Friday, 10 June 2011

Best Actor 1932: Wallace Beery in The Champ

Wallace Beery won his Oscar from his second nomination for portraying Andy "Champ" Purcell in The Champ.

The Champ is a film that tells the story of a washed up boxer and his son Dink (Jackie Cooper).

 Wallace Beery I think has one major problem with his performance that is extremely hard to forget, and that is he is not a very believable boxer. He does not seem like he had ever been a boxer, and certainly not the champion of the world. Beery is never for a moment convincing as a boxer, nor does he suggest of any of the supposed greatness that the Champ once had.

Wallace Beery I think has another problem in that he read some of his lines in a very memorized way. He really dials to put behind certian lines the right emotion, and frankly just sort of says some of his lines. He does not say them in a stilted fashion really, but in a fashion that conveys nothing. Also there are plenty of really obvious acting moments when he does big smile to indicate happiness, and a big frown to indicate sadness, without very much in between sometimes.

Another problem with Beery is Champ seems to a be a little more complicated of a character as written than as Beery played him. Champ is washed up because he failed to ever stop gambling, and to stop drinking. Champ in Beery's performance just seems to do these thing, Beery really never suggests any deeper reason for why the Champ does this self destructive behavior, he just simply does it.

His on-screen relationship with Jackie Cooper has been described as movie magic, but is it really. Well I do not think so, because I find Beery does not really work with Cooper a lot of the time, and seems to visibly try to do his own thing to separate himself from Cooper. Cooper who gives the better performance, frankly creates a more fully realized character, and Beery fails to capitalize on this in most of the film, failing to create a real father and son relationship between the two.

Is Beery's performance entirely without quality, no it is not. Beery still does have a screen presence, he knows how to act with the camera in mind, rather than some actors of this time who cannot even do that. Beery also has a certain charm, and appeal in his whole big gentle guy persona. Although most of his relationship with Cooper seems off, he has two good moments that do suggest what the rest of the performance could have been where he shows a real love and care for his son, that is when Champ tells Dink to live with his mother, as well as when Champ is boxing at the end refuses to lose the fight for Dink. Beery is likable enough, but honestly I want to like this performance more than I really do. It is not entirely bad, but I just can't say that it really is good either.

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