Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1942

Here are the five nominees: (Winner in Bold)

James Cagney (Yankee Doodle Dandy)
Ronald Colman (Random Harvest)
Gary Cooper (The Pride of the Yankees)
Walter Pidgeon (Mrs. Miniver)
Monty Woolley (The Pied Piper)

Biggest Snub:

Jack Benny – To Be or Not To Be

My Overall Thoughts:

This was another year with 5 great performances nominated, but ultimately it came down to Cooper and Cagney, but Cagney was amazing throughout the entire film while Cooper has a superbly heartfelt scene but it doesn’t carry throughout the movie.

My Rankings:

Acting Performances

5. Walter Pidgeon
4. Ronald Colman 
3. Monty Woolley
2. Gary Cooper
1. James Cagney


5. Mrs. MiniverSlightly slow moving depiction of WWII from the homefront which was surprisingly filmed in the middle of the war.
4. Random HarvestSuch a great premise that works so well.  It’s so easy to care for the characters here and the fact that we know what is happening while they are in the dark makes us want to shout at them in order for them to see the truth.  Very interesting that a story like this was produced while the war raged on in Europe because of how close to home many of the scenes would hit family members of those fighting abroad.  I understand why Mrs. Miniver (1942) was selected over this one as Best Picture in such turbulent times, but I still think this is a much better story of the two films.
3. The Pied PiperTotally not what I expected. Amazing idea that works so well. Woolley is superb in the title role and is able to hold him own against all of the odds thrown against him. Preminger plays his character perfectly because we see his ruthlessness and human aspects of compassion when needed. Quite interesting how enlightening the plot is despite not many people knowing the lengths that the Nazi’s went to at the time to eradicate their enemies no matter the cost.
2. The Pride of the YankeesConsidered one of the best biographical films ever made. Cooper gives an amazing performance as the late Yankee great. The fact that this film had the cooperation and help of family and friends of Gehrig helps made this feel even more realistic. Nominated for 10 Oscars including Best Picture and Actor, but only managed to win 1; Film Editing. The speech at the end is one of the most heartfelt in film history and it’s hard to keep the tears from flowing.
1. Yankee Doodle DandyAmazing film that I can’t believe I never saw or even heard much about it beforehand besides it being a musical. It does a wonderful job touching upon so many important and life changing events of the life of this pioneer. The musical numbers are wonderful and not having been exposed to Cagney’s dancing and singing abilities beforehand, I was quite impressed with the final product. Two hours is not really long enough to fully encompass all of the events of his life properly, but they still leave us with enough about this wonderful life. Can’t wait to see it again!

Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Most Definitely!  Cagney is superb here and was the best and most powerful of the 5 nominees.

Let me know what you think about these films and my rankings!

One thought on “Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1942

  1. Don’t think I’ve ever seen Mrs. Miniver all the way through and I’ve never seen either The Pied Piper or Random Harvest – but I would have to think that it was cagney’s year in a cakewalk. And GREAT call on Benny. To Be Or Not To Be is a gem and he is an absolutely riot in it (as is Carole Lombard). A comedy (even with an edge) released in ’42 about Hitler – probably seemed jarring and out of place at it’s release. Not sure Hollywood (or the public – it didn’t do well) knew what to make of it. In retrospect – and seeing it decades later – like Mel Brooks treatment on Nazis in The Producers) – was much more palatable and could be taken at face value – which was funny as hell. I loved the one actor who kept popping up with his Shakespeare – “If you prick us, do we not bleed…” Terrifically written movie.


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