Sunday, 15 June 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1958: Robert Donat in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness

Robert Donat did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, The Mandarin of Yang Cheng in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness tells the life of Gladys Aylward (Ingrid Bergman) who leaves England to aid at a mission in China. It's a decent enough film helped greatly by a particularly winning turn by Bergman.

Robert Donat technically is quite miscast here in his final role as a Chinese Mandarin, and obviously someone who was actually Chinese would have been more fitting for the role especially since there are actual Chinese actors in the film to begin with. Robert Donat thankfully does not play the role in some stereotypical fashion, and avoids putting on some over the top mannerisms that are often found in the portrayals of these types of character. Instead Donat tries to give a fairly dignified portrayal of the character, and avoids the pitfalls of playing such a character for the most part even if he still has to dress like a Mandarin as well as have the obligatory facial hair that is of course needed for a Mandarin.

Robert Donat is always a charming presence and that is certainly the case here. Donat contains his performance appropriately by keeping that manner of a reserved man who has some power at his disposal. The film portrays the Mandarin as a purely good man though who wants to help the various people in his community and even does not mind helping Gladys despite the fact that she is foreigner. Donat while still keeping the stature of the character intact exudes a nice degree of warmth along with it. Donat makes the character of the Mandarin quite likable in fact because Donat is the one playing him. It is often the case with these characters that they are so serious that they are stiff, Donat keeps the serious points of his character, btu brings a nice ease in his performance that avoids making the Mandarin a boring presence.

The only major problem for Donat is that the Mandarin ends up being a relatively simple part. He shows up from time to time offering some support or some sort of wisdom to Gladys, and that's really about it. Donat is good in these limitations though creating that sense of wisdom the Mandarin should convey, while doing it in a way that is not boring. It's not a great role all together and obviously it is very hard to ever forget that Donat was far from perfect for the role for the most obvious of reasons. Donat still manages to give a good performance though despite what ways against him in the part, and does a good job of bringing some energy and life to any scene that he appears. It's far from his best performance, but not a bad one to be his last.


RatedRStar said...

I am glad you reviewed him because I usually always like Donat, I think I may have to see this film as ill be honest, I thought you were gonna say this film was terrible as on paper it doesnt look like a good film but, I may watch it sometime =D.

RatedRStar said...

Curt Jurgens is usually a bad actor, and Bergman is a mixed bag for me, I liked her in performances like Gaslight and Notorious but hated her in Joan Of Arc and For Whom The Bell Tolls.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to bother you about this, but what exactly was it about Niven's performance that pushed it back? Don't get me wrong I'm not being defensive or anything, I'm not much of a fan of him, and I felt that the Oscar probably should have gone to Poitier that year as well.

Michael McCarthy said...

I thought this film did something very smart with Donat's character. It had him speak Chinese briefly, but mostly had him speaking English. However, whenever he was speaking English, the implication was that he was actually speaking Chinese with someone else who was speaking Chinese, it was just "translated" for the convenience of the audience. That way, Donat didn't have to adopt any sort of ridiculous Chinese accent for the sake of realism.

Louis Morgan said...

Nothing major about it really other than the performance just did not resonate as much. I still liked what he did with the fake mannerisms that alluded to the fact that his character was not the good old soldier he acted as the beginning of the film.