September 12, 2015

Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom

as FATHER FRANCIS CHISHOLM
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The Keys of the Kingdom is one of those interesting cases in the sense that it looks like it got a New York release one year but didn't get a Los Angeles release until the next. Gregory Peck was honored with a Best Actor nomination at the 1946 Academy Awards ceremony in spite of this movie being marked as a 1944 film everywhere you look. I bring this up because the movie basically could have not been nominated, and if I had it my way I'd have preferred that the Academy had forgotten about this movie altogether. Because I hated it. And Peck, bless his heart, does not have the goods to make this film worthwhile.

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There's no surprise that this performance found its way onto the Oscar shortlist. Peck's Father Chisholm hits up all the right bases; a kind and compassionate man who loves God to boot, it's just disappointing because that's about all there is to it. I have forced myself through enough goddamn priest performances at this point and this one was neither better nor worse than all the rest. This only being Peck's second feature film, I feel as though I caught a glimpse of amateurishness while watching him. Or perhaps it's just because the character is written so simply, but for 137(!!) minutes we are witness to a lot of reaction shots from Peck where he communicates how surprised he is at what is happening, and yet there isn't any sort of substantial weight that he communicates when it comes to the heavier, more emotional scenes. He is pretty one-tone throughout the picture, and because I was already bored to hell and back watching the thing, I was looking to him for some sort of reason to be engaged. Unfortunately, this was a performance that I thought to be too timid and virtuous for me to be engaged, too basic in its construction for a compelling character analysis, and simply too uninteresting. Yet another example of a performance recognized for conveying ethicality and little else.

2 comments:

  1. Peck's introduction to film audiences in 1945 included not only "Keys..." but "Valley of Decision" (Greer Garson nomination) and "Spellbound" (Best Picture nom, Michael Chekhov nom and it was Hitchcock). Lots of Academy recognition for year one for him so that had its influence.

    Also, this movie was made at a time when American culture was much more religiously oriented. People experienced a real power from these moments onscreen. I recall my father's recollections about seeing this film at age 13 and it stayed with him for the rest of his life. He had me watch this as a young boy and I can still recall the power of that experience, though my thoughts on the film have changed. Still, there's something to be said for the power (and the zeitgeist) of a film for those who saw it at the time it was produced.

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  2. I don't find myself paying attention to Peck until "Spellbound." Before then, he's just eye candy.

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