Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1939: Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr and Frank Morgan in The Wizard of Oz.

Ray Bolger did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hunk and the Scarecrow, Jack Haley did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hickory and the Tin Man, and Bert Lahr did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Zeke and the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz, about a young girl attempt to get home after arriving in a fantasy land, I suppose is not one of my favorite films of all time, but I certainly still enjoy it quite a bit.

Dorothy(Judy Garland)'s companions on her way to see the Wizard of Oz actually all appear before she even gets to Oz itself. That being they are the hired hands at the farm in which she lives. Bolger's, Lahr's and Haley's screentime as the farm hands Hunk, Zeke, and Hickory respectively is rather brief. It is well used by them in that each give more understated performances as just three nice fellows trying to be supportive of Dorothy. Lahr is particularly good in this scene in since he could probably have been able to be in a serious film set Kansas due to just how down to earth he is. Haley and Bolger are less so, but they still do well to establish the farmhands as not exact duplicates of the men we meet in Oz itself though of course part of the film establishes that all three are indeed suppose to look like those very same farmhands. The first one we meet being Ray Bolger's Scarecrow someone desperately in need of a brain, the very next scene though she meets  Jack Haley's The Tin Man desperately in the need of a heart and right after that Bert Lahr's Lion who just needs some courage.

The introduction of each is refined down to they discover them, their problem, then they sing a song about it. Now with each performer though they go beyond just being a guy in some heavy, and well rather impressive makeup. Ray Bolger's physical manner in the performance is that of a somewhat weightless shuffle as though is indeed made of straw, and barely has material to allow himself to stand up straight. On the other hand Jack Haley's gives an appropriately stilted performance as the Tin Man. That being stilted in the way he often so forcefully moves around suggesting a man who's nothing more than a hunk of metal. Haley's particularly good in making the Tin Man's movements all the more laborious when he's gone and rusted himself. Now Lahr technically least acts like the odd thing he portrays, but then again he's suppose to be a Lion who also just happens to talk and stand upright. That's not a negative point against Lahr in the least though since his physical portrayal of the Lion is great anyway. I love how he puts on the facade of the tough Lion as he at times attempts to be almost like an aggressive boxer in his stances in in order to seem tough, and even the way he contorts his fact is though the Lion is attempting to be some sort of vicious animal. This is all in contrast to whenever the Lion is given cause to become fearful, and Lahr's terrific in the way he basically tightens up into such a modest creature in the matter of seconds.

Now given the way they look, the nature of the film itself, and the fact that all three were vaudeville performers at heart, these are not going to obviously be the most subtle turns by any of them. Luckily they don't need to be, in fact it would have been wrong if they were. Bolger's performance captures the sort of scatterbrained manner for a man who supposedly has no brain, though there are frequent moments to suggest otherwise despite the Scarecrow's incorrect knowledge about triangles. Bolger though is the right sort of ball of energy as a guy whose held together by almost nothing,  Bolger brings that right eagerness for someone who has no intent to let that get in the way. Haley also does very good job of already establishing the Tin Man's heart from his first appearance. Haley speaks with a higher pitched voice, higher than his time as Hickory, which works quite well in this regard. Haley's voice has this innate affectionate sweetness to his words that effectively implies just how much heart the metal man already has. The Lion's actions, as written, actually offer very little bravery on his part. Well that really does not matter once again as Lahr is downright hilarious as such a literal scaredy cat. I particularly love his first scene where he goes from his extremely obvious tough guy facade, to a complete wimp due to a slight physical assault by Dorothy. Lahr's wonderful in being such a whiner with just how weak he is as he asks Dorothy "why'd you hit me" yet Lahr's sorrowful expression is so genuinely remorseful that he's absolutely endearing.

