May 16, 2015

Barry Fitzgerald, Going My Way

Won: Academy Award - Best Supporting Actor | New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actor

The Role: as the traditional elder pastor of a church which is facing financial issues, Barry Fitzgerald has the unique honor of being the only actor ever to have been nominated for the same role in the same year in two different categories. It's the first high-profile case of flagrant category confusion; mix that with Fitzgerald's Best Actor win at New York and it's really fascinating to see that a performance like this got so much support from people. I say "performance like this" because it's sort inconsequential one, adorable to an extent but one without much weight.

Fitzgerald's presence in this film is bizarre to me in the sense that he's got just as much brevity in this film to constitute a co-lead categorization, but his overall significance and impact left a bit more to be desired for me. Much like Crosby, I neither hated nor did I like this performance; it's passable and likable and Fitzgerald is as curmudgeonly cute as seniors in film at the time could be, but it's not very challenging or provoking. Let us see Fitzgerald disapprove of the "modernity" of Bing Crosby; now let us see him show us how incredulous he is at what is going on around him--rinse, repeat for about two hours. And what exactly does Fitzgerald even achieve here? My initial thought would be that the accent work is strong, but then I realized that he is in fact Irish, thus making the overall performance a little less satisfying. He has a touching moment or two here and there in the film but it's not really enough for me to deem it outstanding--what's more, I found that he was overshadowed by Crosby, who, as unchallenging as he is in the film, bolstered some performing talents that makes one feel a little happy. As a supporting win I suppose I'd say that I appreciate his performance more, as the vacantness of the role is less glaring in that category, but as lead I don't find this to be a very substantial piece of work.

1 comment:

  1. This, I think, was obviously a supporting role. So charmed by him were Academy members, however, that he is the only actor to ever receive nominations in both lead and supporting categories for the same role (which led to a rule change to prevent this from reoccurring thereafter). I can see the supporting award, because Fitzgerald provides much of the ambience necessary for this rather rambling story to coalesce. It's not a challenging role, certainly nothing that warranted a NYFCC award much less a Best Actor nod, but Fitzgerald's a heartwarming charmer here and remains much of the reason people return to this film at holiday seasons.