Fredric March (The Best Years of Our Lives)
Laurence Olivier (Henry V)
Larry Parks (The Jolson Story)
Gregory Peck (The Yearling)
James Stewart (It’s a Wonderful Life)
David Niven – Stairway to Heaven aka A Matter of Life and Death
My Overall Thoughts:
This is a year with 4 amazing performances and one pretty good one. The choice probably wasn’t so simple for the voters to make, but it ultimately came down to March and Olivier since most people dismissed Stewart in a film that was largely overlooked at the time but became so iconic.
5. Gregory Peck
4. Larry Parks
3. Laurence Olivier
2. James Stewart
1. Fredric March
5. The Yearling – Somewhat interesting story that probably is much better as a novel instead of on film. Peck, Wyman and Jarman are all fine here, but some of the scenes feel quite contrived. Says a lot about the hardships and loneliness of life at that time and place.
4. Henry V – Great production of a Shakespearean story for it’s time. Liked the way it mixes live action scenes with scenes done on a stage to give us an impression of what people saw at The Globe. Olivier does an amazing job here presenting the play. Proved that to everyone at the time that it was indeed possible to make a film based on Shakespeare’s work and make it economically viable.
3. The Jolson Story – Parks is superb in the lead role and is able to give us the persona of a man who became the voice of the first “talkie” musical. The way that this film shows a character who loves what he does and can never get enough of it is amazing and it’s easy to feel that the character never wants to stop entertaining people as much as he can. Great music and a very inspirational story about finding what you love and trying to keep doing it for as long as you can.
2. It’s a Wonderful Life – Amazing film with a great premise that has been copied unsuccessfully so many times over the past 70+ years. The story is done really well and is so emotional in the way that it is presented. Stewart is quite iconic in the title role and does an amazing job both playing the character over a vast number of years and in different circumstances in life. This film has become known as a Christmas film, but there is so much more to it than that because it is able to tell such a great tale that works on numerous levels to make the viewer take a look at their own life and wonder how much of an effect they have had on the lives of those around them. This film has become one of the best known classics of Capra and there is a good chance that it is excepted as his best work. The story touches upon faith yet doesn’t get preachy about it at all. The film also is realistic in the way it shows that even if everything doesn’t go exactly as we would like in the world, things can still move forward. Many people have criticized how this film doesn’t tie up all of its loose ends, yet that helps make this film so amazing because it doesn’t need to do so in order to stay superb. There is no question about the fact that even after 72 years, this film still holds up as one of the greatest films ever made because it has such a captivating, interesting and most importantly timeless story.
1. The Best Years of Our Lives – Amazing film because it remains timeless with its themes even after 70 years. Unbelievable cast helps make this film feel so real. It deservingly won 8 Oscars (+1 honorary one) that year and remains extremely powerful in so many aspects. The bond shared by these men is indescribable and their need for one another to weather the return home is such a powerful and emotional theme that is repeatedly shown here.
Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Most Definitely! March is superb in this film and is able to portray a character that must deal with the memories of war while trying to reintegrate himself into his previous life both from family and work perspectives. Stewert’s performance has become more iconic over the years, but March still is slightly better and more realistic.
Let me know what you think about these films and my rankings!