Monday, 21 March 2011

Best Actor 1961: Spencer Tracy in Judgment At Nuremberg

Spencer Tracy received his eighth nomination for portraying Judge Dan Haywood in Judgment at Nuremberg.

Judge Dan Haywood is an American Judge who is set as the chief justice of the tribunal who sits to judge the Judges of the Nazi regime. Tracy is the actual lead of the film, although he does not get to do all that pointing and yelling that co-nominee Schell gets to do (you can watch Inherit the Wind if you want to see Tracy do that) instead Tracy gives a quieter performance as the presiding Judge.

The film follows him through his time in the trial, and his path reaching basically to his verdict. It is rather interesting because most of the performances have the biggest moments inside the courtroom but Tracy is almost entirely reactive in the court room sequences. He really does very little sequences and mostly gives the same slightly tired expression throughout these moments.  He has to also stop the trial here and there, reestablish order on occasion with raising his voice, but not all more than this up until his final verdict. In regards to being the judge at the trial Tracy is wholly functional but nothing more.

Most of Tracy's actual moments come from his time outside of the courtroom. He still though is very reactive even then. I would think, and maybe the films wants Dan Haywood to slowly change and finally bring himself to his conclusion in the court through moments outside of it, but Tracy shows little change in the character in any of these scenes. He walks around the destroyed city, and again keeps mostly his slightly tired expression. Now the only thing about showing change, is he also really does not give very much insight into who Haywood is exactly. Tracy nor the film really describe his feelings well before he gets there, or during the trial so much so when asked about it he says he doesn't know what to think.

Politically the character lacks proper change, or even definition, and this is basically true for his character's personality. All I learned from Tracy's performance, and even more so the script was that he was a nice enough old fellow, does not like anything too fancy, but believes in justice. Although even the justice part is only really gotten to in the final moments of the film.

So what does his character come to, well he comes to that the men are guilty of their horrible crimes. He says it in a verdict strongly depicted by Tracy, and then reassured once again by Tracy directly to the reptetant of the Judge Ernest Janning (Burt Lancaster). Tracy does have the right forcefulness in showing the character's belief in justice, but this really just is what occurs at the end, and it really is not lead to in any special fashion. Also it really does not make perfect sense as Haywood's plan the entire time, since he let the defense attorney for the Nazis Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell) almost free reign of the courtroom so much that he allowed victims of the Nazi's to persecuted all over again.

Overall his performance really is only really functional, and actually I do think that it really is mostly the fault of the film which severely underwrites Haywood as a character. His character should have had some sort of transformation and really should have been the moral center of the film, but Tracy and the film barely even realism the personality of the character. Tracy is never bad, and does have a charm but never adds anything to his already underwritten role.

10 comments:

Sage Slowdive said...

Felt the same way - just as confusing as Schell's nomination.

dshultz said...

What would you have given Schell if he were nominated for best supporting actor?

Louis Morgan said...

A four as well probably.

dinasztie said...

I had no problems with this performance. It was quite good, I think. I really loved the film and I think Lancaster gave the best performance there.

Fritz said...

I remember that I really liked him when I saw the movie the last time.

Fritz said...

I think this will be Spencer's seventh loss, right?

Louis Morgan said...

Yes that would be right.

joe burns said...

Never seen this movie, but have always really wanted too! I'm guessing he'll be third or fourth.


What were your thoughts on Judy by the way?

Louis Morgan said...

As I believe I said before, I thought she was good.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree, he wasn't asked to do much, but at least his closing speech was amazing (and it was done in just one take!).