Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1939

Here are the five nominees: (Winner in Bold)

Robert Donat (Goodbye, Mr. Chips)
Clark Gable (Gone With the Wind)
Laurence Olivier (Wuthering Heights)
Mickey Rooney (Babes in Arms)
James Stewart (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)

Biggest Snub:

Henry Fonda – Young Mr. Lincoln

My Overall Thoughts:

This is a year where 3 out of 5 of the nominees were amazing and the other two a bit lackluster. It came down to either Donat or Stewart who were both superb here, but one had to be slightly better.

My Rankings:

Acting Performances

5. Mickey Rooney
4. Laurence Olivier 
3. Clark Gable
2. James Stewart
1. Robert Donat


5. Babes in ArmsPretty boring musical about a group of vaudeville children who put on a show in order to try and make money to help their parents after movies become popular. Nothing really special here. Still baffled as to how Rooney got a nomination for Best Actor at the Oscars for this role. Perhaps it has to do with his imitation abilities from when he shows he can do pretty good celebrity impersonations, but overall, this film is pretty mediocre and doesn’t age well at all.
4. Wuthering HeightsNice story that really captures the essence of the novel. The cast is great and allows us to really believe the love triangle between the characters. Does a great job depicting the different views of the wealthy and the poor on society and how true love can stay with a person for so many years despite other romantic tangents along the way.
3. Goodbye, Mr. ChipsDonat is superb here and really deserved his Best Actor award for playing the title character. This film has inspired so many others ever since in the way they tell a life story in the right way. Still remains one of the best films about the life and rewards of teaching.
2. Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonA true classic about how the American political system works (and doesn’t work). Capra really found a way to show the people how even the little people can enact change in the “system”. Very interesting how it seems that little has changed when dealing with congressional corruption in the 79 years since this came out. This is one of the movies that made me very interested in the US political system.
1. Gone With the WindBrilliant but over-long film. Understandable why so many love this movie. Very deserving of its 8 Oscar wins.Remains one of the best films ever made despite its length.

Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Most Definitely!  Donat is superb in this role and was easily the most powerful of the 5 noinees. Stewart was a close second and perhaps got awarded Gold the following year based on this great performance.

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

2 thoughts on “Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1939

  1. See my previous post concerning 1939. An exceptional year at the movies. Just look at the 10 nominated Best Pictures. Arguably one of the best of all time. Could’ve been Gable, Stewart or Donat. Lastly, you can’t complain about a movie’s length – unless it’s boring and drags. They made ’em longer in those days. They also had entre act intermissions with music.Gone With the Wind is epic – based on an epic novel. you going to complain about Lawrence of Arabia too?


  2. My vote would have gone to Stewart, I definitely think his loss here had an enormous influence on him winning for The Philadelphia Story. But Donat is excellent and I can’t say that it was an undeserved win. Really the only one who doesn’t belong here is Rooney.


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