Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1936: Spencer Tracy in Fury

Spencer Tracy did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Joe Wilson in Fury.

Fury is a heavy handed although not entirely ineffective film about a man seeking revenge after almost being killed by a lynch mob for a crime he did not commit.

Spencer Tracy plays the role of Joe Wilson who in the first scenes of the film we just meet as a well average Joe. We meet him as Tracy is likable and charming enough in portraying Joe who just wants to live his life. He has a nice enough chemistry with Sylvia Sydney as his fiancee Katherine, and really his biggest issue is telling his brothers to stay a lawful course in passionate way. Eventually Joe is arrested on a misunderstanding and gossip spreads that he must behind a kidnapping. Tracy is effective enough in these scenes in simply portraying the simple confusion as Joe attempts to deal with accusations against him. Eventually things become even worse when the town gets riled up and the lynch mob decides to take justice into their own hands. Tracy is fairly moving in the simple scenes of him screaming for his life. There's an especially poignant moment from Tracy as he embraces his dog as though it is the last living thing he's going to interact with.

Well that's when everything takes a downturn as the police station burns down to the ground and apparently Joe along with it. Well that's not the case for Joe who manages to survive just barely although he only informs this fact to his brothers for them to prosecute the mob that tried to kill him. Well Tracy plays these scenes all wrong as though Joe is just really ticked off and wants the revenge as almost a maniacal villain. It would have been interesting for him to show Joe Wilson as having been scarred by the experience which propels him for revenge. The problem is Tracy way overplays the idea making Joe's, well, Fury seem more that of an evil man than a man seeking revenge out of something horrible that was done to him. Even when he hears that things are going his way Tracy plays it up with too much of a devious glee. It ends up just not making sense for the way he established the character in the first third. It's not a broken man that Tracy presents but a completely different man which really loses a great deal of the power behind his crusade.

As is oddly the case with many of Tracy's "lead" performances early on his career there's not a great deal of him. He's not simply supporting though like he was in his Oscar nomination for San Francisco but the film takes a great deal of time showing the court case against the mob where we only see the occasional cutaway to Joe. Eventually Joe is taken to task by Katherine about his plan of revenge which causes Joe to do some soul searching. This is pretty rushed although Tracy at least seems to bring back Joe anywhere near the character he established early on the film, and ends on a fine enough note as Joe makes his survival known to the court in order not to take revenge. This performance does have strong moments most notably just before Joe thinks he's going to die but the whole middle section of his work seems like a missed opportunity. Instead of portraying a decent man committing a vendetta over what has been done to him, he instead makes Joe into far too simplistic villain that really removes the heft of the needed dramatic weight for the film.

16 comments:

luke higham said...

1. Arnold
2. Laughton
3. Chaplin
4. Gabin
5. Tracy

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Can we just admit Tracy sort of sucked as a young actor?

GM said...

Very charming at first, but he overacts in the second half.

I've just seen Come and Get It and Arnold is terrific, I'll be ok if he wins, but I really think Laughton gave the best performance of the year.

Fisti said...

Err. Like, this is one of Tracy's best perfs...a ferocious turn with a believable arc that really sells the finale beautifully.

Anonymous said...

Thoughts/ratings on Sidney?

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

1. Laughton
2. Arnold
3. Chaplin
4. Gabin
5. Tracy

RatedRStar said...

I think Tracy was just a mostly shit actor period, if this is one of Tracys best to some then that is sad lol, aside from Bad Day At Black Rock which is a wonderful film, I have not cared one bit for any of Tracys other work, I do not feel sorry that on this blog he lost 9 times.

RatedRStar said...

@Fisti: Err like it isn't, I would love to hear your thoughts on Tracy in his Oscar winning performances, did you think they were wonderful too lol.

Anonymous said...

Whoops I'll change my predictions (kind of stupid of me to put him third).
Predictions:
1. Laughton
2. Arnold
3. Chaplin
4. Gabin
5. Tracy

GM said...

I always like Tracy more in his performances that nobody seems to care about.

Fisti said...

Apparently RatedRStar doesn't realize that everyone has differing opinions...

And, actually, I don't think his Oscar winning performances were deserved, at all. His performance in Boys Town, while perfectly fine, is just that...fine, and nothing more. The character is a bore, and there is no way he should have won over Cagney. His performance in Captains Courageous was hampered by an odd accent and the fact that he was, all honestly, out acted by his child co-star.

BUT, Spencer Tracy was one of the most natural actors of his time. This is probably why some feel he wasn't an impressive actor. He never really felt like he was acting. He had an ease about the way he tackled a role. This is actually quite endearing. Fury is a great performance from Tracy and better than both of the ones he actually snagged Oscars for. His best performance was in Father of the Bride, where he tapped into the emotions of a parent letting go of his daughter beautifully.

luke higham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RatedRStar said...

Oh I do understand differing opinions being the veteran that I am of disagreements lol I just think that Tracy is just useless nearly all of the time, he is ok in Father Of The Bride but if thats his best then thats really not great. I do agree on one thing though Fisti, he never really felt like he was acting, instead he felt like he was asleep in most of his performances.

RatedRStar said...

Bad Day At Black Rock, I mean that is wonderful, by far his best film and performance, I don't know why he didn't do more like that, and then he gets considered alongside actors like James Stewart and Clark Gable as film icons and he just isn't lol.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Sydney - 3.5(She's fine for the most part but she unfortunately does not get much to do. Like Tracy's she's charming in the first half, and probably does a little better than him in the second in portraying the effect of fire on her character. She's fairly effective in portraying a certain haunting quality that was sorely missing from Tracy's work)

Fisti said...

To each his own @RatedRStar

I personally find him a far better actor than Gable ever was. Stewart is a different story, although I wouldn't say they are that far off from each other.

It's not like either of them were on the same level as Richard Burton or Rod Steiger.

That being said, I think saying things like "he was a shit actor" or that "he sort of sucked" is...well...not accurate.

But, like I said...to each his own.