Victor McLaglen: The Informer (winner)
Clark Gable: Mutiny on the Bounty
Charles Laughton: Mutiny on the Bounty
Franchot Tone: Mutiny on the Bounty
We don’t get a great deal of variety in our nominees for Best Actor in 1935, so perhaps we can make a few changes. The one performance that almost certainly belongs here is Paul Muni in Black Fury, which was written in by a number of people, but I haven’t seen it, mainly because I can’t find it. One simple change would be removing Charles Laughton’s huge performance in Mutiny and the Bounty and replace it with Charles Laughton’s equally huge performance in Ruggles of Red Gap. Gary Cooper in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer would be an interesting addition, as would Robert Donat in The 39 Steps. I like Fred Astaire in Top Hat, although he probably wouldn’t be in contention. Errol Flynn never got any Oscar buzz, but he deserved some for Captain Blood. Finally, Ronald Colman was absolutely the best part of A Tale of Two Cities, and he genuinely belongs here.
Weeding through the Nominees
4. It’s probably unfair of me to dump Franchot Tone first, but aside from a supporting role in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, I haven’t really found a role of his that I much remember or care about. Tone comes across to me as plain toast, as thrilling as a beige room. I’ve seen this movie and I literally can’t remember Tone in it. That’s not terribly unusual, though, because I pretty much never remember Tone. I’m sure he was serviceable in the role, but I can’t help but think that there are at least more memorable performances I could put here.
3. With the vote being split three ways on Mutiny on the Bounty and the write-in campaign for Paul Muni, it’s perhaps not a shock that Victor McLaglen walked away with this statue. It’s in interesting performance, but it also feels very amateurish in a lot of ways. Gypo Nolan is a disturbingly simple-minded character, and because of it, not a very compelling one. McLaglen is fine in the role, but it does come across as ham-handed and cartoonish. It may be impossible to tell if that’s the role or McLaglen himself, but either way, he didn’t really deserve the win.
2. I understand that Clark Gable was the end-all, be-all for actors at the time, but I’ve never really seen it. Sure, the man was talented and possessed of a particular charm, but I don’t really get his level of popularity. Still, his was the more or less main role in Mutiny on the Bounty, and he handles it with true aplomb. That said, there’s a part of me that wonders what this film would have been like with Errol Flynn in the role. Perhaps less clearly the original story, sure, but also potentially a great deal more exciting.
1. If I’m honest, I think Charles Laughton is the only one of the four actual nominations that I would keep. He remains the only real thing I remember from this version of Mutiny on the Bounty, and it is a towering performance. Laughton was such a talent when given good material, and as Ruggles of Red Gap demonstrated, he was just as much at home in comedy as he was in drama. This should have been his Oscar to lose, and even with the addition of the names I listed above, Laughton is going to be my pick for a truly despicable but just as memorable Captain Bligh.