Monday, 13 September 2010

Best Actor 1955: Spencer Tracy in A Bad Day At Black Rock

Spencer Tracy received his fifth Oscar nomination for portraying a one armed war veteran John J. Macreedy in A Bad Day At Black Rock.

A Bad Day At Black Rock is a very strong film in my opinion. Telling a suspenseful story of a stranger who comes into an isolated town looking for a Japanese man. The film moves along incredibly well, its acting, cinematography, and direction are all incredibly well handled. It was not nominated for best picture, but I would certainly have given John Sturges the win for best director.

If you have been reading my reviews I am sure you noticed I have not the biggest fan when it comes to Tracy's nominated performances. But still I always said I did not hate all of his performances or really him as an actor because of some of his non nominated performances, and this performance. Here is the performance which shows the Spencer Tracy that is always talked about.

Tracy gives a mostly quiet performance here as the mysterious John J. Macreedy a mysterious man who does not receive much of a welcome into the isolated town of Black Rock.  Tracy stays pretty withdrawn throughout his performance, and this begins when he first gets off the train. He always stays very unassuming, walking in an introverted way and never really standing up straight precisely. He walks along in a specific man that suggests a tired man who keeps to himself well, even though now he is looking for someone. Tracy is just perfect in the way he begins to ask around about a Japanese man he is looking for and gets less than friendly answers. Tracy carries himself perfectly letting us know enough about his character but still keeping a mystery about him that is incredibly effective.

I love the particular scenes where he shows the hidden strength of the character that is so subtly shown by Tracy. Especially strong scenes are when he questions the local King pin (Robert Ryan) about what exactly happened to the man. He is sitting down looking at the ground at times, only saying a few words, yet Tracy is just magnetic in this scene, as he tears apart the other man's lies, and reveals the man's hidden side. Every inflection in his voice, and the way he moves around even though he stays in the same spot is just brilliantly handled by Tracy. Another strong scene is when he stands toe to toe with another local tough (played by Co-Nominee Ernest Borgnine). Again Tracy is perfect in his quiet way of breaking down the man's threats and showing him for the stupid man he is.

 His power in all of these scenes are amazing because Tracy is so quiet and withdrawn, he actually does not say that much but the little he says is as powerful as possible. There is only one scene where he really raises his voice and that is an all important scene where he can finally find out the truth about the man he is looking for. The way Tracy questions the guilty and the compliant is excellent. The way he dissects about everyone in the two is perfect and believable even with how withdrawn he always remains. The greatest part of his performance though I believe is what he shows about his character. Not very much is said about Macreedy, but Tracy very carefully gives little hints to who he really is. He never blurts it out loud but I felt I really met the man due to Tracy's brilliant hints he displayed very carefully throughout his performance.  Here is the great Tracy performance, the one that should be talked about, where he does all that is said about him. He never seems like he really is acting but gives a truly great performance.


dinasztie said...

Well, I'm really interested in this one. Somehow I knew you would give him five Jacks. Personally I liked him in Captains Courageous too (I know everyone hates that), but was very unimpressed by him in Boys Town.

Anonymous said...

Didn't impress me, but he rarely does.

Louis Morgan said...

Dinasztie: Maybe you knew because he was due for a good rating.

Sage: Well I agree with you about him most of the time but not this time.