Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1940

Here are the five nominees: (Winner in Bold)

Charlie Chaplin (The Great Dictator)
Henry Fonda (The Grapes of Wrath)
Raymond Massey (Abe Lincoln in Illinois)
Laurence Olivier (Rebecca)
James Stewart (The Philadelphia Story)

Biggest Snub:

Rex Harrison – Night Train to Munich

My Overall Thoughts:

This is another year with some great performances nominated. The voters ended up going a purely comical rom-com performance instead of three other great performances that have become so iconic over the years.

My Rankings:

Acting Performances

5. Laurence Olivier 
4. James Stewart
3. Henry Fonda 
2. Raymond Massey 
1. Charlie Chaplin


5. The Philadelphia StoryInteresting rom-com from the 40’s, but very dated. Great cast.  Still not sure how Stewart won an Oscar for this role; he was good, but the one of the weakest of the 5 nominees.
4. RebeccaInteresting psychological thriller when Hitchcock was still warming up. Nice cast and Hitchcockian twists galore. Seems a bit dated now tho.
3. The Grapes of WrathExcellent film that shows the true difficulties of families during the Depression who faced even more hardship when they moved along to “supposedly” better situations. Fonda is superb in the title role and is helped by some great supporting performances, most notably Jane Darwell as his mother. Ford knew how to create the right atmosphere for such a film and kept things feeling as realistic as possible as we follow the Joad family’s journey across the country.
2. Abe Lincoln in IllinoisMassey is superb as the future President and gives one of the very best performances of Lincoln (Day-Lewis slightly eclipses him, but both are superb). We get such a great story of how someone who came from nothing was able to rise to the task of becoming one of the best and most influential Presidents of the US. The story remains interesting the entire time and is quite inspirational.
1. The Great DictatorChaplin at his best. This is my favorite of all of his movies. It’s amazing how astute he was to what was going on without really knowing it. He does a perfect imitation of Hitler and we laugh at the absurdity of it all.

Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Not Really!  Stewart won this yera, but there are three other performances that were so much better. Chaplin, Massey or Fonda would have been considered better choices since all 3 of their performances were spectacular and have become so iconic over the years.

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

One thought on “Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1940

  1. Agree. I’d add Olivier. Every one of these performances topped Stewart’s – in what appears to be a make-good for his loss (to Robert Donat the previous year) for HIS iconic Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. Also, the heck with Rex Harrison – how about Cary Grant in both The Philadelphia Story (where he was better than Stewart) AND His Girl Friday? Even Edward. G. Robinson in “Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet”.


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