Charles Coburn received his third and final Oscar nomination for portraying Alexander Gow in The Green Years.
Charles Coburn portrays one of Robert's relatives his Great Grandfather specifically. Alexander Gow is the ends up being the warmest of his relatives who is a bit of a rouge among the family. Coburn despite a rather odd hairstyle, and a fake nose as well still once again proves himself to be one of the best character actors of the period. Although interestingly enough this is his only nominations that is a completely supporting role, unlike his previous two nominations that can both be easily argued as leading roles.
Charles Coburn gives a performance that is an interesting contrast to his bitter millionaire in The Devil and Miss Jones, and the fun loving millionaire in The More the Merrier. This time he portrays a not too rich Scotsman who although has a handsome life insurance policy he is not that wealthy of a man. Coburn handles his Scottish accent in a restrained but effective fashion, and also has certain mannerisms that only add to the character. From the way he walks, to the way he sits all really adds to showing the age and history of his character.
Alexander Gow does not have a great deal of time to himself, but Coburn always makes the most of every time he is on screen. Alexander Gow is an interesting character because he tells some tales about his past that may or may not be complete tall tales or something that might have actually happened to him. Coburn handles these story scenes perfectly telling the story as if it is something that happened to him, but in in a certain fantastical fashion that suggests maybe it did not.
The most important moments in Coburn's performance come from his scenes with his Great Grandson Robert. Coburn is genuinely warm in these scenes. He never overplays the part, and he has the right chemistry with both actors who play Robert. What makes his scenes work well is that Coburn never shows Alexander be overbearing with love, but there is always an honest joy in all of his reactions as he sees his great grandson achieve.
Coburn gives an appropriately fun loving performance here, that is perfect for the almost too fun loving nature of Alexander. There is not a moment where Coburn does not find a way to bring something more to the film through his performance. It is a consistently enjoyable performance of the aged Alexander Gow it is easy to make a role like this frankly too colorful and one can overact. Coburn never does this always finding the right tone, and giving a wonderful supporting performance.