Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Best Actor 1947: Ronald Colman in A Double Life

Ronald Colman won his Oscar from his fourth and final nomination for portraying stage actor Anthony John in A Double Life.

A Double Life is a very interesting film noir, about an actor who gets a little too much into his roles with deadly results. My only real problem would be that it perhaps focuses a little too much on Edmond O'Brien, playing once again the normal guy lead who has to deal with the crazy or already dead lead which he also does in The Killers, and White Heat, and goes to far from Colman.

 Colman is quite terrific in the opening scene, as the rather slick, very sure of himself stage actor Anthony John. Colman carries himself perfectly, showing the complete ease John has a stage persona, and the joy he has in theater, theater that is comedy anyways. Colman seems completely effortless in these moments, showing John's love for what he does, his utter confidence in knowing exactly what he is doing. He is the perfect theater pro which works especially well, in these early moments. Colman is especially charming early on here as he performs a charming part in a simple comedy. Colman uses his spectacular voice beautifully, and there is never at all a question of Anthony John as a theater star all because of Colman.

Along with his confidence is something else about him something darker, and rather odd about. There is a sort of sense of being lost, and even lack of confidence hidden behind his outward self. There is a man who has become so entrenched into his work that he has sort of lost his identity in his own eyes. That his own sanity is something that will be fully possible to be lost if in the use of his performance. Colman at the beginning of the film suggests all this brilliant completely subtlety through only his face here. He underplays John's insanity that it seems completely natural despite the bizarre idea itself. His very first time he "hears" the Othello music, Colman shows a loss of his mind there despite without overplaying a single moment as John begins to lose his sanity.

Anthony John begins next as he portrays Othello on stage and his performance is a spectacular success. Colman/John's portrayal of Othello is rather interesting. It is rather theatrical, but appropriately so. Colman in these scenes combines his film subtlety with stage theatrically. His voice booms out across the audience as is appropriate with the fact he is on stage, he combines this with his small showing of his utter insanity that is slowly growing even as he plays the part as Othello, and grows more and more unable to disassociate with his character. Despite not being a Shakespearean actor and being apparently uncomfortable with doing the scenes Colman actually is very believable as a Shakespearean actor.

John's sanity becomes basically completely lost in a brilliant moment in the film, as John hears voices, and sounds. Colman is terrific as degradations occur. I think he excels because as John he combines theatrics with subtlety so well. His theatrics, as John becomes dangerous work I think because that is John acting out theatrically, and his mental creation of Othello is that of a theatrical character. He could have been entirely unbelievable but I do think it is because Colman through his face of course still shows that this insanity of John's resonates throughout him completely.  I think he handled his insanity perfectly even if in a risky fashion but I think his best scene is his final one where his insanity finally subsides briefly. His final speech about the actor is who is good at a certain kind of scene, is bizarrely heartbreaking and resonating, I feel it brings his character fully around, completely fulfilling this brilliant performance. An Oscar well deserved despite being one of the least talked about ever.

1 comment:

dinasztie said...

Wow, I became interested in it. It must be great.