Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1946: David Niven in A Matter of Life and Death

David Niven did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Squadron Leader Peter David Carter in A Matter of Life and Death.

A Matter of Life and Death is basically a better made and more interesting reversal of Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Instead of a man being taken too early to Heaven this one is about a man who is mistakenly left behind and forced to plead his case for being allowed to stay on earth.

David Niven plays the man who gets into the most bizarre set of circumstances that leaves him fighting for his life in a most atypical sort of way. Largely this performance is based on Niven's charm. Niven has a charm but I have to say that it doesn't always work, and sometimes can be more obnoxious than charming such as in The Pink Panther. This is not the case here though where Niven uses it rather well to establish Peter as a fairly likable guy. This is not Niven really trying anything overly different here but rather just giving a performance to make it easy enough to follow Peter through his most unusual journey. There technically isn't that much more to his character here than that except for the love story he has and the whole idea of his dealing with the other world that he is forced to visit from time to time.

The whole aspect of the other world is supposedly kept to be possibly all in Peter's mind, although it doesn't really try too had in this respect, but nor does it really need to. Niven for the most part presents his interactions in a fairly matter of fact fashion, which certainly works well enough. The biggest challenge of Niven's is to present the way each visit seems to cause a slow deterioration of his physical state while he refuses to accept that he should die. Again Niven doesn't make too big a deal of this either, but again it works well enough of the film as he shows Peter slowly losing his physical resolve as the film progresses. Again there is not anything that special about what Niven does in this regard but what he does do works well enough for the film as a whole, and there is nothing to complain about unlike the final aspect of his performance.

That is the love story Peter has with an American woman June (Kim Hunter) who heard his "final words" over the radio before he jumped from his critically damaged plane failed to die.I have to say Hunter and Niven don't really have that much chemistry and I never felt anything special between them except for in the opening scene where they speak over the radio. In their opening scene Niven is quite good portraying Peter's excessively cheery and proper resolve even as he's basically indicating that's he's about to die. In turn Hunter's reactions are effective and together they connect simply in the sense of both feeling this loss of a human life together. It's a powerful moment but I'd say the only time where their relationship truly works. Interestingly enough the film has enough going on otherwise that he doesn't matter the central relationship isn't even anything special. Niven as well gives a suitable performance throughout, but he is very much overshadowed Powell and Pressburger's vision as well as the supporting cast.

24 comments:

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

*cough*

1. Marais
2. Andrews
3. Heflin
4. Fonda
5. Niven

GM said...

Ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast?

Anonymous said...

1. Andrews
2. Marais
3. Fonda
4. Heflin
5. Niven

RatedRStar said...

1) Andrews
2) Marais
3) Heflin
4) Fonda
5) Niven

luke higham said...

1. Andrews
2. Marais
3. Heflin
4. Fonda
5. Niven

JackiBoyz said...

1) Andrews
2) Heflin
3) Marais
4) Fonda
5) Niven

Matthew Cofrancesco said...

1. Marais
2. Andrews
3. Heflin
4. Fonda
5. Niven

Michael Patison said...

1. Dana Andrews
2. Jean Marais
3. Henry Fonda
4. Van Heflin
5. David Niven

Michael McCarthy said...

I figured you wouldn't rate him that high. I REALLY liked the film, but I agree it was more about the direction and story than anything else. I rather enjoyed Roger Livesey's work though.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Richard Attenborough has a role in this, I bet Louis loved him :)

RatedRStar said...

Yes I reckon Attenborough and perhaps Livesey could be worth a review since I have seen the film it is really good, please dont let them win lol.

RatedRStar said...

I would like to write a very personal message

Louis I want to tell you something and everyone else on this blog, do you remember the first ever question I ever asked you Louis on this blog, it was back in 2011 and I said if you would review Claude Rains and then you did review him for 1939 supporting, I would like to say, I am very grateful that you have enjoyed Claude Rains work because I thought I was alone in that aspect, because this blog is the only connection I have, to the Oscars, I dont really have any close friends or anything like that, none of my friends that I have back in South Yorkshire in England are into the oscars and films like the people on this blog are.


