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

Here are the five nominees: (Winner in Bold)

Brian Aherne (Juarez)
Harry Carey (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
Brian Donlevy (Beau Geste)
Thomas Mitchell (Stagecoach)
Claude Rains (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)

Biggest Snub:

Frank Morgan – The Wizard of Oz

My Overall Thoughts:

This is a year with 5 outstanding nominees in this category and all of them were worthy of winning for these performances.

My Rankings:

Supporting Actor

5. Harry Carey
4. Brian Donlevy
3. Brian Aherne
2. Claude Rains
1. Thomas Mitchell


4. JuarezInteresting historical drama that does a nice job showing the three varying sides of this conflict from the perspective of those trying to hold on to their power. We get a clear idea of what each of these three men are trying to do and things are kept in a neutral perspective to try and be somewhat unbiased. The cast is superb with Rains, Muni and Aherne all doing wonderful jobs portraying these true to life figures. Aherne was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance here which is the most powerful and poignant of the trio. The story might be a a bit too long and there are a few scenes that seem to drag along.
3. Beau GesteGreat story about brotherly and familial love that works on numerous levels. The cast is great with Cooper, Milland and (a very young) Preston all giving great performances. The story is told really well in flashback after the first scene makes little sense until you know the background of it all. We can easily feel the connection between these brothers and know that they will each do whatever it takes to help out the others in the time of need. Donlevy was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his very brutal performance as the legionnaire commander who must keep his troops together under very dire circumstances.
2. StagecoachOne of John Ford’s earliest Westerns that is seen as one of the best in the genre. Loved the way they introduce all of the diverse characters and show how they each need to deal with one another during this dangerous and uncertain journey. Wayne is pretty good here despite showing his youthfulness in one of his most famous genres. There is so much going on here on multiple levels and it’s easy to interpret so many things in numerous ways which makes the story even more fascinating to watch unfold.
1. 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 76 years since this came out. This is one of the movies that made me very interested in the US political system. 

Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Yep!  TM is as good a choice as possible in this crew of great performances but any of them could have easily won.

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

One thought on “Did They Get it Right? – Best Supporting Actor – Oscars 1939

  1. Great call on Frank Morgan…And Claude Rains was a standout in Mr. Smith and I’d probably have him neck and neck with Mitchell. The crazy thing here – which can’t be emphasized enough – is that 1939 was considered one of the golden years in the history of the movies. One has only to look at the 10 films nominated for Best Picture to see how dazzling it was.Victor Fleming directed 2 of them – The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind in that same year. But topping him – Thomas Mitchell WON his Oscar for Stagecoach – but in 1939 – also appeared in Gone With The Wind, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington!! Four all-time classics. AND “Only Angels Have Wings”. And this was back in the day when actors went from one job to the next – and not like now when actors might do a number f films in a row over the course of years – ad coincidentally have them released at the same time. Mitchell made all these movies IN 1939. He was one of the great character actors of the movies and this can be considered a CAREER award for a single year. Probably unprecedented. –


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