Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1945: Michael Chekhov in Spellbound

Michael Chekhov received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Alexander Brulov in Spellbound.

Spellbound is a lesser Alfred Hitchcock thriller about an amnesiac (Gregory Peck) who may or may not be a murderer who is being helped by a psychoanalyst Dr. Constance Peterson (Ingrid Bergman).

Michael Chekhov was best known as a theater actor, as well as his philosophies on acting, but he did have a few film roles one of them being this film which earned him an Oscar nomination. Spellbound is not a great Hitchcock film with a lacking lead, and a great deal of dialogue that probably should have been rewritten. Michael Chekhov's Dr. Brulov does not appear until the second half of the film after Bergman's character has gone on the run with Peck's while trying to decipher what has caused his amnesia.  She brings him to her former mentor Dr. Brulov's house to hide out, believing Brulov won't notice the troubled state of Peck.

Chekhov makes Dr. Brulov a big breath of fresh air for the film which was becoming stale on Bergman's and Peck's exchanges. Chekhov instantly brings some much needed life into the picture as the devoted, and opinionated psychoanalyst.Chekhov exudes a certain charm in the role, and flawlessly establishes Dr. Brulov's "credentials" seemingly without effort. Although it most certainly is true that he almost seems to be Freud in all but name Chekhov still manages to not just be some cheap imitation and is capable of portraying intelligence of Dr. Brulov quite well.

He brings a great deal of life in his part as the intelligent insightful Dr. Brulov who is both charming as well as brings a certain weight to his words that realizes the idea of psychoanalysis in a far more fulfilling fashion than the rest of the film was able to do. Chekhov gives an enjoyable turn that livens up the film when it is very much needed. In fact Chekhov effective depiction of Dr. Brulov actually made me far more interested in Brulov than the rest of the characters in the film. In fact what Chekhov does do in the role made me wish the film had actually been more about him.

This actually quite achievement in its own way by Chekhov since he really only has a few scenes, but every moment he does have are very well spent. Even though his character is limited just like his time his performance is always the best part of the scenes he is in as well as really the best part of the film. It is really a great example of a great actor being able to do something special with a role no matter how simple and limited might be as written. It is not completely unforgettable performance by any means like say Claude Rains in Notorious, but it is a true scene stealer.


RatedRStar said...

Chekov and the dali dream sequence r the only two things I liked in this, Gregory Peck was so wooden.

dinasztie said...

I always wanted to see this.

Lisa Dalton said...

When you watch Chekhov, notice how differently he treats each character, physically and in his speech patterns. He uses lots of curves and melody with Ingrid and lots of sharp straight lines with Peck. His use of props as an expression of his inner states is outstanding.