Thomas Mitchell won his Oscar from his second Oscar nomination for portraying Doc Josiah Boone in Stagecoach.
Thomas Mitchell his Oscar for Stagecoach, but he was actually in a total of five films that year three which were nominated for Best Picture. I would not say this though is what secured him the win, since one should not forget that Claude Rains was in a total of six films that year although only one was nominated for Best Picture. Mitchell although was good in Gone With The Wind, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington I would say that he was nominated for the right film, and the right performance here in Stagecoach.
Watching Stagecoach this time was quite interesting in that I almost saw the Doc as the lead of the film. I am not saying this category fraud though, because this is most certainly an ensemble piece, and there is no true lead. Mitchell though for me creates the most interesting character in the film, and the one I wished to follow most through his physical journey on the Stagecoach as well as a personal story where he basically is able to prove how much of a man he really is.
Mitchell as soon as he walks on screen is able to make a memorable impression with Doc. One reason I would say is Mitchell was probably one of the greatest actors ever in terms of being able to play drunk, there is no one who can quite play a drunk as Mitchell can. I say that because Mitchell is able to derive a great deal of humor from his character's attachment of alcohol, without making him seem a clown, and still managing to show the more realistic problems associated with being drunk.
Throughout the film Mitchell manages to give an enjoyable, and charismatic performance. I always found myself interested in him even though the stagecoach starts to get quite full. Mitchell always manages to come through the crowd of characters. Mitchell manages to be effective in both having his humorous perfectly timed reactive statements, as well as offers a greater weight when speaking more seriously about the various troubles of the people in the stagecoach.
His strongest moments though come when he is finally faced with the challenges that require him to be the man he really is. Mitchell is amazing in his single scene where he prepares to deliver the baby of a pregnant woman. Doc is required to face his own personal struggle, and sober up to do what is his job. Mitchell is brilliant as he almost silently coveys the internal struggle that goes through Doc. Mitchell portrays the struggle combined with his growth of a quiet inner strength, and courage beautifully.
After successfully completely his duties as a doctor, the Doc undergoes a change. He is not a completely different man, but a man he was always able to be. Mitchell transition here is perfect because it is utterly natural. Mitchell shows that he is hardly perfect now but there is rather a greater strength inside the Doc that he was able to bring out in himself, which he successfully shows by curtailing his drinking habits to a degree, as well showing an iron resolve in the battle with the Apache, and near the end of the film where he stands up to an armed killer. Mitchell final moments are excellent showing how the Doc has come fully around to be able to stand up what he sees as wrong, rather than just drinking to basically forget about it. This is simply a fantastic supporting performance, that easily stands out as the best part of the whole ensemble of the film.