The three are also tasked to deliver a few songs, each given the slightly altered version of an introductory one, though I guess because Lahr's was so short of a reprise they decided to give him his own solo number "If I was King of the Forest" which technically is completely superfluous, though I don't mind it. Each of them acquit themselves well in this regard, and once again especially Lahr. He makes the most of his solo carrying all the manners of a great king only to undercut at the end with his very enjoyably switch back to a retiring mess at the end of the song. Now beyond the scenes that solely focus on each character there is more to be found. I will say Haley probably stands out the least in regards to his more reactionary moments, though not that he is bad either. Bolger and Lahr though just you can watch them in any given scenes and are extremely entertaining in showing the Scarecrow and the Lion's reactions to any new oddity they might encounter. Now to repeat once more Lahr stands out the best in this regard being always so consistently funny in revealing the Lion as he's so often gripped in fear. All three of them are a delight throughout the film as they manage to be such a likable trio, and even really earn Dorothy's tearful goodbye as the warmth of their camaraderie grows with such ease due to their unassuming yet oh so effective chemistry. The three of them find just the right tone for the film, and help to amplify its best qualities in a quite admirable fashion. Though what about that pesky old Wizard everyone is looking for?
(Haley)
(Bolger)
(Lahr)
Frank Morgan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying The Doorman, The Guard, The Cab Driver, Professor Marvel and the titular Wizard in The Wizard of Oz.

Well there's one notable supporting player who does not help Dorothy on the yellow brick road instead he's the man waiting at the end of it that being the titular Wizard played by Frank Morgan. Morgan, like the others, does appear in the Kansas sequence. Morgan plays Professor Marvel a traveling fortune teller. This is some quick classic Frank Morgan playing the somewhat shifty yet still goodhearted fortune teller who reveals Dorothy's fortune by simply lifting a photograph of hers while she's not looking, though he's doing it for a good cause. Morgan though really is quite the trickster as Professor Marvel given that really he has this certain sleazy quality about the man that he does not shy away from yet he carries such an undeniable charm that he completely gets away with it. Well after his relatively brief scene in Kansas Morgan appears when they get to Oz. The trick though is we first don't see him as the Wizard, though perhaps the Wizard is just a bit of a sly one, since we see Morgan as three separate men doing jobs around town. This includes the doorman to Oz, the driver of the horse who constantly changes colors, and the Wizard's personal guard as well. These are relatively brief parts, but to be fair Morgan helps them find some of the most often remembered moments of the film. This is particularly true for the guard in that he is so amusingly fussy with his immortal delivery of "NO ONE CAN SEE THE WIZARD NOT NO NOBODY NOT NO HOW!". Then of course he gets to add to that with his ridiculous cry face when he sees the heartbreak suffered by the group from not being able to see the great Oz. Of course these slight character are completely ridiculous which Morgan embraces with his particularly wacky voice he uses but I would not want it any other way.

However it's the Wizard we're all waiting to see, who we originally meet as floating green head who has some random things spew fire for the sake of it. Now the voice Morgan does as the Wizard is quite menacing, and completely matches the almost demonic face that we are faced with. He even gets a bit chilling when comments on the fact that the group liquidated the Wicked Witch of the West. Of course the film ends with Dorothy's dog Toto revealing this Wizard itself is just a illusion, with the real Wizard merely being a man behind a curtain who happens to have a microphone. Morgan's reaction at seeing the curtain being pulled back is simply marvelous. I really love Morgan bellowing out the fake Wizard's final order, but reducing to the real Wizard in such a quiet unassuming voice as he finishes the sentence "I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL wizard of oz". Morgan's revelation is perfection as he goes from being that powerful ominous being, to just a meek old man in a matter of second. What's notable is even though the characters are similair Morgan does not just feel as though he's doing Professor Marvel, despite both being phony tricksters. Again Morgan pulls it off though as he makes The Wizard so affable in a matter of seconds, despite risking the lives of all of our heroes and almost giving them nothing in return, but hey how could any one hate that sweet face Morgan so effortlessly projects. What comes next is probably my favorite scene in the film, in large due to Morgan, as The Wizard solves everyone's problems by basically telling them they did not have them to begin with, but giving them something from his gift bag just to make it all the better. Morgan is wholly spellbinding as he technically is a true conman bringing so much charisma as he delivers the brains, heart, and courage as needed. What's so special about is you get little caught up yourself, and can't help but agree thanks to Morgan. He's so sly as he goes about granting his degree to the Scarecrow, so confident and assured in granting the medal to the Lion, then so warm and downright inspirational as he reflects on the true method of measuring love as he grants a clock heart to the Tin Man. Of course Dorothy's request almost stumps him until he decides to become a showman again, and Morgan is just that as he is so captivating in his description that lead him to the Emerald City. I won't hesitate to say that I adore this performance by Morgan as he's a wizard well worth waiting to see, and his other appearances are simply a welcome bonus.

