Friday, 18 March 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1939: Thomas Mitchell and Leslie Howard in Gone With the Wind

Thomas Mitchell did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Gerald O'Hara in Gone With The Wind.

Thomas Mitchell was a prolific actor who was frequently in several films in any given year though 1939 just seemed to be his year. He not only appeared in prominent roles in notable films from the year The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Only Angles Have Wings, he also managed to be in three best picture nominees this film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Stagecoach which he deservedly won his Oscar for. In Gone With The Wind he plays the part of Gerald O'Hara the father of our protagonist Scarlett O'Hara(Vivien Leigh). In the early scenes of the film Mitchell's part is fairly straight forward as the Irishmen trying to confer a few words of wisdom to his impetuous daughter. Mitchell's good in the role infusing a slight Irish accent, which he doesn't overdo, and bringing the right definite warmth in his interactions with Leigh. He though brings at the same time the right stern quality even within the obvious love that Mitchell portrays first in his technically futile attempt to try to reign in some of his daughter's ambition. This also comes with a slight scolding when she hand waves the importance of Tara their plantation and home. Mitchell's very good in the moment in revealing the intensity of passion in Gerald's words as he expresses not only how much the land means to him, but also how much it should mean to Scarlett as well.

The ideal man of the South we meet in these early scenes takes a long hiatus from the film, in fact almost the entirety of the Civil War. When Scarlett finally makes it back to Tara the place is quite barren on the outside, and when she opens the door she finds her father who possibly looks worse. Mitchell is amazing in just how effectively he portrays Gerald terrible state as the wear of the losses over the time Scarlett has been gone can be so well seen in his harried eyes, and haggard face. Mitchell is terrific as he stays so subdued for much of this time yet the devastation of the man is brilliantly realized by him. Mitchell is heartbreaking as he presents the insanity in Gerald as seemingly his own shield against all that his happened to him as there is this attempted glee in him as he speaks of his deceased wife as though she's living, however within the act the original cause of his state can be seen in this sorrow that never leaves him despite his madness's attempt to cover it up. This is until his last scene where his passion for the land once again reappears, and Mitchell once again brings that to life yet now just with this painful desperation in the moment. It's beautifully rendered work by Mitchell and with so many of his performances he proves himself one of the most capable actor in terms of the depiction of the type of extreme emotional states that might leave to some terrible overacting. Mitchell never allows that to be the case giving a striking performance that manages to stand out with this grand epic, as well as marks just the one of his many strong turns from 1939.
Leslie Howard did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind.

Leslie Howard was evidently "the" choice for the part of Ashley, which might seem slightly strange for some being an Englishman who in no way hides his accent. Though I don't see why anyone would complain about that given how refined Howard's voice is it seems fitting enough for a refined Southern gentleman as well. Howard I notice frequently gets some derision for his performance in the film, and not just for the accent. Though if one views the test footage of other actors in the part, it seems Howard really was the only possible choice. Now some criticism seems to come in part do to say a definite lower amount of charm than Clark Gable in the male lead role of Rhett Butler. Now Gable's already one of the most charming performers ever to have graced the screen, and this perhaps is him at his most charming, however if one sees more of Howard's filmography, "Pimpernel" Smith and Pygmalion in particular, they'll find he could be quite charming himself. Howard instead more directly serves the role, and the film as whole, by not calling upon that here. Instead he takes the rather admirable approach to differ Ashley from Rhett, as he certainly exudes just what is to be that proper gentleman here, which is never left in question which is in stark contrast to the questionable rascal that is Rhett. Howard brings the right grace to the part, particularly in the early scenes, as he offers the right sort of charisma that makes him standout just not in the way Rhett does thanks to Gable.

Now Ashley's purpose in the story is as the object of Scarlett's affection, as she only sees him despite the fact that he is married early on to Melanie (Olivia de Havilland). Howard does well to really make Ashley the right match for Melanie throughout the film, despite Scarlett's delusion that he should hers. Howard, and de Havilland's work has an unsaid chemistry of sorts given they actually don't share that much time with one another screen. What they do is find the right connection in personal spirit in the way both suggest themselves to be naturally unassuming and unselfish souls. Howard finds the right ease of presence of man who prefers to do the right thing, though states as such in a direct yet quiet fashion. The problem remains though is with Scarlett being constantly smitten with him, to the point that she does not mind how many lives she ruins just to get him. Howard creates the right curious chemistry with Leigh in that he portrays the simple difficulty in interacting with her. He brings the right unease in any of these moments as he manages to suggest Ashley's refusal as man standing in his duty at being a proper husband. When Ashley does reveal that he does love Scarlett in return it's an earned moment by Howard as his delivery is almost that of an unwanted escape of emotion, and depicts a definite guilt within himself after his momentary loss of his usual proper reserve. It's finely measured work by Howard as he keeps Ashley on this certain wavelength of a decent man who is constantly must readjust with his constant interactions with Scarlett. Ashley Wilkes really is a thankless role, in that he's rarely given the spotlight, and he's really there to facilitate the motivations for the other characters. Howard delivers in that respect though giving a supporting performance that truly supports the rest of the cast and the film. 

