Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1942: Joel McCrea in The Palm Beach Story

Joel McCrea did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tom Jeffers in The Palm Beach Story.

The Palm Beach Story is an enjoyable subversion of the romantic comedy which begins with the happy ending, and slowly reveals perhaps that happy ending wasn't so happy.

Joel McCrea is a common leading man to be found in romantic comedies from the period, and is a good fit for the genre although he takes a bit of a different approach than who is probably the romantic comedy champion Cary Grant. Grant usually played characters who were the schemers and his performance therefore tended to be devious in some way. That is not the case for McCrea's characters who instead roped along by someone else. That was the case for his character in The More the Merrier and it is the case here as well. His character of Tom Jeffers is quite taken aback from the beginning of the film when he finds out his wife  Geraldine "Gerry" Jeffers (Claudette Colbert) has decided to leave him since they are in somewhat dire financial straights and she believes they will be better off separated.

McCrea has a very natural charm and takes on a very unassuming style of his performance. McCrea does not go for an overt flamboyance with his work rather staying very down to earth in his performance. In doing so McCrea makes his character's very likable which is important for the role of Tom Jeffers as we must instantly sympathize with his problematic situation involving his particularly flaky wife. McCrea is quite enjoyable in the early scenes given just enough of a comedic spin in his portrayal of Tom's disbelief at his wife's sudden desire for a separation. McCrea, along with Colbert, are quite together because they both really know how to sell the material. They go with the absurdity just enough to make it funny, while still making their characters people rather than just some strange caricatures.

McCrea despite being the male lead actually gets a bit shaft during the film. For a very long stretch in the the middle of the film, after Gerry has taken off, McCrea entirely disappears from the film.The film instead solely focuses on Colbert's various exploits and we don't catch up with McCrea again until after Gerry has gotten them involved with a plot of mistaken identities involving two rich siblings.  Gerry pretends that Tom is her brother as she schemes to marry the rich man, despite Tom's objections. McCrea is quite hilarious in these scenes as he plays Tom as basically wanting nothing to do with the plot he's in. McCrea is very entertaining as he makes Tom's particularly ticked off reactions extremely funny, and manages to make up for his lost time rather admirably.

McCrea is a nice fit for the lead of a Preston Sturges film as he fits the tone incredibly well, and knows exactly how to delivers the lines. Unfortunately in this case McCrea just is not given all that much to do as the film seems more like a showcase for Colbert than it is for him. McCrea may be the lead but only barely so. McCrea still does excel with the little he is given to do, but it's surprisingly little here. I have to say that I could have gone for more of him as I always liked any scene he was in, and I would not have minded seeing Tom's travels in addition to Gerry's. While it may not technically be anything overly substantial this is a very charming and rather amusing bit of work from McCrea.


Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the movie but I definitely want to. What did you think of Mary Astor in it?

Anonymous said...

Can I have your ratings and thoughts on:
-Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge!, The Others, The Hours
-Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Revolutionary Road, Little Children
-Meryl Streep in The Deer Hunter, Adaptation, The Iron Lady

Anonymous said...

Ratings and thoughts on 1962 Best Supp. Actress nominees (except Duke and Lansbury). I know that you think that Duke is lead so they don't compete in your personal nominees, but who would you pick between Lansbury and Duke?

Michael McCarthy said...

The ending of this movie was adorable.

RatedRStar said...

I quite like Joel McCrea in general, kinda underated I think.

Anonymous said...

Louis, do you think that Chloƫ Sevigny in Boys Don't Cry was leading or supporting? And is she your pick out of the nominees? (I know that your personal pick is Melora Walters in Magnolia)

Michael Patison said...

Anonymous asked for your thoughts on Astor, how about your rating as well. Also, ratings and thoughts on Claudette Colbert and Rudy Vallee (unless he's a potential review).

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Hey Louis, have you ever had an instance where a performance you considered a redeeming quality in a movie is disliked by someone who loves that movie? Because I've been having that happen to me lately.

Louis Morgan said...


Astor was a hoot, and like McCrea I could have gone for more of her.

