Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1936


Here are the five nominees: (Winner in Bold)

Gary Cooper (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town)
Walter Huston (Dodsworth)
Paul Muni (The Story of Louis Pasteur)
William Powell (My Man Godfrey)
Spencer Tracy (San Francisco)

Biggest Snub:

Charlie Chaplin – Modern Times

My Overall Thoughts:

This is a year with 4 amazing performances and one that seems completely out of place. Tracy was a great actor, but what the hell were they thinking when they gave him a lead nomination for San Francisco?  The film itself isn’t that great either.

My Rankings:

Acting Performances

5. Spencer Tracy 
4. Gary Cooper 
3. William Powell 
2. Walter Huston 
1. Paul Muni

Movies

5. San FranciscoAnother mediocre Best Picture nominee. This film does a nice job of showing what saloon life was like during that time period and the musical numbers are catchy, but the story itself meanders along too much and just doesn’t manage to really make us care about the characters or the situations they find themselves in.
4. DodsworthHuston is really great here because we can feel both his yearning to return to his busy old life yet also explore the freedom that one has when retired. His wife has the opposite opinions and is more concerned with exploring the world she didn’t know as a millionaires wife in a small town in middle America. The themes discussed here are still relevant 80 years later because it begs to ask the question of what people really want in life and whether they are even aware themselves of their own desires.
3. My Man GodfreyGreat and fun story that manages to show how the Depression affected some more parts of society more severely than others. The way that the story plays out works really well and stays humorous the entire time. The chemistry between Powell and (his ex-wife) Lombard is great onscreen and they are able to give us such a great screwball comedy feeling throughout the film. This film is a great parable for the difference in classes in society and how its possible to try and break through such seemingly insurmountable barriers. Both Powell and Lombard were nominated for Oscars for this film as were Auer and Brady, but none managed to win.
2. Mr. Deeds Goes to TownVery well done film by Capra that includes his usual message about the “common man” versus the system. Cooper and Arthur have great chemistry together and make the story even more interesting to follow. Capra won his second Best Director Oscar for this film. Such a timely film during the Depression Era to show how the “common man” would try and use wealth to help his fellow man instead of only wanting to exploit them.
1. The Story of Louis Pasteur – Great biopic for its time. Muni was amazing in this role and although it’s over 80 years old, it’s very interesting to watch how science was perceived and changed just over 150 years ago.

Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Yes!  Muni clearly gives the best performance of the five nominees and was very deserving of his Oscar for his ability to get so into a character that he becomes unrecognizable.

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

3 thoughts on “Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1936

  1. Maybe I’m bias, but isnt it interesting Muni is only remembered for his Oscar Wins- and otherwise forgotten by the public? I have a soft spot for Mr Powell! I wish he could have won something- but again- he proves you dont need an oscar to be awesome!

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  2. I saw DODSWORTH on a big screen – as part of an AFI 100 Greatest Movies of all time marathon in the early 70s. It was excellent. I remember it to this day. Huston was terrific. Still like him better in Treasure of the sierra Madre – but Dodsworth was really good. Good call on Chaplin. Powell was lucky he didn’t split his own vote for The great Ziegfeld. Also thought Ronald Colman gypped for Tale of two cities.

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  3. Tracy was nominated for the wrong movie; he was much more deserving for Fritz Lang’s harrowing lynch mob drama Fury and, besides, his role in San Francisco was a supporting one.

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