Det Jim McLeod

Your Choice For 1940 Best Actor Oscar

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TCM is showing many Best Actor wins and noms this week, so I decided to discuss the 1940 which I believe is one of the best years and all are still fondly remembered today. Choose who you would have voted for with your reason why.

THE NOMINATIONS

Charles Chaplin in The Great Dictator

Henry Fonda in The Grapes Of Wrath

Raymond Massey in Abe Lincoln In Illinois

Laurence Olivier in Rebecca

James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story*

*=actual winner

 

It was quite a group, Chaplin in a dual role as his famous Little Tramp character as well as a satiric version of Hitler, Massey playing Honest Abe, Olivier as the haunted Max DeWinter and Stewart in an atypical role of a cynical reporter. 

I believe I would have voted for Fonda, playing the literary character of Tom Joad the Okie who strives to provide for his family despite overwhelming odds. His powerful speech at the end ("I'll be there...") is what clinched it for me.

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Fonda, in one of his very best roles, and also the movie that should have won Best Picture.

Very close second would be Massey as Lincoln. I associated him with the role for the longest time after seeing it.

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No choice, in my opinion. Fonda all the way. Hollywood lore would have you believe Academy voters felt guilty Stewart hadn't won the year before for Mr. Smith, but you know what? I just watched Goodbye, Mr. Chips again the other night for the first time in a while, and I have no issue with Robert Donat's win. He was terrific. Stewart is just fine in Philadelphia Story, though a little one-note as the cynical reporter who becomes a moon-eyed convert into the cult of Katharine Hepburn's "virgin goddess", unable to see that the real woman for him is right in front of him. He's fine, but certainly there were many other movies in his career for which he was more deserving of an Oscar. I mean, if you were going to nominate somebody for this movie, why not Cary Grant? There's the Academy's long-standing prejudice against comedic performances in play. Grant's only two nominations came for pretty heavy dramas, in which he was certainly good, but that's not why he's best remembered.

In any other year, I could certainly go for Chaplin playing multiple roles or Massey's decent and folksy but tortured Lincoln. Olivier is also compelling in a role that requires him to keep us guessing about his true feelings until near the end. Heck, the more I think about it, while Stewart is one of my all-time favorites, his may have been the WEAKEST of the five nominated performances that year!

But give me Fonda for bringing his characteristic world-weary wisdom and essential decency that he also used to great effect in films like The Ox-Bow IncidentMy Darling ClementineYoung Mr. Lincoln (Fonda vs. Massey as Lincoln! Discuss!) and Mister Roberts. And add to it in this film a certain sense of menace largely absent from those other performances, like a cobra about to spring. We'd pretty much have to wait until Once Upon a Time in the West until we saw that side of Fonda again.

 

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I agree that Fonda gave an extraordinary performance. 

But my choice for best actor in 1940 is this guy:

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 10.33.10 AM.png

The un-nominated Anton Walbrook for the original British version of GASLIGHT. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 10.09.45 AM.jpg

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19 minutes ago, sewhite2000 said:

Fonda vs. Massey as Lincoln! Discuss!

Can you imagine if Young Mr Lincoln and Abe Lincoln In Illinois were released the same year?

The Battle For The Planet Of The Abes!

If I was forced to choose, it might be Massey since he actually makes you believe he WAS Lincoln. Not to take anything away from Fonda who is excellent, but it is more of a great courtroom drama than a definitive portrayal of Lincoln.

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I'm pretty unfamiliar with Walbrook, other than Colonel Blimp and The Red Shoes, and also La Ronde, which I saw for the first time during 31 Days last year. I didn't even know there WAS a British version of Gaslight released just four years before the version TCM plays seemingly on endless loop. I'll have to check MovieCollectorOH's database to see if that version has ever aired on TCM.

Edit: Yes, they have, quite a few times! Last airing was June of last year. I will keep my eyes open for it in the future.

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1 minute ago, TopBilled said:

I agree that Fonda gave an extraordinary performance. 

