Alfred Lunt received his only Oscar nomination for portraying the actor in the Guardsman.
Alfred Lunt portrays the Actor, and he portrays him basically as a big ham. An actor who is a bit into his own acting ability, and constantly acts just like he does on stage. He makes big emotional gestures, talks loudly in his booming voice, and makes some big eye movements. It is all very theatrical, Lunt being an actor from the theater it really is no surprise.
The pivotal question really is did Lunt know what he was doing, did he give this over the top hammy performance on purpose, or by accident. I would have to say since it is a comedy he never he was being over the top, and hammy, as he was trying to create one of those insufferable actors.
The question is how does his hamminess work, well I can't say it works as well as it should. A better performance of a similar type would be Fredric March in The Royal Family of Broadway, which was far more enjoyable than this performance. Why? Well I think Lunt does not frankly go far enough with his hammy portrayal, and should have really gone for a great comedic performance, but he just does not.
When he dresses up as The Guardman he basically does the same exact thing, he gives an over the top accent, and still over the top eye movements and all that. He still does not go far enough really, to make his performance funny or even particularly enjoyable. I always felt that I wanted more, more humor from this performance, I sort of smiled once one he acted like a little kid toward his wife when she questioned his love toward her.
This is rather repetitive performance, that is never funny enough to be this repetitive. His hammy way at the start becomes even less amusing as the film goes on. Also it is really surprising whole little chemistry Lunt and real life wife Fontanne as the Actress. They really do not crate anything special together, their whole relationship is rather boring on screen together.
This performance never capitalizes on what it could and should have been. Lunt never really does attune himself to the camera, and frankly acts too much to the other actors, without properly compensating that he is not on stage. Lunt never becomes that funny or that entertaining in this performance, it is not entirely bad, it has a moment or two, but it really is a missed opportunity.