Thomas Mitchell received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Kersaint in The Hurricane.
I must say it is interesting that Thomas Mitchell was nominated twice, twice as Best Supporting Actor in a John Ford film as a doctor who probably likes his drink just a little too much. I suppose why not have Mitchell is a supportive role as a doctor as it allows him in multiple scenes and Mitchell is an actor who almost always throws a lot of energy into a role. Also why not make him drunk, no one quite plays a drunk like Thomas Mitchell does. Also despite the roles being very very similar Mitchell does not feel like he is just repeating himself in either role.
Mitchell from his very first scene has a serious dedication to the part and brings a much needed weight to the role of the doctor. His opening scene sets the mood as he indicates the loss that will occur later on in the film. Right in Mitchell faces conveys the entire tragedy of the film's finale. His shows a genuine human loss in the doctor's eyes in this moment, as well as his history with the island, a history of a home he once loved, but was all lost in the blink of an eye. It is really a wonderful moment for Mitchell, and it is interesting as Mitchell really shows where the resolution of this man will be in the opening scene of the film.
For the rest of the film Mitchell is almost part of the scenery as the doctor of the strict governor of the region (Raymond Massey). Mitchell basically steals every scene, no that's wrong, Mitchell does not basically, he does steal every scene he is as the doctor. He just a always a perfectly lively and charming presence as the sensible doctor who tries to convince the governor that his strict ways really is not the best way to rule the people of the island. Mitchell as well flawlessly shows the understanding, and intelligence of the doctor. Mitchell manages to make the doctor always the most entertaining, interesting, and intelligent man in any room he is in.
Mitchell does also, despite the limitations on his role, make a character of the doctor who is a drunk for rather different reasons that Josiah Boone. This doctor really is a man, although he knows the people does have some desire for some greater position in life, that makes him drink his days away on the rather limited place of the island. Mitchell shows him not to be an alcoholic like Josiah Boone who was filled with uncertainty, rather Mitchell shows that Doctor Kersaint is really just a drunk since he finds that he just does not have anything better to do. Also it should be said again Mitchell is perfect at playing drunk, somehow he is comical without being over the top and cartoonish.
A great deal of the time Mitchell as the doctor must constantly be the force of wisdom and philosophy in the film. Mitchell does a great job of this actually, especially when these sort of parts can become heavy handed quite easily when in the wrong hands. Mitchell is absolutely the right hands though because there is always just a bit of sly wit behind his jabs at the governor for failing to see the right thing to do. He never makes his passionate pleas or philosophical moments boring, Mitchell always infuses power into these moments because the joy and energy that never ceases in his performance.
Mitchell really shines at the end of the film when The Hurricane finally does strike basically destroying the island. What makes Mitchell so effective here, because like the beginning of the film, he gives a much needed weight to the film but showing a real man in the situation and avoid some of the dodgy acting that can be found in the 30's. He shows the doctor truly go into action in the terrible moment bringing the seriousness of the situation into reality. His best moment comes at the end of the film where most of the actors are showing the aftermath to be bad, but Mitchell manages to really convey just how horrible the event really is. He brings to life this somber man, filled with sadness and pain over the horrendous events that transpired around him. It is in Mitchell's performance that succeeds in bringing to life the tremendous cost of the hurricane. This is very strong work from Mitchell who does far more than support the film, he anchors it.