Monday, June 01, 2009

Men of the Thirties Month: Commencement

And so it begins.

I've been racing through the Academy Awards' first embracees with the lightning fury of a bushfire in Skippy and with the determined desire for escape of Victor McLaglen in The Informer. But before I launch into annual rundowns of each respective year, I just wanna make one small point about George Arliss, and his fellow nominees in the 1929-30 awards. Although technically these awards consider films in the first half of 1930, Disraeli was released in 1929, and so I don't count his win as a thirties victory -- if you get me. Therefore I'll be starting with the 1930-31 line-up.

Here are the nomination totals for the Actors of the Thirties (* denotes win) :-

4 Nominations (and leader of the pack)

Paul Muni*

3 Nominations

Clark Gable*
Fredric March*
Spencer Tracy**

2 Nominations

Charles Boyer
Robert Donat*
Leslie Howard
Charles Laughton*
William Powell

1 Nomination

Lionel Barrymore*
Wallace Beery*
James Cagney
Gary Cooper
Jackie Cooper
Richard Dix
Walter Huston
Alfred Lunt
Adolphe Menjou
Robert Montgomery
Frank Morgan
Victor McLaglen*
Laurence Olivier
Mickey Rooney
James Stewart
Franchot Tone

Extra Stats and Trivia

The average age of the Leading Actor winner is just under 40 years old.

Youngest - Gable (34 years and 26 Days)
Oldest - Barrymore (52 years and 196 days)

Only two of the Leading Actor winners (Laughton as Henry VIII and Muni as Louis Pasteur) are starring in actual biopics -- so we can't blame the current obsession on Academy Award founders. Having said that, five of the other eight winners are literary characters. Originality didn't exactly reap reward in this period either.

Seven of the ten winners have death scenes.

Paul Muni's nomination for Black Fury in 1935 was a write-in, like Bette Davis' Of Human Bondage turn the year before. Both were revealed as second-place finishers to Victor McLaglen and Claudette Colbert respectively. The 'write-in' nomination was eventually abolished though, and the rules subsequently changed to ensure that the Academy would get it right the first time around. Whether they did or not is a matter of opinion.

The correlation between the Picture and Actor categories is nothing new: of the ten winners, only Lionel Barrymore and Fredric March were not in a Best Picture nominee. However, Clark Gable is the only winner to see his film win the big prize. He's also the only winner to see a co-star get an Oscar.

Of the 25 men nominated for Leading Actor in the 1930's, five went on to win the award in later decades (Cagney, Cooper, March, Olivier, Stewart) although Walter Huston did win for Supporting in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). Fredric March is the only Actor to win in both the thirties and forties.

None of the ten Actor winners won the New York Film Critics Circle award, the then biggest precursor for the Oscar. And only one of the guys managed to get noticed elsewhere for their performance, although I'd certainly question Paul Muni's 1936 Volpi Cup from Venice.

Upcoming: 1930-31 Profile

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