September 11, 2014

Round-Up: Actor 1939

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5. ROBERT DONAT AS MR. CHIPS IN GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS
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"...strip away the makeup and the metamorphosis and it's evident that Mr. Chips isn't written as a terribly complicated character...Donat handles Chips' shyness and transformation from awkward introvert to awkward somewhat-extrovert quite well, and after rewatching some of his scenes I noticed small details that he puts into completely embodying the polite and traditional gentleman...But overall I was underwhelmed...an admirable turn which I respect more than I love..."



4. LAURENCE OLIVIER AS HEATHCLIFF IN WUTHERING HEIGHTS
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"Olivier speaks with the utmost passion and it's crazy how he could make the most sonically twisted lines sound like some sort of improvisational poetry to the ear...I found him to be curiously wooden at times, a vacant visual contrasted against flowery vocals...It's as if Olivier doesn't realize or hasn't adjusted to the fact that he's on camera and instead thinks he's performing on stage...still a passionate and watchable debut..."



3. CLARK GABLE AS RHETT IN GONE WITH THE WIND
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"...for much of the film Gable isn't required to do a whole lot; he pops up here and there to offer a smirk and a smart aleck remark for a little over half the picture...he pretty much owns much of Gone with the Wind's last act, and provides an honest vulnerability that Scarlett never really does...his persona completely dominates his work. I always feel as though I'm watching "Clark Gable"...a solid job, quite an accomplishment when up against a goliath performance by Leigh, but hardly one that floors me."



2. MICKEY ROONEY AS MICKEY IN BABES IN ARMS
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"...the man has an adroit knack for performing, both for the camera and for the film's elaborate stage sequences...Rooney looks as though he has an adept familiarity with Mickey Moran's ambition and stage persona, no doubt helped by his theatrical upbringing. He brings loads of passion and spunk to his work here, making Mickey an affable and believable presence to root for...What Rooney lacks in conventional beauty he more than makes up for with sheer performance capability...A solid, fun performance by a supremely talented performer."




1. JAMES STEWART AS MR. SMITH IN MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON
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For his passionate display of big-heartedness and audacity, good 'ol Jimmy Stewart easily takes the top spot of the 1939 boys. Up until this point, he had shown instances of what he was worth in ensembles and supporting parts, but Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is really his a-star-is-born moment. What he has more than his fellow nominees and what he brings to this performance that impressed me most is a sincere mix of honesty, idealism, and raw, vulnerable passion. He brings the material to life and makes a very cheesy screenplay bearable. Watching him you can just tell that he cares. What's left is a classic performance that would prove to the tipoff of a very illustrious career. 



IN CONCLUSION: a very solid year for the gentleman, though I'd wager that others may like the year a bit more than I did. Donat and Olivier are solid, but Olivier ended up placing higher due to the fact that I just found him to be more interesting and watchable in Wuthering Heights. The same goes for Gable and RooneyI think I'm just about the only person I've seen on the web so far to have liked Rooney as much as I did, and no one is as surprised about it as I am. What can I say? I just really enjoyed him. And I think that Rooney's role requires a certain degree of skill to pull off successfully whereas I don't feel Gable's performance is as difficult to do. I read that Gable outright refused to do a southern accent for Gone with the Wind, which in a way sort of affirms my belief that this is more of us watching Clark Gable than a character he is creating. On a tangent, the biggest loser of 1939 would have to be Gary Cooper, who wasn't able to take the role of Mr. Smith and didn't want the role Rhett Butler. In terms of performances that were close to making the shortlist, there is James Stewart again in Destry Rides Again (which likely never had a chance due to the splash Mr. Smith made), the previous year's nominee James Cagney in The Roaring Twenties, 2nd NYFCC runner-up John Garfield for Four Daughters (who would end up in the supporting category as a means to get more nominations for Jack Warner, which was rather uncharacteristic of the times), Henry Fonda in Young Mr. Lincoln (which is odd seeing as it's right up the Academy's ally...and seeing as the next year they would nominate a different actor playing Abe Lincoln), and John Wayne in Stagecoach (which, while a performance I didn't care for all that much, makes sense as a contender given the Academy's love for the film and the fact that Wayne is very much the brooding, courageous star the Academy went for back in the day), or perhaps a gentleman from best picture contender Of Mice and Men.

In any case, it looks as though the Best Actors of Oscar's first 12 years are now pretty much complete! Hurrah! 

2 comments:

  1. Well this makes sense.
    But who would've guessed, when this started, that Donat would end up 5th. :)

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    1. tell me about it. I was sure I wouldn't like Rooney. And I was expecting to give Gable a 3 but he improved a lot more this time as opposed to when I watched him a few years ago. Oh well, surprises are what make this fun :D

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