I would just like to say that, deep down I understand if Claude Rains does not win for Notorious because, because I will still be on this blog forever and ever so long as you continue to run it, and I hope you do, even after the alternate years are done, because I dont really bother with Awards circuit, or Rope f Silicon, because they just arent as good as you, so if Claude Rains loses to Russell or one of the Wonderful Life supporting cast, it wont matter, I was just having fun =) ok everyone, I love this blog its my only source to films and the oscars =D.

RatedRStar said...

I should say, despite the fact I have won many predictions, I actually dont know that much about the Oscars deep down lol.

Louis Morgan said...

GM:

Hunter - 2.5(She's good in the opening scene but past that I felt she was rather bland here. I try not to nitpick to this extent but she wasn't very good in those scenes where she was suppose to be frozen in place)

Byron - 3(She really does not need to do anything major to have an impact as she does so much with just a look)

Coote - 3(He did not get to do much but I thought he managed to make himself and endearing presence nevertheless)

Attenborough - 3(Miniscule role to be sure but since he's Richard Attenborough he still makes an impact. His expression was perfect like a man who really is seeing heaven)

Goring - 3.5(He does the over the top French guy being French, but he does it in a good way. He never becomes too much and succeeds in being actually pretty enjoyable while doing this caricature)

Massey - 4(A pretty strong one scene wonder I thought. Massey's no stranger to making big speeches in roles, which he does well. He was great here though by bringing a certain juvenile bitterness behind every word)

RatedRStar:

Thank you, that means a lot to me.

Kevin said...

1. Marais
2. Andrews
3. Heflin
4. Fonda
5. Niven

luke higham said...

Louis: Your Thoughts on Sissy Spacek, Joan Fontaine, Sigourney Weaver, Geraldine Page, Faye Dunaway, Maggie Smith, Naomi Watts, Holly Hunter, Shelley Winters, Teresa Wright. Also a list of their 4.5 + rated performances.

Anonymous said...

Your rankings/thoughts on Billy Wilder's films

Michael McCarthy said...

Way to be a good sport Daniel! (Even though we all know you're just trying to butter Louis up so he'll end up picking Rains :P )

RatedRStar said...

@Michael: I am really not lol xD

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Spacek - (Another example of why accents is not an indicator of great talent. Spacek is probably one of the most naturalistic performers ever as there is just something so truthful in almost all of her performances. She has such a wonderful low key charm about her yet surprisingly is capable of some serious intensity when asked of her. I also haven't really even scratched the surface with her filmography which is true for most of these actresses.)

Badlands
Coal Miner's Daughter
The Straight Story
In The Bedroom
Get Low

Fontaine - (The classic Hollywood type grace possibly at its best since she also had such a tremendous talent along with it. There such an effortlessness about her performances despite the power she brings to them.)

Rebecca
Suspicion
This Above All

Weaver - (You'd find few with a stronger screen presence with her, but also a surprisingly large range to back it up. I think her three first portrayals of Ripley just shows how much one can do with a single character)

Alien
Aliens
Alien 3
Ghostbusters
Galaxy Quest

Page - (I actually have a lot more to see from her, but the little that I have seen is already pretty incredible. She's chameleon without ever using any tics or even necessarily changing accents. She simply becomes the characters)

Sweet Bird of Youth
The Beguiled

Dunaway - (Although she never seemed to have recovered from Mommie Dearest (something I should see due to the conflicting views towards the quality of that performance), but her work in the 70's is almost unparalleled in terms of quality)

Bonnie And Clyde
Chinatown
Three Days of the Condor
Network

Smith - (She's someone who at least is entertaining when she coasts, but when she really goes further with a role she's amazing)

