Saturday, 23 April 2011

Best Actor 1940: James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story

James Stewart won an Oscar from his second nomination for portraying tabloid journalist Macaulay 'Mike' Connor in The Philadelphia Story.

The Philadelphia Story is of course a film of romantic hijinks about a divorced couple (Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn), her impending marriage to someone else, some snooping tabloid journalists, as well as some crazy family members.

James Stewart is an actor that I usually enjoy very much, as he can be a both a very charming screen presence, and a powerful one as well. Here as Macaulay Connor I really just could not really enjoy his performance very much. In particular his opening scenes in the film where he questions the degrading job of snooping in on people's private lives.

In these early moments I really felt Stewart was simply just unpleasant. He seemed to have no joy at all in his performance, as he shows Connor being annoyed by his job and the Socialites' way of life. Now he obviously did need to show some consternation in his performance, but he could have had a little bit fun with being annoyed, but instead I felt like Stewart himself did not want to be playing the part.

Stewart stops being perpetually annoyed though when Mike becomes quickly in love with the soon to be married Tracy Lord(Katharine Hepburn). Frankly I did not entirely believe his instant infatuation on his part, yes Hepburn has the right hard to resist charm but Stewart just did no make me believe his entirely head over heals fall for her.

Stewart in the romantic scenes does finally get to show some of his Stewart charm, but frankly it does not seem to be as charming as he usual is. He still is charming and makes the scenes with Hepburn nice enough, but he never really reaches his level of charm he does in his best roles such as in It's A Wonderful Life, or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Also in his screwball scenes, particularly his big one with Cary Grant, Stewart shows a certian lack of comfort in his performance. I will give credit to Stewart for trying, trying very hard, and possibly succeeding a little bit, but everything he tries to do to make the scene seem crazy, seem a little bit forced, since he never becomes comfortable enough in his performance or the scene. That is how I really felt about his whole performance. Overall he is fine, but lacking especially for Stewart who can usually be great. This is one of the best examples of the right actor winning an Oscar but for the wrong role.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with almost everything, although I would give him at least 3,5.