Charles Boyer: Gaslight
Bing Crosby: Going My Way (winner)
Barry Fitzgerald: Going My Way
Cary Grant: None but the Lonely Heart
Alexander Knox: Wilson
Where to start here? First things first: Fred MacMurray not being nominated for Double Indemnity is a staggering omission. I can see some wanting a nomination for Dana Andrews in Laura, but I wouldn’t put him in the list. Eddie Bracken isn’t a typical leading man, but his turns in both Hail the Conquering Hero and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek should have earned him something. I’d rather nominate Dick Powell in Murder, My Sweet. I’d consider Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not as well. I’d consider Laurence Olivier in Henry V, too. There’s one more I’d like to add here, but we’ll get to that below.
Weeding through the Nominees
4. Alexander Knox had no business being here. Wilson is a bloated and boring film of people standing around talking at each other. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Knox’s performance, but this is a film that didn’t belong here in any sense. In a collection of nominees I don’t love, he goes out next. Had Barry Fitzgerald not been nominated for a role that didn’t belong in this category, I can pretty much guarantee that Knox would have been the first one I’d have removed.
3. I don’t have a serious problem with Cary Grant being nominated, but he was nominated for the wrong film. Had he been nominated for Aresenic and Old Lace, he wouldn’t be in third place here. My biggest problem with None but the Lonely Heart is that the film itself is stunningly boring. Grant is fine, but for this role? There was no business nominating him for this one. I can’t fathom what they were thinking with this nomination instead of Arsenic. Seriously?
2. I rather like Gaslight, and Charles Boyer is benefitting from that here. His performance in the film is fine, if not great or really even nomination-worthy, but since his role wasn’t nominated elsewhere and the film is actually a good one, he winds up in second place. It’s rather sad that I’m putting Boyer second for a performance that I’m not sure belonged on the list in the first place, and that it’s the film that is getting the nomination from me more than the actual performance. Such is this award for 1944.
1. Limited to the nominations, the Academy did the right thing in giving it to Bing Crosby for Going My Way. It’s a good performance in a surprisingly good film. Crosby is likable and funny, never gets maudlin when he could, and doesn’t even get too mushy when that was certainly a possibility. In an open field, Crosby would make my list of five nominations, but he wouldn’t win. In a collection where he was the only nominee who deserved to be here, though, at least the Academy managed to put the Oscar in the right hands.
Really, though, this is a sad list of nominees given the people who were left off. If I could name the nominees myself, I’d keep Crosby and change Cary Grant’s to Arsenic and Old Lace. I’d also tap Eddie Bracken for Hail the Conquering Hero and probably Dick Powell for Murder My Sweet. But all of them would take a backseat to Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity. MacMurray had such a career playing a nice guy that seeing him go against type this well should’ve gotten him on the list and with a statue.