Thursday, 26 May 2011

Best Actor 1944: Cary Grant in None But the Lonely Heart

Cary Grant received his second and final Oscar nomination for portraying Ernie Mott in None but the Lonely Heart.

None but the Lonely heart is a film about aimless young cockney on the streets of London before World War II.

Cary Grant is of course a wrongly nominated as well as under-nominated performer, who despite excelling best as romantic comedy lead, he was never nominated for a role in that genre. Instead he was nominated in a romance Penny Serenade, but also unfortunately for this film which should be an intense character study of the aimless Ernie Mott.

The filmmakers really severely miscast Grant as Ernie Mott. Firstly the character is suppose to be in his teens in the film, but Grant was already 40 at the time of the films release. It is incredibly noticeable not only because characters mention Mott's age, and it just comes off a laughable when Grant is mentioned as going to be 17. His age though is further problematic, becuase it throws the whole story off, since the film is written as a young man being aimless not as an almost middle aged man being aimless.

Another reason Grant is miscast is because the character is cockney. The usually suave Grant is just not very believable as a cockney. Archie Leach really had become Cary Grant by this time, and really he just is not convincing as a cockney. He does not make it anymore convincing through his cockney accent he attempts. A rather inconsistent, and distracting accent. It is easy to tell that Grant is always trying to cover up his suave refined voice, and it just doesn't work.

Being severely miscast does not automatically mean a performance will be bad, in fact some actors show a great range when being miscast, but Cary Grant does not do this in this role. His whole performance is a misplaced effort to begin with, it is not much of an effort to begin with. Grant is most certainly quite handicapped in the role. He is not able to use any of his ample charm, or comedic power in this extremely serious role, but still that is not all that is wrong with his performance.

The character of Ernie Mott should be that of a pained angry, but still an exuberant young man. Grant is none of these things, His aimlessness seems like it would come more from laziness in Grant's Mott than due to his anger with society or anything like that. Grant's whole performance just lacks any sort of passion that one would think should be in the character of Mott. Mott should have some sort of raw quality in the character, but Grant shows none of this.

Grant fails to ever give a compelling characterization because the character really is just out of his range at this time in Grant's career, he really is just too old for any part of the performance. He is not anything special in this film, his romances seem a little forced, because he lacks the energy the part probably needed. His whole struggle on the streets comes off as uninteresting, because of his entire lack of command in this performance.

Grant is miscast in this role, and he never invests very much into the role. This is made abundantly clear by the way some of his line readings are extremely stilted. I will say that I do think he does have a few good reactions here, and there, and I do give him credit for attempting at least attempting to be a convincing street cockney, but still this just is a lackluster performance, that shows little to none of Grant's considerable charisma and screen presence. This performance stands as a reminder to one the academy most obvious mistreatment of an actor.


Tom said...

I don't remember any of the characters in the film mentioning his exact age.

Louis Morgan said...

It occurs when he doesn't know what champagne is.

Anonymous said...

Oh! That's too bad! I still want to see it! Well, at least you acknowledge the fact that he was so terribly ignored by the Academy throughout his life.

Tom said...

I don't remember such a scene where he declares his age is 17. When I first saw it, Grant's age wasn't a problem for me (I think he could pass for early 30s) and I bought into the character; I know 40-year olds like him.

Louis Morgan said...

Trust me Tom the scene is in the film, in fact I went back just to double check and it is at about the 56 minute mark.

Tom said...

I don't know; the movie makes more sense if he's a bachelor in his 20s/30s, not 15. There's the scene where the mother encourages him to settle down so she could see her grandkids; why would she say that to a 15 year old?