Sunday, 13 July 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1942: Noel Coward in In Which We Serve

Noel Coward did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Captain E.V. Kinross in In Which We Serve.

In Which We Serve is an decent enough film that tells the stories of the men who were on a sunken ship in the Royal Navy during World War II.

Noel Coward does not just star in the film he also wrote, produced it, and directed it along with David Lean. Coward was actually nominated for producing and writing the film. Coward also plays the role of the Captain of the ship who we see grasping for life on a makeshift life boat, on the ship performing his duties and at home with his loving wife (Celia Johnson). This was undoubtedly a passion project for Coward and obviously his way to show his support for his countrymen in the war that was waging when this film as made. Due to this this film takes a very precise depiction of the men to show them all to be good souls who just want a good life which they sacrifice for the greater good. 

Coward's performance is much like his direction and writing here. It's purposefully fairly light in terms of the depth given. Coward portrays the Captain in his home life fairly simply as just a relaxed man who loves his wife and enjoys his life simple as that. Coward brings enough charm, wit and warmth in these scenes always seeming invested enough. Coward seems to frankly give these scenes to Celia Johnson on purpose though, as Coward consistently underplays his role really giving all the emotional moments to Johnson. Obviously the set up was Coward's intention and really it works perfectly fine for the film, even if Coward's performance never becomes all that compelling though.

On the sea Coward is the ship's captain even though Coward physically does not exactly look like a military type. Coward actually offers enough command for the part, and is believable in the role. He also is not overshadowed in the same ways in this scene bringing the needed presence that a Captain should have in such a circumstance. In the scenes of the men trying to survive on the sea without a ship Coward actually is rather could in showing the physical discomfort in the situation and rather effectively loses the usually veneer found in Noel Coward's usual style. Again Coward does not drive especially hard in the role still, he never seems disinterested but always content to be just good enough in the role nothing more.

The one scene where Coward seems to change in this attitude is his last scene where he delivers a passionate speech to his men to fight on and remember the men who died. Coward gives this speech a great deal of passion and you can easily see that the man truly believed these words with all his heart. In that you really see the point of both Coward's performance and the film as a whole. Coward really did not want the acting, or the characters to be the noted thing about the film. No obviously he wanted the message to stand out the most, which makes sense for the time although it makes the film particularly a film of its time only. Coward does not make the other aspects bad though, just very limited and to the point. This includes his performance which is good but ,other than his speech, just good enough. 


koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...


mcofra7 said...

Louis: Sorry if this has been asked before, but would you consider both Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce to be lead for L.A. Confidential?

Louis Morgan said...

I think they are both lead.

Michael McCarthy said...

Boy did I bomb this lineup. I'd definitely rank him higher as I thought the reactive aspect of his performance was very effective, particularly the moment where he sees a man in the water that he's trying to save get shot dead.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

So what are the chances Pearce and Crowe will share a review for L.A. Confidential? I recently re-watched it and I *finally* get why people love Crowe so much in it. He's dangerously close to becoming my Lead winner for 1997.

Louis Morgan said...

I'd say its very likely they'll be finding separate spots in the lineup.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Ah. Out of curiosity, were you planning on reviewing Pacino before I requested him?

Louis Morgan said...

I'm not entirely sure if I would or wouldn't have to be completely honest.

Anonymous said...

Can I have your ratings and thoughts on:
-1988 Best Supp. Actress nominees
-1993 Best Supp. Actress nominees
-Laura San Giacomo in Sex, Lies and Videotape
-Teresa Wright in The Best Years of Our Lives
-Emma Watson in The Perks of Being a Wallflower
-Jane Fonda in On Golden Pond
-Marie Windsor in The Killing

Michael McCarthy said...

Question Louis, is Sam Jaffe a 4.5 or a 5 for The Asphalt Jungle? Because your review says he's a 5 but your all-time supporting actor ranking says he's a 4.5.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, I know this blog isn't about music, but who are your top 10 favourite bands? (I know you've done singers before)

Anonymous said...

Louis, have you seen Carrie (1976)? If you haven't, I really suggest you to see it as I think that Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie are amazing in it.

Louis Morgan said...



Davis - 3.5(She is not anything particularly amazing and perhaps she could have gone darker with her stalker character, but I still found she gave a fairly charming off-beat performance that worked for the film)

Cusack & Weaver - (I need to watch Working Girl again as its been sometime. I recall liking Weaver though who I usually like, and not caring for Cusack who I usually don't care for anyway)

Pfeiffer - 3(I think she's good in being at first so properly innocent then later properly heartbroken, but I don't think she has quite enough to work with to make that much of an impact)

McDormand - 3.5(She's good in giving the right honesty to the part, and giving a properly moving portrayal of her character's plight. Again I do feel she is somewhat limited by the material still)


Hunter - 2.5(They must have really loved her that year because she really does not do much of anything of note in her film. I guess maybe she could have been more of a scene stealer as its kinda that type of character, but that might not have been a good thing either. She's just mostly forgettable.)

Perez - 2.5(Her character's plight is one that you would think one would naturally sympathize with. Perez just seems to throw that away giving a melodramatic performance where all the emotions always seem performed)

Thompson - 3.5(The film belongs unquestionably to her other nominated co-stars. Thompson is good in her brief role throwing in just a bit of charm with the needed passion for the fairly standard role of the do-gooder lawyer)

I have not seen Ryder, and I've given my thoughts on Paquin before.

Wright - 4.5(A part that seems to be right in Wright's line as once again she plays the romantic interest of a soldier in another William Wyler directed film. Wright is pitch perfect for the part offering, as usual, such a tremendous amount of charm brightening up the film in just the right fashion)

Watson - 2.5(I don't think she was exactly the right fit for the part. More than that though I thought she overemphasized almost every line she had as if she was still delivering some dramatic exposition in Harry Potter)

Fonda - 2.5(I felt that her performance felt very much prey to the general corniness of the script, something her father was able to avoid somewhat. She's not truly bad but I always felt she never rose above the cheesiness of her material)

Michael: Jaffe's a five I forgot to change his ranking.


1. The Beatles
2. The Flight of the Conchords

After that I more of just like individual songs.


Still need to see it.