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Meh. I'll have to disagree on this one. I remember Howard more than Mitchell in the film. Mitchell was very good, but Howard surprised me more even with his English accent.
Louis: What are your thoughts on Richard Farnsworth as an actor?

GM said...

de Havilland is still a 4,5?

mcofra7 said...

Louis: Have you given your thoughts on American Beauty? I can't seem to find anything.

Anonymous said...

I think that De Havilland deserves a 5 for Gone with the Wind. She's phenomenal.

Anonymous said...

GM: She's still a 4,5.
mcofra7: He still hasn't posted his thoughts on American Beauty.

Luke Higham said...

Mcofra7: You're gonna have to wait a couple of weeks at the very least.

Luke Higham said...

Mcofra7: And Louis posts his thoughts on films on a seperate blog.

Deiner said...

Mitchell was great. I wasn't that impressed with Howard.

Alex Marqués said...

Louis: What are your thoughts on James MacAvoy, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as actors? Also, would you consider Nakadai one of your 20 favourite actors?

Luke Higham said...

Alex: I'm quite sure he is.

This is the previous list.

http://actoroscar.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/alternate-best-supporting-actor-1997_17.html

Alec Guinness
Brendan Gleeson
Clark Gable
Claude Rains
Clint Eastwood
Daniel Day-Lewis
Gary Oldman
Gene Hackman
James Mason
James Stewart
John Hurt
Kirk Douglas
Laurence Olivier
Michael Caine
Raul Julia
Richard Attenborough
Robert Duvall
Robert Shaw
Toshiro Mifune
Viggo Mortensen

RatedRStar said...

I find these 2 performances to be even better than the ratings that you gave possibly, Mitchell because of how warm and cheery he is in the early sections, then he is just wow, when he opens that door (the scene before that is masterful its like so atmospheric how alone and empty it is) and then you see Mitchell and he looks like this corpse, I should say his death scene is quite shocking as well, its just quick but so sudden.

Leslie Howard, I find him to be probably the most likable character in the film, in that he is always friendly and like an example is when Viven Leigh is crying and Olivia comforts her, Leslie just sorta gives up and does the honorable thing and never changes from his friendly persona.

Louis would you say it was likely that the final lead performance from Leslie Howard will be reviewed for 1942? it is quite sad to think that the film isnt too far away from real life.

Anonymous said...

RatedRStar: Is Howard any good in his last film?

RatedRStar said...

Anonymous: Look he isn't gonna be a 5 star must see but I liked him in his typical Howard style, and certainly think that Louis and everybody else would like see a war hero get his final send off in a solid film.

Anonymous said...

RatedRStar: I know you have Coburn in Hard Times for 1975 supporting, but I also would like to see Bronson being reviewed for the second time.

RatedRStar said...

Anonymous: I haven't actually seen Hard Times yet, I just heard from various sources that he was good, Bronson probably could get reviewed, I will not take more of my 1975 choices out, like its hard for me to take Robert Mitchum, Bruce Dern and Gene Hackman out, as for Maxim Munzuk, I feel Louis must review him because he was in the film that caused Akira Kurosawa to attempt suicide so its a must, that leaves Alan Bates, um I liked him in the film, the reason I chose Bates over Bronson is because, Its worse when Louis misses a film completely as opposed to a performance because if Louis chooses to review Coburn in Hard Times, at least then he will have seen Bronson and can give an opinion which is better than nothing I guess but we will see =D.

Anonymous said...

RatedRStar: Have you seen those four performances you've listed?

RatedRStar said...

Anonymous: I have seen Mitchum, Bates and Munzuk out of the lead lineup.

RatedRStar said...

I know my favorite ever actor is Claude Rains, but for 1939 it probably makes sense that Mitchell wins the overall, it was probably his year and Claude Rains year was 1946 for me (yes Louis I will still kill you if he doesnt win the overall in 1946 lol =D hehe)

RatedRStar said...

Actually I got that wrong it was Kurosawas film in 1970 that caused him to attempt self harm.

Anonymous said...

RatedRStar: I'm quite sure Rains will still be the winner for 1946 supporting, I wouldn't worry about him.

Anonymous said...