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
California Suite

Watts - (A fantastic combination of such a genuine charm along with such a ferocity in terms of the visceral impact her performances can have)

Mulholland Drive
King Kong
Fair Game
The Impossible

Hunter - (Despite the thickness of her accent she's proven herself quite capable of such an emotional power, as well just being a rather entertaining performer)

The Piano
Broadcast News
Raising Arizona

Winters - (Her career is certainly interesting as she went from such sultry roles to the exact opposite in no time at all since A place in the Sun was only a few years after A Double Life. What was so terrific was that she avoided making her frumpy characters into caricature, finding something more to them)

A Place in the Sun
The Diary of Anne Frank
Lolita
An Average Little Man

Wright - (Probably the actress I found the most charming as her sweetness she brings to her performances just feels always so genuine)

Shadow of a Doubt
The Best Years of Our Lives

Louis Morgan said...


Anonymous:

1. Stalag 17 - (The only film of his that has only improved on re-watch, the others did not necessarily degrade though, and I already loved the film. The mystery is fun for sure but what I love is the surprisingly comfortable world he makes out of the pow camp life. A lot of it is comic but when something serious does occur it never seems out of place. The tone is beautifully realized and it's just a film I love to watch)

2. Double Indemnity - (The classic version of the average man gets in way too deep for a reason. The film is exceptionally compelling with three fantastic leading characters inside a story that builds its tension in a marvelous fashion)

3. Sunset Boulevard - (This is only slightly degraded for me because I feel the Nancy Olsen stuff just feels from a lesser film, not a bad one, but not the extraordinary film that surrounds it. Everything involving Norma Desmond is a darkly funny yet such a very tragic depiction of delusion.)

4. Ace in the Hole - (I'd say probably his most underrated film to be sure. It tells such a powerful story of the lack of journalistic integrity as well as a literal media circus. When it does moralize it absolutely earns it)

5. The Apartment - (Well I suppose this is how you do a love story which means it better involve a lot of adultery and attempted suicide. It's such an enjoyable film though which kinda slowly but surely becomes just a sweet tale)

6. The Lost Weekend - (This can seen to be dated but only becomes it was the film that had the moments of the alcoholic before they were cliched. Ray Milland's outstanding lead performance effectively makes this film a harrowing journey of despair with perhaps the slightest glints of hope)

7. Witness for the Prosecution - (The Alfred Hitchcock film made by Billy Wilder I suppose. It tells its tale with plenty of intrigue and humor along with a most enjoyable lead for us to follow. Also it seems to be the only film where Tyrone Power has any emotions whatsoever)

8. One Two Three - (Simply put just a great screwball comedy that's a lot fun throughout aided by James Cagney's energetic work)

9. The Fortune Cookie - (The stuff involving Walter Matthau shady lawyer is perhaps some of Wilder's best as it's just hilarious. The stuff involving Lemmon is okay I guess, but frankly he's a bit of a stick in the mud)

10. Five Graves to Cairo - (A good old fashioned spy thriller. It obviously has a couple of the trademarks of a during the war film, but it's still some good stuff to be sure)

11. Some Like it Hot - (I can see why so many might love this film, but I simply just don't find it very funny)

12. Irma la Douce - (Not exactly a stellar repairing of the Apartment leads. It's just a rather forgettable film especially when compared to his others)

13. Love in the Afternoon - (This might have worked if it were not for the ridiculously miscast Gary Cooper who should not have been the love interest for Audrey Hepburn. The central relationship does not work at all, and it does not have all the other great things that a film like A Matter of Life and Death have to make for it)

mcofra7 said...

1) Andrews
2) Marais
3) Heflin
4) Fonda
5) Niven

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, what's your opinion on Toby Jones as an actor? Personally I love him, but like Ben Foster and Casey Affleck, I feel like he's consistently getting roles that don't allow him to show his full talent.

Louis Morgan said...

I usually like Jones whenever he shows up in something but you're right he's someone who's too often given limited roles.