn't let go--isn't that what a deserving win is all about?

IN CONCLUSION: Kind of a strange year--we have performances from an epic, a melodrama, and three(!!) comedies. We have nominees ranging from ages 9 through 53. Three of these men--my top three for that matter--are pretty much turning in supporting performances, and if it were present day you know Barrymore, Menjou, and March would be placed in supporting without any hesitation. Further, it was an uncharacteristically tough year for me to rank--as I mentioned, I liked Cooper and Barrymore practically equally, and March just barely nabbed the top spot from Menjou after much reflection...though I suppose it helped that I've become such a crazy March fanboy. In terms of other nominees, March is said to be noteworthy in Honor Among Lovers, I've heard Emil Jannings is pretty great in The Blue Angel, and James Cagney in The Public Enemy as well as Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar were said to be in the mix, though they probably were omitted from the shortlist due to the controversy surrounding the violent content of their films.

So with that, my Special Summertime Sausagefest Blogathon comes to an end! I for one am exhausted not only by the deadlines I've been forcing on myself over the last month but also due to my being entirely fed up with blogging on dudes only. I'm toying with the thought of revisiting 1927-1930 next summer for a Special Summertime Snatchfest Blogathon so I can give the ladies of Oscar's first three years their rightful individual posts, but as of now I am drained and in no condition to deal with 17(!!) more films. The task at hand is to venture onwards to 1939 and to close out the 1930s once and for all!


  1. If we look at the average of Oscars you've awarded, it's quite a year for this category!
    Wouldn't have expected from such early performances, I admit.

    great work.
    You make me want to watch just a bit more Fredric March movies, at least for eye-candy delight. :) unfortunately what I got familiar with was The Best Years of Our Lives, which I found rather overrated (though March was good). So he's won 2 Oscar years for you by now, right?

    1. Thanks :D I was thinking that too! Though I would say Barrymore and Cooper are low fours (kind of like a 3.5).

      Oh god, don't get me started on March. I've been making it a habit to watch a ton of his '30's movies, if only for the excuse to stare at him. Even if I don't like the film or his performance he's handsome enough that it doesn't matter. But if you haven't already, I would start with Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde :) And I can give you Royal Family if you want. But yeah, he's my first two-time winner for the guys!!