Michael Redgrave did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Davey Fenwick in The Stars Look Down.
Michael Redgrave played Davey who we follow through most the story as the son in a family of mine workers, although he's studying in order to go to university. Redgrave is indeed the lead though the film gives ample time to the community of the miners particularly in the opening scenes where Redgrave's appearances are somewhat sparse. In the few appearances we do see him though Redgrave makes for a likable enough lead, and does well to realize two sides to Davey's character. The first being the somewhat shy and unassuming bookworm type. Redgrave has a particularly meek manner and a very meek voice. Redgrave portrays this quite naturally which is very important for what his character means for the film. Although the miners show their discontent they don't have an exact voice, and this is what Davey intends to be, which might seem odd considering how he usually behaves. Redgrave's approach is an intelligence one that gives a certain arc for his character that might not have been there otherwise.
This is found through his delivery of four key speeches throughout the film. In the first speech, which is particularly impromptu, Redgrave is very good in portraying all the passion in Davey as it is fierce and you really feel the emotions that pour into. At the same time though Redgrave makes it tense and sharp in a way that is not that of a natural speaker. The shyness is there in the speech, even though the speech itself is an extroverted act, Redgrave does well to depict the sort of hesitation and effort required for such a man to do this. At this point Davey goes away to University to where gets into vying for the affection of a young woman with the more outgoing Joe Gowlan (Emlyn Williams), the young woman Jenny being played by Redgrave's The Lady Vanishes co-star Margaret Lockwood. Where Redgrave and Lockwood were quite endearing in Hitchcock's comedic thriller, this relationship is very different. Well of course Redgrave plays an introverted fellow rather than his extroverted outgoing hero in that film, and instead of playing a spunky heroine plays a vapid woman.
During this time we are given his second speech in a college debate which Redgrave begins to give a bit more refinement in his speech, though there is still a certain weakness, and distance reflecting that in the moment Davey is not in the presence of the people he wants to fight for. At the same time the relationship continues and Redgrave and Lockwood once again have chemistry though this time of a different sort. Redgrave depicts Davey's interest in Jenny with all earnestness, and shows him to almost be in fear in his interactions with her as though he is so taken aback that she is bothering to give him the time of day, even though she's really just using him as a game on Joe. Joe rejects the game leaving Davey for Jenny to fall back on who takes her to his home, which she is not particularly found. Lockwood and Redgrave are quite good at striking up the right sort of awkwardness as her thin personality results in constant complaints and strong passive aggressive streak, while Redgrave so well portrays Davey's terrible state of clearly being ruled by infatuation while realizing simply a resigned confusion idea with Davey on what to do with her behavior.
Although his return home does not work for his marriage it brings him to make one more attempt for some sort of reform. This third speech Redgrave earns Davey as finally being in his element with the passion and power of persuasion in his force. There's no hesitation in this case as he makes his speech, it only comes when he pressed on his marital woes, and Redgrave is quite good in how he slightly reduces Davey to his meeker self when reminded of his personal weaknesses. The film's final act actually forced Redgrave to disappear for much of it as it instead focuses on a group of men stuck in a mine, and the efforts to attempt to rescue them. Redgrave isn't even given much to do in between the lines so to speak in these scenes as he's simply off screen much like the early scenes of the film. He's never really given any focus again until right near the end of the film where Davey gives his last "speech", which isn't a speech at all, but rather a rejection of his earlier position as the speaker for the miners. It's a powerful moment as Redgrave shows Davey's grief and apparent final understanding of the world. Although Redgrave's character is often sidelined, he still manages to give a moving and compelling portrait of a man finding his place in life.