37 comments:

mcofra7 said...

Nice to see a couple of 5s

tahmeed chowdhury said...

YES! Lahr and Morgan are 5s, thank God :).
I agree with Bolger's rating as well. I would've given Haley a 4.5,thoughthough.

tahmeed chowdhury said...

*though. Fucking autocorrect.

Anonymous said...

Eh... Can't say I'm much of a fan of the movie actually, I think it's nice but that's that. I really like Lahr and I don't mind the 5 even if I'd probably give him a 4.5, while Haley and Bolger are 4 at best but maybe rewatching I'll like Bolger a bit more. I don't remember being very impressed by Morgan though.

Anonymous said...

Louis: What are your ratings and thoughts on these films?
Sergeant York
Pride of the Yankees
For Whom The Bell Tolls
All Quiet on The Western Front
The Lost Patrol
The Story of Louis Pasteur
The Life of Emile Zola

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Ratings & Thoughts on:
Hamlet (1996)
Romeo And Juliet (1968)
Henry V (1989)
The Pianist
Shakespeare In Love
Elizabeth
Life Is Beautiful
Brokeback Mountain
Crash
Slumdog Millionaire
Forrest Gump
The Shawshank Redemption
Pulp Fiction

Robert MacFarlane said...

Louis, ratings and thoughts on:

Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo
The Garbage Pail Kids Movie
Xanadu
Judge Dredd
North
American Beauty

Deiner said...

I love this film, and its entire cast. Morgan was the best out of the supporting men. Louis, are you going to review the film in your other blog? Because I'd love to read your thoughts on it.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

Something hilarious about you including American Beauty with the rest of that list.

Deiner:

I certainly can.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Louis: That was intentional.

Alex Marqués said...

AB might not be perfect, but on the same level as North? No way in the universe.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I admit my hatred for American Beauty is disproportionate, but I still stand by it being completely awful.

Luke Higham said...

Saw the X-Men: Apocalypse trailer and my expectations have been lowered. Mind you, not by Isaac, but too much focus on Mystique.

Anonymous said...

What are the main reasons for people disliking American Beauty? what is bad about it? I am curious.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: It's outdated.

Anonymous said...

I find American Beauty to be quite overrated as a film. It's just average.

Anonymous said...

Just watched On the Beach (1959), and wow, was impressed by Astaire.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on:
Victor Mature and Dean Jagger in The Robe
Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster in Run Silent, Run Deep
Robert Mitchum in Scrooged

ruthiehenshallfan99 said...

Anonymous: Thoughts on the cast, please?

Louis: Rating and Thoughts on the rest of the cast of the Wizard of Oz (Billie Burke, Charley Grapewin and Clara Blandick)

Anonymous said...

ruthiehenshallfan99:
Peck (3,5): I'm not the biggest fan of Peck (despite loving him in To Kill a Mockingbird), but he was effective here, despite being bland in some parts.
Gardner (3): Good enough.
Perkins (4): Despite his Australian accent, he is very good as a sympathetic naval officer.
Astaire (4,5): Amazing performance from and I would take this over any of his dancing movies in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

ruthiehenshallfan99: Sorry, 3/3,5 for Gardner.

Anonymous said...

*from him

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Lawrence looks like she is phoning it in hard.

Anonymous:

Mature - 1.5(He comes off as very sanctimonious and downright whiny in his scenes when he is complaining against Burton's character, then is extremely bland the rest of the time)

Jagger - 2(Jagger's his usual excessively boring self and comes off as particularly poorly when considering he's suppose to be a rather illuminating figure. Really in that film it's pretty much Jay Robinson, then the rest.)