Louis: What do you think of the argument that Golden Age Hollywood actors always overacted and that Brando brought naturalistic/realistic acting?

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Farnsworth - (A one of a kind performer and I think he stands as one of the most effortlessly charming performers to grace the screen. It's only a shame it took him so long to get the break from stuntman to actor. No matter what Farnsworth adds a bit of something when he has a speaking part, and is such a delight in any role. However he also could be such a powerful performer as well.)

GM:

I actually would raise her to a five staying as my runner up though.

Alex:

McAvoy - (McAvoy for me was probably wrongly pigeonholed as the romantic leading man which I actually find him ill fitting. Not that he was automatically bad in these roles, but I can't say he was ever terribly impressive. He's far more interesting as far more messier men so to speak such as with his career best in Filth. With the right character he's quite the capable performer, and I really have to give him credit for bringing his A-Game to the X-Men movies)

Gyllenhaal - (Gyllenhaal's career has had its ups and downs since his breakout performance in Donnie Darko, but throughout he's given solid work. I would it seems he's still struggling to find an exact path, though it seems around taking complex roles, but as proven by Southpaw that in itself does not guarantee success. Gyllenhaal as it is an exciting performer to watch, anyone who gave his performance in Nightcrawler has to from now on. He's been since Donnie Darko though, he does not always give great work, but more often than not it's at the very least good)

Leung - (Leung's an interesting actor in that he's almost based around his whole onscreen persona on being lazy. Not that I mean he's lazy in reality, or as an actor, but rather his overarching approach to characters is to take it easy. It's actually sort of a Robert Mitchum like approach, just in his own way. It works though that is to be said as he utilizes this starting point to craft a unique onscreen persona but also unique characters)

Nakadai would be there.

RatedRStar:

I could see covering Howard's final performance, though keep making those threats and I'll give Laird Cregar the supporting actor 42 win so fast it'll make your head spin!!!!!

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Honestly what I think Brando brought the most was less of an expected refinement, it added an even greater variety to who could be a film actor really, and probably what was allowed. However I don't believe that directly translates to more realistic as whole after all James Cagney, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Henry Fonda all spoke as they did onscreen in real life.

RatedRStar said...

Louis: Point taken =D lol

Anonymous said...

Louis: What are your ratings for Mitchell in Only Angels Have Wings and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington?

Anonymous said...

Louis: Who would be your cast and director for a 30's and a 60's version of The Room?

Alex Marqués said...

The Room? Seriously? Wow

Anonymous said...

Alex: Yes, seriously. Go check out Louis' choices for The Room in the 40's, 50's and 70's. They're on his review for Veidt.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: thoughts and rating for Anthony Hopkins in The Bounty? Surprised to see him not that high on your list. Were there any slight problems like Gibson's?

Anonymous said...

Calvin: Hopkins is either a 4 or a 3,5, I think.

Anonymous said...

Louis, your thoughts and ratings for Alexander Skarsgård In "Diary Of A Teenage Girl"

(He is a 5 for me)

Robert MacFarlane said...

Judging by the rankings, he gave Skarsgaard a 2. Personally would have went higher myself, though I thought Chris Meloni was better in that movie.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Only Angels Have Wings -(A very good performance as he offers the usual warmth in his kinder older man routine but at the same time brings the right bitterness underneath it all so well expressing the character's history. Then in the pivotal conclusion of the film is rather heartbreaking in absolutely earning his character's turnaround regarding that bitterness.)

Mr. Smith - 3.5(Fine supporting work as he brings the right sardonic touch to his scenes bringing the needed edge to his character. Mitchell really pretty much always adds something, and this case is no different. I particularly like his offering here since he adds the needed bit of realistic cynicism to Frank Capra's style)

Anonymous:

(30's directed by George Cukor)

Johnny: Paul Muni
Mark: Spencer Tracy
Lisa: Hedy Lamarr
Lisa's Mother: Beulah Bondi
Denny: Donald O'Connor
Chris-R: John Carradine
Mike: Alan Ladd
Michelle: Lana Turner
Peter: Ward Bond
Steven: Thomas Mitchell

(60's directed by Akira Kurosawa)

Johnny: Masayuki Mori
Mark: Isao Kimura
Lisa: Machiko Kyo
Lisa's Mother: Chieko Higashiyama
Denny: Tsutomu Yamazaki
Chris-R: Tatsuya Nakadai
Mike: Minoru Chiaki
Michelle: Keiko Tsushima
Peter: Seiji Miyaguchi
Steven: Takashi Shimura


Calvin:

Again I really need to re-watch The Bounty. I have not seen it in a LONG time.

Anonymous:

I did not cae for him, and I mostly found his performance rather forgettable.