Friday, 19 July 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1943: Roger Livesey in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Roger Livesey did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Clive Candy in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

Although I have read some mighty high praise including the words masterpiece used as well as the best film ever to come out of England for The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed by the film. This is not to say I disliked it as it has plenty of good qualities. I found the film is far too long though, and that it fails to bridge its comedic parts with its serious moments into a cohesive whole leaving the film very tonally inconsistent.

The film itself about the military career of Clive Candy played by Livesey and how he goes from a young soldier to a very old general. There are some performances that cannot tread through the strange tone of the picture like Anton Walbrook as a German soldier who starts the picture as a bit of a caricature meant to be funny, but ends up being the most dramatic character in the film. Livesey though plays Clive Candy and is able to find consistency in his performance despite how inconsistent the film can be at times. Livesey is no doubt helped by the nature of his character which is that of the prim and proper British soldier, who is suppose to be rather consistent.

This is a story that takes place through many years, and although he stays consistent as the very British type he ages and does change in certain ways through the years. Livesey is especially able in this facet of his performance. His manner of just aging is actually quite brilliant as he goes from a youthful man ready for adventure to an old timer would is basically retired. If one has seen his performance in The Entertainer this is a particularly amazing transformation as he moves toward and becomes his older self right within this film. This actually is probably one of finest examples of how to an actor should age his character throughout the course of the film.

In all of his ages he is always within the code of the perfect British Soldier though in that he always stands upright, speaks with distinction, and gives a strong sense of both obedience to his cause and command in his own personal will. There are differences though found in the style of man he is. In the early parts of the film Livesey is quite dashing and daring as the youthful Candy. He expresses the youthful exuberance of the man who takes to his task with all the passion one would expect, but with a certain degree of humor and charm as well. He shows Candy as a man at the top of his game as a professional soldier.

We take a rather large jump as we meet Candy as an older man during World War I. Livesey's physical changes are precise and natural, but as well expresses a spiritual change. Although still very proper there just is not that same strength in his spirit there was before. Livesey though is effective in showing as well a change in outlook and personal style. Candy is no longer outgoing in quite the same way. It is quite remarkable to see Livesey change from the man who steps forward in the passion of a young man, to that of the the older soldier who hasn't been jaded but has settled in his ways where everything he does is much lower key.

In the last phase we meet a retired Candy who Livesey makes as that retired general type. It doesn't feel like cliche or stereotype as Livesey has shown us how Candy has come to this point. In these late scenes he is all together quieter, but with a strong dignified wisdom in him. Again physically Livesey reworks himself again, and pretty effectively suggests the manner one sees in a portrait or picture of a retired general. Livesey also reflects the experiences of Candy in his sometimes somber demeanor that conveys what the man has lost, but Livesey still has a passion in his portrayal. It is at its most restrained but as well at its most moving as Livesey shows really what his current cause means to him.

Roger Livesey performance is a impeccably calculated work that peels away exactly what makes up the life of the proper British soldier who can go from an open energetic young man, to a much slower elderly fellow. He finds the right consistency in style that allows him to traverse through the sometimes rather jarring tonal shifts found in the film. Livesey's portrayal of the film is easily its best facet as he gives a striking portrait of the career soldier. Although I may not have always found that the film entirely worked, Livesey's performance always does making Candy likable and allowing us into the mind of the type of character who usually keeps quite the distance from the audience.

16 comments:

Michael McCarthy said...

Hmmm...I always really liked this movie. Definitely agree about Walbrook though.

Houndtang said...

One of my all time favourite films - Livesey didn't give many film performances but he was always excellent

RatedRStar said...

It offends me that some people dare to say this is Englands best film when most people here in my country have never heard of this film lol.

houndtang said...

Here in England, I'd say it was in the top two or three best British films ever.

RatedRStar said...

@houndtang: What would the other two be.

Michael Patison said...

Louis, do you have any idea what year will follow 1943 Supporting? I'm going to our of the country until August 5th and will have limited Internet access but I'd love to give some performance recommendations even if I don't get to do predictions.

houndtang said...

