Monday, 22 November 2010

Best Actor 1937: Robert Montgomery in Night Must Fall

Robert Montgomery received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Danny in Night Must Fall.

Night Must Fall is an effective thriller, not quite perfect because most of the characters pale in comparison to the lead nominated character, but still the film is very strong.

I will obviously say right now this is a spoiler filled review, since it is necessary to tell of the depth of Montgomery's performance. I was actually not knowing what to expect from Montgomery this time since his other nominated performance I was not very impressed by, but I pleasantly found out Montgomery has the two most different nominated performances in Oscar history I believe. Different in more than on way, since one character is a nice guy boxer, and this one is a murderous psychopath. I was also surprised to see such a completely amoral character nominated this early in terms of Oscar years. Although I assume he must have had absolutely no chance of winning because of this.

When Danny first arrives, Montgomery creates a truly pitch perfect performance from the get go. His voice he uses for Danny is one feature that is brilliant. His light Irish is terrific, because it is such a soft voice, suggesting a very soft man which he is not. As Danny he brilliantly is charming in his early scenes as he charms his future employer, and others. His smile, and that little swagger he as is just perfect, since he is so unassuming as Danny, but very charming. He first seems just like a charming young man nothing exactly wrong with him, well almost. Montgomery in even these early scenes does offer an incredibly small, almost unnoticeable sight of something else deeper inside him. This is very difficult to do, since he could have shown too much of Danny early on or too little, but Montgomery shows just the right amount.

As Danny moves along and it reveals more about him, he really is excellent. He shows how Danny actually is always constantly acting. That his charming smile, and everything about him is really just a facade that is false. Montgomery shows his falseness correctly, but it properly disconcerting though because he does seem authentic despite always lying. His strength of his performance though really lies in when he specifically changes from the fake happy and charming Danny, to in secret the psychotic Danny. I also like how whenever he mixes the two at once reacting to the more suspicious Olivia (Rosalind Russell), such as when he catches her and others going through his luggage. His reaction is perfect and shows Montgomery brilliance because he at first reacts with his charming way, but still shows carefully and subtlety his actually hatred from what they have done. Another aspect of the film that is not perfect is the fact that Olivia in a way becomes attracted to Danny despite her knowing quite well that he is not on the level. The film does not write this part of the film perfectly but Montgomery plays it well and almost makes it work. He makes Danny properly alluring and exciting in his dark scenes. Although still clearly a psychopath, he still shows that Danny always charming in his disturbing way.

Danny at the very end of the film, has some especially strong scenes that really exemplify the strengths of his performance. First his murder scene with Dame May Whitty is truly darkly effective, and incredibly disturbing because he shows his lighter fake side for awhile. He plays around with her and singing quietly her to sleep, but than Montgomery shows Danny true ways and is perfectly frightening. Than after being confronted by Olivia, Montgomery is completely and utterly chilling, in his final scene as he tells her that he is going to kill her, but still stays charming well he does this. A truly darkly chilling achievement for Montgomery, that also helps in the full circle of the character at the very end. He gets caught and attempts to charm one more time, but than the pathetic side of Danny comes just as Naturally by Montgomery. Than finally his last moment when he stares into his mirror finally seeing his true self to himself, is truly an amazing end to a very strong performance.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree - the movie is terrific as well.

dinasztie said...

You made me want to watch this movie so bad. I'll check it out in the weekend.

Louis Morgan said...

Sage: I am really glad we are on the same page with this one.

Dinasztie: I am happy I could compel such interest.