Thursday, 21 August 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1933: Warner Baxter in 42nd Street

Warner Baxter did not receive an Oscar nomination Julian Marsh in 42nd Street.

42nd Street is an entertaining film that is the prototype for the backstage musical.

Warner Baxter plays one of the most important roles for a back stage musical which is the driven director. Julian Marsh is especially driven since he is financially strapped and even his health is in question so the musical must be a success. An argument can be easily made that 42nd Street is an ensemble and Baxter therefore is supporting. I personally put Baxter lead because the central drive of the story is to put on the show as a success, and Marsh is driving force behind that. His screen time is somewhat limited though, but the film is constantly coming back to Marsh over every other character to basically progress the story. We go from every part of the musical production with Marsh from the casting of the parts, to the rehearsals, to the catastrophe of an important cast member industry, and most importantly the opening night.

Marsh is played by certainly one of the lesser known Best Actor Oscar winners, Warner Baxter. Like in his Oscar winning for In Old Arizona, Baxter, unlike Paul Robeson in The Emperor Jones, shows he obviously understands film. Baxter's performance here is always knowledgeable about the camera knowing when to simply let the camera read certain emotions, and knowing when to go a little bigger when necessary. For most of the film Baxter is regulated to a somewhat simple role as Marsh basically just keeps telling the cast and crew that they are terrible but getting marginally better each time. Although it's technically somewhat repetitive in nature Baxter's really does handle the role well. He has some excellent command and you really see the drive in his eyes with every order he gives. Baxter makes it obvious that there is never any doubt who is in charge, and he makes you remember Marsh even when he absent for some stretches of the film.

Baxter really gets his chance to shine though when he has to quickly get wannabe star Ann (Ginger Rogers) into shape for the opening night after the injury of the original star. Baxter is great in these scenes delivery so much energy in his performance and actually making it convincing that Marsh would be able to push into to shape so quickly. One of my favorite moments is when he has her try out her acting chops which do not meet his approval. Baxter is great as he quickly shifts gears and performs as Marsh performs the scene himself to show her how its done. It's great just to watch Baxter perform in these scenes and I only wish there had been more of them since Baxter makes them the highlight of the film for me. These films from the 30's are pretty short though so the tutelage does not last long and before you know it is the opening night. Baxter only can come quickly in and out of scenes for a moment as the film goes from one musical number to another.

The nature of the last section leaves Baxter limited but he still makes his mark in every moment through his passionate portrayal of Marsh's method to push Ann to her limits. Baxter throws himself into every moment and he certainly makes the line "Sawyer, you're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" a classic since he not only convinces you of the inspiration but also suggests the desperation as shows in his eyes that Marsh does need the show to succeed. One of my favorite moments in Baxter's performance the last scene in the film as Marsh here's all the praise go to Ann and many of the patrons asserting that Marsh will taking all the credit without earning it. Baxter's subtle reaction is perfect in showing Marsh's exasperation at such a result but also his resignation like he just knew that it would happen. This is very good performance by Warner Baxter in which he basically asserts himself as the lead. My only major complaint is that the film just should have given him more to do throughout rather confining all of his best moments to the final minutes of the film.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

What are your ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast?

Anonymous said...

Louis, what do you think of Halle Berry in Monster's Ball and Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom and how would you rate them?

JackiBoyz said...

@Louis: What would your best picture of 1933 be currently.

@RatedRStar: What would your best picture winners be out of all the Hong Kong film award nominees for best picture from each year.

RatedRStar said...

@Jackiboyz

1982: Nomad
1983: The Dead and the Deadly
1984: Hong Kong 1941
1985: Police Story
1986: A Better Tomorrow
1987: An Autumn's Tale
1988: As Tears Go By
1989: The Killer
1990: Days of Being Wild
1991: Once Upon a Time in China
1992: 92 Legendary La Rose Noire
1993: C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri
1994: Chungking Express
1995: Fallen Angels
1996: Big Bullet
1997: Made in Hong Kong
1998: The Longest Summer
1999: The Mission
2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2001: Lan Yu
2002: Infernal Affairs
2003: Lost in Time
2004: One Nite in Mongkok
2005: Election
2006: Exiled
2007: Mad Detective
2008: Red Cliff
2009: Bodyguards and Assassins
2010: The Stool Pigeon
2011: Let The Bullets Fly
2012: The Bullet Vanishes
2013: Unbeatable

Michael Patison said...