Kidman: Moulin Rouge! - 2.5(She's good in her singing scenes, and okay in her dramatic scene but she's awful in her wacky ones)

The Hours - 4(Actually my favorite out of the cast as I felt, unlike much of the cast, she did stayed a bit more subtle. I felt she disappeared into the role rather well, and I think she, as well as Dillane, easily made the Woolf storyline the strongest)

Kate Winslet:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - 4.5(She gives a nice off beat performance here without falling into the usual problematic tendencies of these sort of characters. She earned her quirky charm completely, and has some surprisingly good chemistry with Carrey)

Revolutionary Road - 2(A performance I find to be almost bizarre in that she's extremely bland yet seems to go over the top as well. I did not care for a performance in anyway as nothing felt genuine about, and not even genuine in a disingenuous sort of way)

Little Children - 4(Basically the good version of her of her Revolutionary Road performance. I don't find that she gives an amazing performance here by any means, but a wholly solid one that meets the needs of her character rather well)

Meryl Streep:

The Deer Hunter - 4(She is certainly overshadowed by her co-stars but she gives a moving and honest portrayal of her rather limited character)

Adaptation - 4(A pretty enjoyable performance as she subtly breaks down her performance from a fairly serious one to a fairly comedic one. She also creates a pretty strange yet oddly convincing dynamic with Chris Cooper)

The Iron Lady - 3.5(She's actually quite great in her old age scenes really becoming Thatcher in that state. The rest though always feels more like an imitation. She's not truly bad, but she does leave much to be desired)


Duke although a re-watch could change that.


Supporting and yes she would be my choice out of the nominees.


I'd give Astor a 4.

Colbert - 4(A very charming and all around winning sort of performance. She does not quite reach the heights of performance in It Happened One Night, but its a nice bit of work from her)

Vallee - 3(Vallee's fine enough in the Ralph Bellamy type role as the somewhat doofy and easily fooled other guy. The best supporting actor in the film is William Demarest although his role's a bit too brief in this Sturges film)


I have heard some rather negative things, while praising the film as a whole, about Olivier in Spartacus, and Mifune in Seven Samurai.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

It's weird. I find Moulin Rouge just as tiring as you do, but we both love McGregor. It seems fans of the movie think he's the worst part. I've had two people say they liked LEGUIZAMO more.

Anonymous said...

I like Kidman less and less every time I watch Moulin Rouge. It's a travesty she was nominated for an Oscar for that performance whilst McGregor was snubbed.

Also, what specifically did these persons not like about Mifune in Seven Samurai?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Probably the histrionics. He is rather extreme. Those sort of performances are lover-or-hate.

Anonymous said...

For me Kidman was terrific in the movie but I can understand those who doesn't like her very much. By the way Louis what are your ratings and thoughts on the other Best Supporting Actress nominees from 1962?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Kidman is okay, her singing is good and she has top notch chemistry with McGregor. She just has the same sense of self-awareness that every other actor has and it can be grating. McGregor has no self-awareness in his performance. He plays the role so sincerely and earnestly that he even makes the campiest scenes work.

Anonymous said...

I've also always liked the guy who played the Argentinian. Broadbent was fine and I actually enjoyed Roxburgh to a certain extent.

I think we can all concur, though, that Leguizamo's performance is downright shocking. The only thing I've ever liked him in is Ice Age lol

Matt Mustin said...

I've never seen Leguizamo even TRY to give a good performance.

Anonymous said...

Louis, what do you think of Kidman in general? I suggest you to see The Others, she's great in it, she actually reminds me of Deborah Kerr in The Innocents. By the way, what are your ratings and thoughts on Simone Signoret in Ship of Fools?

Anonymous said...

As for Moulin Rouge!, I love it and I love Kidman's performance but I can't understand fully why someone would not like the movie, or Nicole in it. McGregor was just as great, though, and he should have been nominated (I can't believe that he has never been nominated)

Anonymous said...

*I can understand fully

Anonymous said...

Louis, I'd like to ask you what do you think of Valerie Perrine in Lenny and what would you give her? And is she leading or supporting (if supporting, is she your win?)

Louis Morgan said...

Robert: Really Leguizamo more? That's pretty bad.

Anonymous: Yes usually it's complaining about Mifune being too over the top, often I find this usually comes in while they are praising Shimura's understated performance.

Anonymous: I think she's capable of being great like in Dogville, and often gives decent performances. On the negative side I do think she usually has this exact same bland performance when the films obviously is not a passion project. I'll have to fully watch the Others one of these days as atmospheric horror is always my favorite type.

Signoret - 4.5(Along with Werner they are the only truly good thing in a pretty bad film. Where the rest of the film presents some over the top and ham-fisted messages, Werner and Signoret create a completely honest portrayal of two troubled people finding some brief solace with one another. The film would have been much better if it was solely about their story)


Perrine - 4.5(Perrine is quite excellent in honestly portraying the various states of her character from the somber tone of the interview to the more life filled moments of her early days with Bruce, and finally the pained and desperation of her character later on. Although the film cares less about her character I actually found myself caring more about her character than Hoffman's because of Perrine's performance. I think she's supporting and although I had not thought about she technically would be my win then)