Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Cary Grant in The Bishop's Wife

Cary Grant did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dudley in The Bishop's Wife. 

The Bishop's wife is an enjoyable and heartwarming tale about an angle who helps a Bishop (David Niven) who has become distant from his wife (Loretta Young) while attempting to get a Cathedral built.

I must say one great joy of doing these alternates is getting to revisit performances by actors who were constantly snubbed by the academy. Cary Grant is the biggest who was nominated only twice, was not nominated for this performance despite this film received five nominations tied for the second most of the year, including picture and director. I suppose Grant just never was the Oscars cup of tea after all Grant was only nominated for an decidedly non Cary Grant role in None But the Lonely Heart, I suppose they figured they rewarded enough of Grant for his performance in the weepie Penny Serenade.

Cary Grant here portrays the angle who helps the titular character finds his way, and bring him back to properly appreciating what he has. In a way you could actually say that his role is an expanded version of Clarence from It's A Wonderful Life, although Dudley here is far more confidant of an angle. In fact he is quite sure of himself as he should be as he absolutely knows how to handle the situation. He knows exactly what to do at every point of time, never failing to fulfill what needs to be done for the good of the bishop or anyone else he happens to simply pass by.

Grant really does portray his character on basically one note. Now this is not in the negative of being a one note performance since Dudley would be portrayed incorrectly if he showed a very wide range of emotion he is practically a perfect character therefore he should be portrayed in a very much contained fashion.The funny thing was originally Niven was going to be Dudley and Grant the Bishop, well that in a way shows what works so well about Grant's performance, Niven would perhaps seemed a bit devious in the role, whereas Grant finds the perfect tone for his character.

Grant uses just the right degree of his unique and quite remarkable charm. It is in a low key style for Grant and does not use it to the almost controlling fashion, here though Grant uses his charisma to make Dudley properly otherworldly. There is something truly special in Grant's little smile, and twinkle in his eye that effectively conveys the wondrous quality of this angle. He does not overplay the perfection of Dudley too much, because he shows in such a quiet way. His performance never makes Dudley boastful or prideful but in a way appropriately meek and quite likable in his style of just being so helpful.

It is not the most complex of roles but Grant is absolutely spot on with his performance all the time making Dudley the likable presence he should be. Dudley never seems like a phony or saccharine character either, Grant always manages to make every one of his character appropriately heartwarming without every overplaying him or underplaying him. He fulfills his role all the way through. Now by the nature of the character he is not an especially complex character, even his later scenes where he shows that he may be in love with Young's character, Grant plays that as genuine but still part of Dudley plan to make the Bishop realize what he has been missing. Nevertheless Grant makes the absolute most of his role, and achieves something quite special with the role that could fallen quite short in lesser hands.


Michael Patison said...

I totally agree with how much Grant was snubbed as I don't think there's any possible way to argue against him. Personally, I have him receiving 7 alternate nominations and winning 4 of them. In addition, in several years I limited myself to just one of his numerous outstanding performances, something that, had I not done, would have probably given him closer to 9 or 10 noms.

Michael Patison said...

Just out of curiosity, what is everybody's favorite Grant performance? Which one does everybody think is his best?

Louis Morgan said...

I must say I don't have a clear favorite at the moment but I think I am going to find out along the way.