RatedRStar: What are your thoughts on the following Hong Kong Film Award Best Film nominees?:
Police Story
All About Ah-Long
Once Upon a Time in China
Crime Story
Ashes of Time
Made in Hong Kong (if you have it over Happy Together then you must really like it)
In the Mood for Love
Shaolin Soccer
Hero
Infernal Affairs II & III
Kung Fu Hustle
One Nite in Mongkok
Election
Curse of the Golden Flower
Ip Man
Red Cliff

And the following directors?:
John Woo
Wong Kar-wai
Ann Hui
Mabel Cheung
Johnnie To (I'm pretty sure you said he was your favorite, but what exactly do you like about his stuff?)
Zhang Yimou
Wai Ka-fai (Has he ever done anything not with Johnnie To, and if so is it any good?)
Derek Yee

And what are your top 3 performances (with ratings) for the following actors and actresses? I would have said 5 performances, but then I listed tons. You can include thoughts wherever you want:
Chow Yun-fat
Leslie Cheung
Jackie Chan
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai
Tony Leung Ka-fai
Stephen Chow
Andy Lau
Eric Tsang
Anthony Wong
Sonny Chiba (excluding Kill Bill, of course)
Sean Lau
Jet Li
Liu Ye
Jiang Wen
Sylvia Chang
Cecilia Yip
Deannie Yip
Maggie Cheung
Gong Li
Joan Chen
Michelle Yeoh
Zhang Ziyi
Carina Lau
Tang Wei
Carrie Ng
Zhao Wei
Jacky Cheung
Donnie Yen
Lam Suet
Alex Fong
Nicholas Tse

I'm sorry if some of the actors are ones you said you didn't like. If any of them are, feel free to just say that and not list anything (except Jackie Chan, I want to see his).

I know that's a ton, so you can split them up however you want and you can write as much or as little as you want. I also apologize to everyone else in the thread for taking up so much space.

Alternatively, you can FB message it all to me.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Daniels - 4(I rather liked her performance as she brought the right star quality to the role while being rather endearing, but at the same time still conveyed the right sort of exasperation to suggest that her character was pretty much at her wits end)

Brent - 2.5(His chemistry with Daniels was okay but for the most part his performance was fairly forgettable)

Powell - 2.5(He was slightly charming but nothing about his performance did anything to really make his character stand out)

Kibbee - 3(He was probably a tad over the top but I thought enjoyable so. He really brought the relish to the role of a particularly skeevy financier. Showing just how low his character was but keeping in with the light tone of film)

Rogers - 3(She really does not get to do much until the finale, but she does make you see the star in her when it is needed)

Merkel - 3(She's entertaining enough in the role of the particularly intense and unwavering cynic)

Berry - 3(She has good moments within the film when she is being quiet. In her big Oscary scenes though I thought her performance became too obvious and while like a performance. Her character rightfully should have been a pretty intense character, she has the right idea she doesn't execute particularly well)

Spacek - 5(An exceptional performance. She is so warm and heartfelt in the opening moments. Then when the tragedy occurs Spacek is heartbreaking in portrayal of grief, but also incredibly compelling in how she turns it into a certain passive aggression in her character. She builds it perfectly and when her character has her great outburst at the end it is wholly earned by Spacek)

Jackiboyz:

Out of the Nominees: 42nd Street

Out of the Year: King Kong

RatedRStar said...

oh god Michael lol haha =D, ill start with the best film nominees

Police Story (I would say its my favorite Jackie Chan film and performance as it does manage to have decent comedy but also terrific action, it helps that Chan himself is on top form and gives surprising weight to the hatred his character has of the main villain)

All About Ah-Long (Chow Yun Fat is always great, and he does give a charming enough performance, despite weird hair lol, the film itself is very melodramatic and baity, also the child actor is shit, also, Yun Fat won the HK award for best actor, but he actually should have won for two much better roles in the same year, as the cool badass in The Killer, and as a smug gambler in God of Gamblers)

Once Upon ( 1991 is probably the weakest year for me and its best picture winner is a joke, I did still enjoy this well enough, it has terrific action and a great musical score, the only problem is that Jet Li can be hit or miss at times, Jacky Cheung is bland also)

