Jul 17, 2016

Gregory Peck, Twelve O'Clock High

Won: New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actor (1950)

I’ve had a cool reception of Peck throughout his prior three nominated performances, mainly because his characters have been that of “noble” men who’re more receptive to the things that happen to them as opposed to being characters that have any distinguishable traits or flaws to actually develop around (For what it’s worth, the closest I was to being impressed by him was via his non-nominated work in Spellbound, and for less obvious reasons, Dual in the Sun). And so it’s interesting (and somewhat refreshing) that Peck should end his 40’s run playing fairly against type, continuing on with 1949’s archetype of the ‘tough guy’ in Twelve O’Clock High.

Twelve O'Clock High was a pretty damn boring film to watch -- for a war picture, it mostly takes place indoors and relies on the drama via the film's characters. I think I preferred Sands of Iwo Jima, but in regards to both films' leading men, Peck is more comfortably realistic and puts on a more of a demonstrated effort with his character. To start, he, like Wayne's Stryker, are required to amp up their toughness, to which Peck is pretty up to par, and there are scenes in which he is very visibly effective with the way he orders around and intimidates the supporting players. Further, Peck is at minimum intriguing in showcasing Frank's growing affection towards his men and subsequent unraveling as the war begins to wear on him. That said, Frank's catatonic state near film's end feels half baked, as if added in as a hasty plot twist -- I'm not sure that Peck does as much as he could have to be convincing on that front, yet at the same time I'm not sure that many actors could have pulled that off.

As decent enough as everything is, in the grand scheme of things I was far from floored by the whole performance. Sure, Frank Savage is -- for lack of the better word, savage, and I'd rather have that new side of him than the usual Good Ole Boy a la The Yearling and The Keys of the Kingdom. However, it's still not something I'm deeply impressed by, nor is it something I'd like to revisit in the near future. It's alright, I guess, and so are much of Peck's performances -- but nothing to consider as Best of the Year. So I guess I leave the '40s unimpressed by him. Perhaps his final winning nomination will be what does it for me.


  1. Yep ... not a great performance. Actually, I preferred all of his previous performances to this; but it's also the script here. The character has no meat on his bones so the bland performance is servicing a bland character. I think Peck got better as years went along and gave a memorable performance in one film that I love.

  2. Haven't seen this but many people agree with you. I personally hated his performance in Duel in the Sun, I thought it was over-the-top to the point of being unbearable.

  3. Haven't seen it yet but want some day...what did you think of Jean Dagger or whatever his name is who won Best Supporting?
    His performance in To Kill a Mockingbird should get you on this side, he is really as good as legend has it (though I think I would go with Peter O'Toole)