Personally I'd say The Hill (despite the American director it's a very British film) and maybe the original 39 Steps.

Louis Morgan said...

Michael: Maybe 2002.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@Michael: If it's 2002, I'd recommend Insomnia and The Good Girl for underrated gems.

RatedRStar said...

also keep in mind one of my winning requests was in 2002 which will only leave two left currently (1966 and 2007).

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

As was one of mine (Robin Williams in Insomnia).

Michael Patison said...

Here's some 1943 Supporting suggestions. I'm working on 2002 as we speak.

Dana Andrews in The Ox-Bow Incident
Pedro Armendáriz in María Candelaría (he's probably a lead, though)
Walter Brennan in Hangmen Also Die!
Macdonald Carey in Shadow of a Doubt
Charles Coburn in Heaven Can Wait
Farley Granger in The North Star
Stewart Granger in The Man in Grey
Walter Huston in Edge of Darkness
Pierre Larquey in The Raven
Peter Lorre in Background to Danger
George Reeves in So Proudly We Hail!
Preben Lerdorff Rye in Day of Wrath
Takashi Shimura in Sanshiro Sugata
Erich von Stroheim in Five Graves to Cairo
Orson Welles in Journey into Fear
Orson Welles in Jane Eyre (he's most likely a lead)
Maybe a cast member from Destination Tokyo
It also may be interesting to see the performances in the German-language Münchhausen. I've never seen it and have absolutely no idea how good it is, but it has a lot of varied supporting roles, though each role is pretty one-dimensional.
Seeing how Stalin is portrayed in Mission to Moscow may also be interesting, and Jacques Tourneur's The Leopard Man also sounds quite interesting.

RatedRStar said...

don't ask for much do you Michael hehe =D lol

Michael Patison said...

When I list large amounts of perofoamces, I haven't seem the vast majority of them. I really do it so that Louis can see if one of them sparks his interest. It also serves as a place I can go to look for something I may want/be able to watch.

As for 2002, if that's what you end up doing:
Richard Gere in Unfaithful
Hugh Grant in About a Boy
Al Pacino in Insomnia
Matt Damon in the Bourne Identity
Tom Cruise in Minority Report
Tom Hanks in Toad to Perdition
Robin Williams in One Hour Photo
Leonardo DiCaprio in Gangs of New York
Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can
Edward Norton in 25th Hour
Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later
James Nesbitt in Bloody Sunday
Greg Kinnear in Auto Focus
Willem Dafoe in Auto Focus
Richard Gere in Chicago (arguably supporting; I don't think much of his performance in whatever case)
Alexandre Rodrigues in City of God
Leandro Firmino da Hora in City of God (both of these are definitely overshadowed Meirelles' direction)
Sam Rockwell in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Gael García Bernal in The Crime of Father Amaro
Chiwetel Ejiofor in Dirty Pretty Things
Hidetoshi Nishijima in Dolls (no idea about the quality)
Tsutomu Yamazaki in Doing Time
Jake Gyllenhaal in The Good Girl
Nick Nolte in The Good Thief
Jet Li in Hero
Rupert Everett in The Importance of Being Earnest
Colin Firth in The Importance of Being Earnest
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in Infernal Affairs
Andy Lau in Infernal Affairs
Markku Peltola in The Man Without a Past
Jason Patric in Narc
Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love
John Malkovich in Ripley's Game
James Spader in Secretary
Ralph Fiennes in Spider
Shin Ha-kyun in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Song Kang-ho in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (he's probably supporting)
Javier Cámara in Talk to Her
Darío Grandinetti in Talk to Her
Hiroyuki Sanada in The Twilight Samurai

This was a strong year I feel, and I believe this list shows that, as did the quite strong group of nominees the Academy chose this year.

houndtang said...

Malkovich in Ripley's Game would be a good one to review - a great performance in an overlooked film.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@ Michael: Weird thing about Gere. I not only consider him supporting, but the only laudable performance to come from Chicago.