Crime Story (It is interesting to see Jackie Chan tackle a serious action film, but I dont think it works too well, Chan isnt great at doing heavy dramatics, the action is pretty standard, Jackie Chan unfortunately overacts a fair amount and lacks that charm that he usually has, also the fact that the film is so grim makes me wonder why Chan was chosen for the role, his best actor nomination is just odd, just like most of his 10 that he got, at least its not as bad as New Police Story)

Ashes of Time (I enjoyed it very much, it has a great cast, I never read the novel, the minor problem is that its heroism is perhaps a bit too glorified lol, its directed with a nice pace by Wong Kar Wai)

Made In HK (I did enjoy Happy Together very much, but, I enjoyed this even more, its directed with a brutal edge by Fruit Chan despite this being very cheaply made,, Sam Lee in his debut is amazing as a arrogant teenager who wants to join the mob and suddenly turns into a fully grown 3 dimensional person over the course of his bad and good actions, he won the best newcomer award and should have been nominated for best actor)

In The Mood (I find this film more interesting than effective, it certainly has great acting and a wonderful look, but there is something missing? and I am not sure what it is, a lack of soul perhaps?)

Shaolin Soccer (This is not quite Stephen Chows best film, but its still very entertaining, Chow is very likable and always good at acting and directs the film with a very fun over the top style with hilariously awful special effects lol, the only problem I have is with its acting awards, it should not have won Best Supporting Actor, and Chow as good as he was, should have been beaten by one of the two Lan Yu leads)

Hero (I think the martial arts are great, it has a great look, Jet Li is fine, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung are very good, but the story is a bit bland)

Infernal II (It is a surprisingly good prequel to the original, it isnt perfect, the two leads cannot replace Andy Lau and Tony Leung as they are too bland, but the supporting cast is mainly great (Anthony Wong ,Francis Ng, Liu Kai Chi, Roy Cheung and Eric Tsang) whereas Chapman To is terrible and Hu Jun is just bland.

I havent seen Infernal Affairs III yet

Kung Fu Hustle (I think this was very fun in my first watch, unfortunately on recent watches I wasn't as impressed, its style can be quite annoying at times, I also think it trys a little too hard to be funny cause I didn't laugh that much, Chow is good as usual but the rest of the cast range from overblown to just annoying lol, another shit Best Supporting Actor winner)

One Nite (This is a very effective but very grim thriller, Alex Fong is great as the cop with a heart, Daniel Wu gives his best performance (not saying much) as a rather inexperienced assassin who is in way over his head, Cecilla Cheung is just ok, she has never really been that good of an actress, its direction is very seedy and grotty in a nightclub sort of way, it is a very tense thriller.

RatedRStar said...

Election (This is even grimmer than One Nite lol, with even more brutal violence, particularly its final scene with a certain HK winner getting his head caved in with a rock, but the story and direction is great how two triad members attempt to become the big dog, one cocky and smug (Tony Leung Ka Fai who deserved his award win, and the other a honorable and sneaky man (Simon Yam in his best nominated performance which isnt saying much)

Curse ( This is a rather overblown epic with special effects that havnt held up well at all, the costumes look great, Chow Yun Fat is smug and entertaining, Fassbender of Hong Kong Liu Ye is great as the nervous but endearing prince who knows he has no chance at beating anyone to the throne, but Jay Chou is just bland, ive seen fungus that had more life to it than him, Gong Li is fine enough but her award win is a bit much)

Ip Man (The action is suddenly well done, but the story and acting is so bad lol, I am amazed that critics praised Yens performance, he is so stiff and wooden as ALWAYS, and as for the other two award nominated performers (Louis Fan and Arthur Kennedys cousin Gordon Lam, the less said the better)

Red Cliff (It isnt perfect, 2008s best picture line up was also shit, but it has a great scope, and some amazing action scenes, Dynasty Warriors fans will love it, some of the inbetween sections dont work however with it being very soap operaish, Tony Leung Chiu Wai is dubbed, and it sounds awful which makes his award nomination even stranger, I also think it is a bit too 1 sided on who the good guys are and the bad guys even though there really werent any bad or good guys in this war)


I might as well post it on the blog just in case anyone was interested but I doubt it lol

RatedRStar said...