Gable - 4(A performance where he actually embraces his advance age and is quite good in the role in portraying a charismatic yet somewhat obsessed leader. He has particularly good chemistry with Lancaster since they match each other's passion every step of the way. I only wish his final scenes were given a bit more time as I think it would have allowed Gable to have mined more out of the role. However he's rather good in regards to what he does have)

Lancaster - 4(Again matches Gable every step of the way in giving an equally confident and charismatic performance. He technically less complicated part but Lancaster still does well to realize where his character's determination is coming from in an honest fashion)

Mitchum - 3(A good if brief performance bringing that usual ease of command that Mitchum exudes. He has some rather amusing moments early on as he plays the part so properly Mitchum while saying some ridiculous things. However my favorite moment of his performance is his angry outburst at the end at being called "A BUTTHEAD")

ruthiehenshallfan99:

Burke - 3(She certainly effective enough in her excessively sweet delivery yet manages to exude a certain omnipotence nevertheless.)

Grapewin- 2.5(He just does not have much to do, but I like the little he does do in the part)

Blandick - 3(Again she does not have much but she brings the right stern qualities intertwined with some genuine warmth as well)

Anonymous said...

Louis: What are your thoughts on Bruce Dern as an actor? He's very underrated in my opinion.

Louis Morgan said...

Dern - (He's a great actor, and I'd agree bit underrated. Throughout his career he's proved quite capable in a variety of roles, giving some very funny turns, some powerful dramatic work, and of course some memorable villains along the way. He's someone who does have a style of his own, and can enliven a picture by his mere presence like with Drive, He Said for example. I'm so glad he was nominated for Nebraska as Coming Home, despite being a decent performance on its own, was not a great representative of his overall cinematic output.)

Luke Higham said...

Louis: I completely agree.

Alex Marqués said...

Louis:
Your favourite scenes of:
Ed Harris in A History of Violence
Sam Rockwell in Galaxy Quest
Peter Sellers in Dr Strangelove
Russell Crowe in The Insider

Anonymous said...

Will the next review be tonight? I am excited!!!

Calvin Law said...

Saw Anomalisa. Thought it was brilliant though I do agree with Louis, that Lisa was merely a figment of his imagination in the form of the sex doll.

Thewlis: 4.5
Leigh: 4.5
Noonan: 4.5

Thought it was the 4th best of Kaufman I've seen, I mean I love Eternal Sunshine, Adaptation and Synedoche New York but I love this to, it'd probably be around 7th on my top 10 list which has now actually changed quite a bit after several re-watches:

1. Carol
2. Brooklyn
3. Creed
4. Mad Max: Fury Road
5. The Hateful Eight
6. The Martian
7. Anomalisa
8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
9. The End of the Tour
10. Ex Machina

Robert MacFarlane said...

I'm alone in a theater watching Anomalisa right now. HATING it.

RatedRStar said...

I wasnt that big of a fan of Anomalisa to be honest lol.

Robert MacFarlane said...

If Lisa was the doll, then the whole film is a pathetic male fantasy. If she wasn't, then it's still a pathetic male fantasy.

Michael McCarthy said...

The only thing that doesn't make sense to me about Lisa being the doll is that it robs the last scene of all of its significance. If Michael was done with Lisa, why would he bother imagining her writing a letter to him? And why would the film make a point of showing that Lisa's friend had a different face when Michael wasn't around?

Robert MacFarlane said...

It's that sort of thematic contradiction that makes me absolutely sickened by it no matter what intent it was going for.

RatedRStar said...

I should say I didnt find him particularly likable at all, I remember watching the trailer when it first came out thinking " Ok this is gonna be a guy who is down in the dumps and lonely and stuff, and he will meet this lovely person and they will have intelligent conversations and possibly rediscover their positive outlook, and I think it would have been a better film, and certainly more moving than this sorta very creepy and rather odd film.

Michael McCarthy said...

That's the thing though, if Lisa was real I don't think there is any contradiction. A huge point of the film was that Michael grew tired of Lisa once she became less mysterious to him, which wouldn't make a lot of sense of she was just a sex doll.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

Sounds like you liked even less than I.

Alex:

Ed Harris in A History of Violence - Meeting Edie in the Mall

Sam Rockwell in Galaxy Quest - "What's my last name"

Peter Sellers in Dr Strangelove - The phone call to Russia by the president.

Russell Crowe in The Insider - His conversation with Pacino in the car.