Monday, May 23, 2011

Top Ten Oscar Travesties of the Golden Age: #5

The #5 Oscar travesty of the Golden Age

James Stewart fails to win Best Actor for It's a Wonderful Life.

Forget the annual Christmas tradition, forget Clarence and his stinkin' wings, forget Gloria Grahame..oh, wait, scratch that last one...

I'm a lukewarm admirer of Frank Capra. I'm an "everyman" kind of guy, but Capra laid the sticky sentiment on with a trowel, and sometimes I can't go near any of his movies for long periods of time; I'm going through such a time right now.

But James Stewart was so darned good in It's a Wonderful Life and he really is the sole reason (not counting Gloria Grahame) to watch this every Christmas. The Academy should've been forced to live in Pottersville for denying Stewart his second Best Actor Award for this movie. Instead, it would be Fredric March who would get his second Oscar, for The Best Years of Our Lives. At one time considered the best actor...period (replacing Paul Muni, I guess), March snagged his second Oscar in a role that could not have been at all challenging to the great thespian--and he was a fine actor, indeed. I just don't see how his performance was an Oscar-winning one. Maybe Hollywood wanted to recognize the "everyman" soldier that March portrayed, adjusting to a changed home and family, but in the many times I've watched Best Years--and I love that movie--there's nothing in March's perfunctory performance that I found Oscar worthy.

Let's also not forget that Harold Russell was recognized as such when he won Best Supporting Actor *and* a special Oscar "for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans through his appearance in The Best Years of Our Lives."

March's winning is a most curious affair.

Furthermore, if the Academy truly wanted to recognize the common soldier, they could've awarded Stewart for that--a Bomber Pilot during WWII--but instead the Academy got carried away and awarded every statuette to Best Years as long as they didn't have to give non-nominees Dana Andrews and Myrna Loy anything, of course.

Stewart probably didn't think much one way or the other about winning or losing. After all, he was no stranger to compensation Oscars when he himself won in 1940 for The Philadelphia Story, something I've defended and which is this blog's
very first post. The fact that Jimmy already had an Oscar is the only thing keeping this travesty from being higher on the list.


  1. I'm not sure if I would give the Oscar that year to Stewart of the un-nominated Dana Andrews but I agree that Frederic March was completely unimpressive.

  2. C.K., I'm in absolute accord with you again. I admire Fredric March and think he was a gifted film actor. But his great decade was the thirties. Maybe the Academy saw his performance in " Best Years" as a comeback of sorts. He did a fine job in that film, but I agree that the part wasn't really much of a challenge. I also think that the never-nominated Andrews had the better role and did an outstanding job, perhaps the best of his career, outshining March. He should also have been nominated for best actor. (That should have guaranteed a win for Stewart.) I personally love "It's a Wonderful Life," but I can see how it and Capra might not be everyone's cup of tea. But Stewart gives such a passionate performance in that movie that I understand how even people who are cool toward the film can recognize its brilliance. "Best Years" was a fine movie, so relevant to its time, and it still impresses. I can understand its momentum at the awards that year. I also think the unnominated Theresa Wright should have won as best supporting actress. And of course Loy should have received her first nomination as best actress. Her role was smaller than March's or Andrews', but she did receive top billing!

  3. I don't know I really love March's performance in Best Years of Our Lives. Was it the best performance that year? I am not sure. But I think that is very underrated by a lot of people today.

    March wasn't just playing someone adjusting to home life again. He was playing someone adjusting to home life that started drinking too much. It was a very understated performance (and maybe that is why people don't appreciate it) but I think it was a very realistic performance that rang true for the time.

  4. I know you're not doing "snubs," but really. Dana Andrews so completely deserved the Oscar. UGH. It always infuriates me that he was never even nominated AND that even today people accuse him of cardboard non-acting.

    (These people should fear the wrath of the Millie. ;-D)

  5. True, Jimmy Stewart never gloated about the loss. For years his 1940 Oscar trophy sat not on his mantle at home, but in his father's hardware store window; he also received an Honorary Oscar from the Academy, which makes up for the loss in my opinion. And I agree with Kim about March's performance; his dinner speech in the film was memorable.

  6. No doubt Fredric March is a fine actor, but I do agree that Stewart should have one that year. I guess, in the long run, Stewart is the big winner, as he is the much more remembered actor. Mention Jimmy Stewart and most people can conjure some idea of who you are talking about. Mention the name Fredric March and other than a few film geeks, you get a bunch of blank faces. March got the trophy, but Stewart got the legacy, I guess.


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