@Michael: The Directors

John Woo ( I do enjoy his films very much I think his older films are much better than his newer ones, maybe because he didnt have that giant iconic name to him when he was making great thrillers in the 1980s and early 90s)

Wong Kar Wai (His films always have a great style to them, some people might find them distracting in Chungking and The Grandmaster, but I think they work, his storytelling skills arent quite as good but he is solid enough, depends on the film)

Ann Hui (I think she is one of the more overrated directors, most of her films are usually either completely overblown in terms of heavy handedness (Night and Fog) or completely workmanlike (Ordinary Heroes), her films arent really bad as such as I liked A Simple Life and Life of My Aunt)

Mabel Cheung (An Autumns Tale is a wondeful film, but apart from that all of here other films are just too damn corny and sentimental, City of Glass is one of the worst nominated films ive ever seen)

Johnnie To (He is my favorite, he always manages to create great thrillers that are all fun and filled with great set pieces that are classic spectacles, as well as getting the best out of his actors, so many of my favorite actors have worked with him.

Zhang Yimou (His films are usually directed well with a great style and choreography, but I wish his storytelling skills were a bit better, I think he would work better as art director or cinematographer for his films and let someone else handle the rest)

Wai Ka Fai (the only Johnnie To less film I saw him direct was Written By, which had To regular Sean Lau which of course meant there was some goodness in the film, the film itself a bit corny and not really worth it, the child actors are terrible, he could probably do a good thriller on his own not a fantasy film however)

Derek Yee (He has done some great films, but his last couple of films (Protege onwards) have been a disappointment, but he is good with actors and it makes me happy to see underrated Alex Fong get 2 of his nominations which he should have won,both from Yees films lol)

RatedRStar said...

I will do the actors/actresses when Louis posts the next review so it doesnt become too crowded and hard to read, plus I am going to bed now so lol.

RatedRStar said...

Also Michael, I thought you might have been more surprised that The Longest Summer was my 1998 choice, despite Beast Cops and The Longest Nite (2 of my winning requests ) being nominated for best picture also lol.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Anyone else seen "A Dame to Kill For"? It is pretty disappointing (especially since I loved the first film). Brolin and Rourke are pretty solid, Eva Green and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are by far the standouts as they make their line readings both naturalistic as well as delivering knockout performances, Dennis Haysbert and Christophers Meloni and Lloyd are fine. Everyone else is downright AWFUL.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

As someone who hated everything not named Mickey Rourke in the first Sin City, I have little interest in seeing the new one. I will say JGL as a noir character is right at home for him, though. Plus Eva Green scenery chewing is always welcome.

JackiBoyz said...

@RatedRStar: After you have done Michaels request could you do your choices of Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor out of the nominees at the HK awards.

RatedRStar said...

@JackiBoyz: Ye sure

Anonymous said...

@RaterRStar, what are the female performances that would get a five from you?

RatedRStar said...

@Anonymous: How do you mean, as in Hong Kong performances or English language performances?

Anonymous said...

English language :) But you can also include Hong Kong performances, it would be interesting!

Anonymous said...

Louis, what are your thoughts on Rod Steiger and Charles Laughton as actors? Dunno why but I've begun to view them as transatlantic equivalents of one another

RatedRStar said...

@Anonymous: There aren't really many Hong Kong ones that would get a 5 im afraid, as for English language there might be some that I might have forgotten about as there are many many;

Claudette Colbert - It Happened One Night
Irene Dunne - The Awful Truth
Vivien Leigh - Gone with the Wind
Judy Garland - The Wizard of Oz
Joan Fontaine - Rebecca
Barbara Stanwyck - Double Indemnity
Gene Tierney - Leave Her to Heaven
Celia Johnson - Brief Encounter
Ingrid Bergman - Notorious
Olivia de Havilland - The Heiress
Bette Davis - All About Eve
Gloria Swanson - Sunset Boulevard
Eleanor Parked - Caged
Vivien Leigh - A Streetcar Named Desire
Shelley Winters - A Place in the Sun
Anna Magnani - The Rose Tattoo
Simone Signoret - Room at the Top
Anne Bancroft - The Miracle Worker
Kim Stanley - Seance on a Wet Afternoon
Samantha Eggar - The Collector
Simone Signoret - Ship of Fools
Elizabeth Taylor - Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Ill stop there but there are many more.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

I can see some of their equivalency and their specialty was not always quiet performances. When they are good they are great giving some fantastic performances each. When they are not great usually Laughton is still good as his simple flamboyance can often carry it for him. Steiger though can sometimes go a little too over the top, and fall into full blown ham at his very worst.