Gene Kelly: Anchors Aweigh
Bing Crosby: The Bells of St. Mary’s
Gregory Peck: The Keys of the Kingdom
Ray Milland: The Lost Weekend (winner)
Cornel Wilde: A Song to Remember
There will almost certainly be some suggestions in the comments for Best Actor 1945, because I’m finding the year to be pretty unimpressive for this award. Some might suggest Gregory Peck could have been nominated for Spellbound instead of The Keys of the Kingdom, although I won’t make that suggestion seriously. Barry Fitzgerald would make an interesting nomination for And Then There Were None, even if the role is kind of supporting because of the ensemble cast. The same is kind of true for Burgess Meredith and The Story of G.I. Joe. Two I think I can make a case for are Lawrence Tierney in Dillinger, since the issues with that film don’t fall on Tierney; and John Wayne for They Were Expendable, a movie sadly forgotten these days. A third is nominating Paul Muni for A Song to Remember rather than Cornel Wilde.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I can’t claim to be a huge fan of Cornel Wilde and I wasn’t much of a fan of A Song to Remember. Wilde spends the entire film looking aggrieved about something until the end of the film when he looks aggrieved and is covered in sweat. Paul Muni is far and away the best thing in the film aside from the music of Chopin. I have no idea what Wilde did to earn a nomination here other than constantly look like he had a case of indigestion. For this we didn’t get John Wayne? I simply don’t understand.
4. I spent a lot of time switching third and fourth place here, but finally settled on putting Bing Crosby and The Bells of St. Mary’s here. It’s fair to say (in fact, I feel obligated to say) that this is not the fault of Crosby who, as he generally was, is likeable and entertaining on screen. The role is a nothing, though, and doesn’t really ask him to do anything beyond being simply likeable. He created the role the previous year and, based on the five nominations, rightfully won the Oscar. Not for something that is essentially a decent rehash, though.
3. Everything I just said about Bing Crosby I could virtually repeat for Gene Kelly and Anchors Aweigh. Kelly, like Crosby, was easy to like on camera, and that’s no different here. The film, though, doesn’t really try to do anything beyond have some good song and dance numbers and entertain for its running time. I honestly have no problem with that, but Kelly is asked to do so little here beyond the singing and dancing that I wonder precisely what he was nominated for. Sure, he earned a few in his career, but not for this.
2. I said at the top that some may wish to see Gregory Peck nominated for Spellbound in which he is the best part of a Freudian mess. I disagree, because he’s the best part of The Keys of the Kingdom, and it’s a far better film. The issues I take with the film aren’t the fault of Peck and are also far less than I expected them to be. Peck, as was usually the case, presents a character beautifully and with real care to make the character something real rather than just simply a person in a movie. In another year, I could see awarding him.
1. This is a case, though, where the Academy was right in its choice. Ray Milland’s work in The Lost Weekend is as good as you’re going to find from the era. The major problem with the film—the ending it doesn’t really earn—are hardly the fault of Milland, who gives a gripping performance that is just far enough ahead of its time that people were able to recognize it for what it was. That Milland never reached these heights again is probably understandable—not many people do in their entire career. He was the right choice.