But my choice for best actor in 1940 is this guy:

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 10.33.10 AM.png

The un-nominated Anton Walbrook for the original British version of GASLIGHT. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 10.09.45 AM.jpg

I never saw that one, I was not that impressed with Charles Boyer in the 1944 remake. I wished we could have seen Vincent Price (who played it on Broadway) in a film version.

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7 minutes ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

I never saw that one, I was not that impressed with Charles Boyer in the 1944 remake. I wished we could have seen Vincent Price (who played it on Broadway) in a film version.

Walbrook is perfectly menacing, not in a scenery chewing way. I think what I like about Walbrook's portrayal is that he's so refined in the first half...when he shows his true colors, it's devastating...he captures the cruelty of the character in a way Boyer didn't quite get. He's a snob and a monster. It's a great performance.

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I stated in another thread I ended up being pleasantly surprised with Boyer's Star of the Month turn after entering it with only lukewarm enthusiasm. I saw several Boyer movies I'd never seen before. I give him credit for wanting to do Gaslight - not every romantic leading man would want to play a villain - and he has some really nice moments. I love the sexy banter between him and Angela Lansbury, for example. But on the whole, he wears me down in that film the same way he wears down Ingrid Bergman. It's a bit (or a lot) too broad. I recall one reviewer saying that when Bergman first mentions Sergius Bauer, or whatever the name is, you half-expect Boyer to crash down a menacing minor chord on the lowest reaches of the piano with his left hand. He's THAT kind of villain! That made me laugh.

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Henry Fonda, without a doubt.

I love THE PHILADELPHIA STORY as much as anyone, and the whole cast was brilliant (including James Stewart). But I felt that Stewart won for what was essentially a supporting role, or at least a semi-lead role. And honestly I  don't think the role of Mike Connor was all that much a stretch for his acting chops.

Fonda as Tom Joad in THE GRAPES OF WRATH on the other hand, his performance in that shows you what true acting really is. 

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39 minutes ago, Bethluvsfilms said:

Henry Fonda, without a doubt.

I love THE PHILADELPHIA STORY as much as anyone, and the whole cast was brilliant (including James Stewart). But I felt that Stewart won for what was essentially a supporting role, or at least a semi-lead role. And honestly I  don't think the role of Mike Connor was all that much a stretch for his acting chops.

Fonda as Tom Joad in THE GRAPES OF WRATH on the other hand, his performance in that shows you what true acting really is. 

Some have said Stewart's win for PHILADELPHIA STORY in this category was a consolation for not winning a year earlier for MR. SMITH. I would agree.

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2 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Walbrook is perfectly menacing, not in a scenery chewing way. I think what I like about Walbrook's portrayal is that he's so refined in the first half...when he shows his true colors, it's devastating...he captures the cruelty of the character in a way Boyer didn't quite get. He's a snob and a monster. It's a great performance.

Some movie critics believe the British version of GASLIGHT is better than the American version.

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Fonda as Tom Joad but Chaplin won the NYFCC Award & refused it?

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I agree about Fonda and Grapes. 

As much of a Hitchcock fan as I am, I'm not mad about Rebecca. I would have picked Albert Basserman for Best Supporting Actor for a much better Hitchcock film that year: Foreign Correspondent. 

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3 hours ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

TCM is showing many Best Actor wins and noms this week, so I decided to discuss the 1940 which I believe is one of the best years and all are still fondly remembered today. Choose who you would have voted for with your reason why.

THE NOMINATIONS

Charles Chaplin in The Great Dictator

Henry Fonda in The Grapes Of Wrath

Raymond Massey in Abe Lincoln In Illinois

Laurence Olivier in Rebecca

James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story*

*=actual winner

 

It was quite a group, Chaplin in a dual role as his famous Little Tramp character as well as a satiric version of Hitler, Massey playing Honest Abe, Olivier as the haunted Max DeWinter and Stewart in an atypical role of a cynical reporter. 

