4 - Gable
3.5 - Powell
4 - Karloff
3.5 - Lugosi
- Clark Gable in It Happened One Night
- William Powell in The Thin Man
- Oliver Hardy in Babes in Toyland
- Stan Laurel in Babes in Toyland
- Victor McLaglen in The Lost Patrol
- Clark Gable in Manhattan Melodrama
- Boris Karloff in The Black Cat
- John Barrymore in Twentieth Century
- Leslie Howard in The Scarlet Pimpernel
- Bela Lugosi in The Black Cat
- William Powell in Manhattan Melodrama
- Leslie Howard in Of Human Bondage
- Frank Morgan in The Affairs of Cellini
- Fredric March in The Affairs of Cellini
- David Manners in The Black Cat
Henry Brandon did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Silas Barnaby in Babes in Toyland.
This is one of the best Laurel and Hardy films as it features some of their best work, but as well has many great elements besides them. One of these elements is Henry Brandon who actually contests for Stan and Ollie for the funniest performance in the film. Brandon plays Silas Barnaby the richest man in Toyland who wants to marry Little Bo Peep even if it means manipulating everyone in the town. Brandon was actually only around 22 years old when the film was made yet he plays the elderly without hitch. He plays the evil old man mannerisms quite brilliantly with his arched back, and the way always raises his head beyond it. He makes it obvious that old Barnaby is the villain, and shows early on that he is going to have as much fun with the part as possible.
Brandon does indeed have a great deal of fun as every line and delivery and every movement he gives a extra evil emphasis to show just how evil Barnaby is. Brandon plays it up to the max, which is exactly how he should be in this film. What is wonderful is that despite being the villain and playing up that fact he also gives a very funny performance in portraying the character. Brandon has this one reaction he always makes to every surprise that Barnaby faces when he is tricked. Brandon mouth is completely agape and his eyes wide open, and it is hilarious every time. His funniest moment in this regard though is when the wooden soldiers comes to stop him at the end of the film and his reaction that time he almost seems to somehow go even wider, I pretty much burst out laughing every time I see it.
What I really like about this performance is that Brandon never settles into just being the bad guy or even being overshadowed by Laurel and Hardy which definitely would be easy enough to do. It is rather interesting that Brandon actually manages to bring some menace into his moments while never stopping with humor though. He particularly combines the menace with the funny well in a scene where Stannie and Ollie accidentally knock off his hat leaving him to lurch toward them. Brandon makes his eyes fierce and determined with the appropriate grimace, yet completely amusing still with well just how intensely he shows that yes Barnaby indeed the mustache twirling villain. Brandon simply never let's the film down in any scene, always bringing an constant energy to the proceedings.
Henry Brandon gives a very enjoyable performance here utilizing each second of his screen time. Whether it is one of his devilish line readings, or one of his moments of great physical comedy, one scene where he takes a broom to the face is a particular highlight, it is just a joy to watch Brandon at work here. The best part is that the part of Barnaby could have been one of the often forgettable villains from the period or just one of those over serious types that are often the villains in the comedies from the periods. Brandon aptly meets all the villainous demands of the part, but he as well goes the extra mile by turning this villainous performance into a completely comedic performance. He goes far enough even to go face to face with Laurel and Hardy in their own film, and he does not falter in their presence.
Well before playing the Satan worshiping architect in The Black Cat he was playing Sanders one of the soldiers in a British regiment who find themselves lost in a desert while be lead by the steadfast Sergeant (Victor McLaglen). Sanders naturally is a very devote man of God. Karloff was a very interesting actor back in the old days as he would give his larger than life lead performances in all those horror films but at the same time he could be found in supporting roles in more "serious" fare. Although many supporting actors from the period just sort of fade into the background usually letting the lead make the only impression if anyone is to make an impression at all. This is not the case with Boris Karloff who makes the strongest impact in the film in his portrayal of Sanders.
The first scene we see Sanders is after one of the men has been killed and has been buried. Before they leave to brave the desert Sanders is quick to remind the Sergeant that nothing has been done for the soul of the man. Sanders reads a few words from scripture and Karloff is fantastic in showing what the words for Sanders. The words to him are most meaningful, although Karloff shows this not to be in the traditional way most religious men would treat the words. Karloff does not express Sanders's faith as something that gives him comfort or any sort of greater pride. Karloff is rather striking instead making it a slightly disconcerting need in Sanders as if he almost suffers from how much his devotion goes into him to the point that the words almost pain him to say.
The religious zealot is an easy enough role to screw up as it can lead to excessive overacting, and often the actors takes entirely the wrong approach. Technically speaking Sanders does many of the usual things such as ridiculing those he deems unfaithful, or becoming more emotionally intense as the situation becomes worse. In the moment of questioning the lack of faith of another Karloff is very powerful because although he does make Sanders overbearing in a certain way so you understand the hatred the other men for him, their is such an honesty in his portrayal. The honesty being in the need that Karloff portrays the strong need to save the others, it is not something he can forget Karloff makes it an intense pull in the man. Karloff establishes it as something that Sanders must do.
As the situation slowly becomes worse Karloff is remarkable in portraying the slowly deteriorating psyche of Sanders. Karloff makes great use of his very expressive eyes in conveying the growing madness of Karloff. Again Karloff does more than just give us some madness though as he also adds to be always reinforcing the faith of the man within the insanity. There is a strange tenderness that Karloff brings even craziness of his character that really makes every one of his scenes something special. Where in The Criminal Code Karloff stole the picture from beginning to end, despite not even being the lead, as the smartest man in a prison even though he was crook, even though in a far meeker role with greater competition from the rest of the cast Karloff once again steals the film.
- Henry Brandon in Babes in Toyland
- Boris Karloff in The Lost Patrol
- Raymond Massey in The Scarlet Pimpernel
- Walter Connolly in It Happened One Night
- Felix Knight in Babes in Toyland
- Porter Hall in The Thin Man
- Wallace Ford in The Lost Patrol
- Louis Calhern in The Affairs of Cellini
- Reginald Denny in The Lost Patrol
- Ward Bond in It Happened One Night