I believe I would have voted for Fonda, playing the literary character of Tom Joad the Okie who strives to provide for his family despite overwhelming odds. His powerful speech at the end ("I'll be there...") is what clinched it for me.

& *"The Little Tramp" shot "GD" at his own La BHrea Studiuo   Same wentfoirhis 1836 all-timegreatest "M. Times" (UA)

Anotherof 2 ikerly reasons his peers never vvited him Best Actor was Mayer despised him & he refusedctocojngvort toi sound  His song/recording of 1941's 'Smle" ion "M.Times": is another all-ykme great!!!

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If I was an actor in 1940,  I would have voted for the actor that wasn't under contract with my studio. ;)

 

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3 hours ago, TopBilled said:

I agree that Fonda gave an extraordinary performance. 

But my choice for best actor in 1940 is this guy:

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 10.33.10 AM.png

The un-nominated Anton Walbrook for the original British version of GASLIGHT. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 10.09.45 AM.jpg

 Anton Walbrook is the fabulous actor playing the conflicted Polish pianist in Dangerous Moonlight AKA Suicide Squadron.

This is the film featuring my favorite movie music:  The Warsaw Concerto by Richard  Addinsell. Addinsell also wrote the music for Walbrook's Gaslight.

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3 hours ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

I never saw that one, I was not that impressed with Charles Boyer in the 1944 remake. I wished we could have seen Vincent Price (who played it on Broadway) in a film version.

Boyer also managed to steal the world's thunder from Jean Gabin's Pépé Le Moko, 1937,  with his performance in Algiers, 1938.

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7 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

 Anton Walbrook is the fabulous actor playing the conflicted Polish pianist in Dangerous Moonlight AKA Suicide Squadron.

This is the film featuring my favorite movie music:  The Warsaw Concerto by Richard  Addinsell. Addinsell also wrote the music for Walbrook's Gaslight.

Anton Walbrook would be a good person for TCM to feature during Summer Under the Stars in August.

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47 minutes ago, Swithin said:

I agree about Fonda and Grapes. 

As much of a Hitchcock fan as I am, I'm not mad about Rebecca. I would have picked Albert Basserman for Best Supporting Actor for a much better Hitchcock film that year: Foreign Correspondent. 

 Swith--You're absolutely right about Fonda and the Ford adapted Steinbeck classic.

 

But Rebecca is a masterpiece that was nearly ruined by Olivier. At this point Olivier was not much of a film actor and Hitchcock got the most out of him that was possible-- Maybe the nasty reluctance of the actor was exactly what was needed for the role.( For the first few weeks, Olivier wouldn't stop sulking because Hitch wouldn't hire Vivien Leigh for the female lead part because she was obviously so ill-suited for it.)

Joan Fontaine salvaged her career with this one and won the Oscar for it the next year. ( She was Hitchcock's apt pupil.)

The two supporting performances by Judith Anderson and and George Sanders are among the best work either one of them ever did and contributed mightily to the brilliance of the film.

 Again and again, Hitchcock would show how to grab the potential of any acting performer and push it as far as it could go.

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25 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

 Swith--You're absolutely right about Fonda and the Ford adapted Steinbeck classic.

 

But Rebecca is a masterpiece that was nearly ruined by Olivier. At this point Olivier was not much of a film actor and Hitchcock got the most out of him that was possible-- Maybe the nasty reluctance of the actor was exactly what was needed for the role.( For the first few weeks, Olivier wouldn't stop sulking because Hitch wouldn't hire Vivien Leigh for the female lead part because she was obviously so ill-suited for it.)

It's funny -- there are some masterpieces I just don't relate to. From that same year, although I worship Kate and almost all her movies, The Philadelphia Story is not one of my favorites. I do like Rebecca, but it's way down on my list of Hitchcock faves. (But what do I know, I think Barbara Stanwyck is the most overrated of all the big stars, though I love many of her films!)

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Henry Fonda has my vote. I agree Anton Walbrook should have been nominated, but I still would have gone with Fonda.

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