The Oscar Quest: Best Actor – 1943

1943. Great year. Hard to argue when your Best Picture is Casablanca and Michael Curtiz also wins Best Director for it (talked about here). But you know what? Complaints can be made here. Complaints that Casablanca didn’t win more.

Best Actress this year was Jennifer Jones for The Song of Bernadette (talked about here). I’m sort of okay with this, because Ingrid Bergman was nominated for the wrong film. Best Supporting Actor was Charles Coburn for The More the Merrier (talked about here), which was a fine decision, and a great performance, but I personally think Claude Rains should have won for Casablanca. And Best Supporting Actress was Katina Paxinou for For Whom the Bell Tolls, which was in one of the weakest Best Supporting Actress categories of all time (and there was no Casablanca nomination there), so it was okay.

And then there’s this category. One of the top five worst Best Actor decisions of all time. One of the bottom three worst Best Actor-winning performances of all time. This is just a shitty decision all around. I actually went back to watch this film again to double check that it was so bad. It was.


And the nominees were…

Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca

Gary Cooper, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Paul Lukas, Watch on the Rhine

Walter Pidgeon, Madame Curie

Mickey Rooney, The Human Comedy

Bogart — It’s fucking Casablanca. Come on now.

Bogie is amazing as Rick. I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t think he didn’t deserve this one, especially considering his competition. I’d understand maybe saying Mickey Rooney, because Bogie would win in ’51, but there’s no way you could seriously say any of the other nominees were better than he was. No way.

Cooper — For Whom the Bell Tolls is based on the Hemingway novel about a group of Spanish guerrilla fighters during the fascist era. It’s big, epic, expensive, and designed to get Oscar nominations.

Gary Cooper plays a schoolteacher fighting alongside the group. And he falls in love with Ingrid Bergman, and there’s the romance, and he dies. Mostly he just does the Gary Cooper thing. And that, for me, doesn’t work in a film like this. Plus he won two years before this. So he’s out. And I didn’t particularly like the film either. So there’s really no way I’d ever vote for him here.

Lukas — Watch on the Rhine — what can I say about this film? Just — why?

The film is about a family who lived in Europe, and saw the rise of Nazism, so they started performing anti-fascist activities. And they were pretty much run out of Germany and are now looking for asylum in the US. But, there are Germans out to get them, because they’re helping the underground. And Lukas plays the patriarch of the family, who is trying to keep his family safe but also help out the underground. And he discovers a dude who helped him escape has disappeared, so he decides he has to go back to Germany to help him, and he leaves his family.

That’s pretty much the film. I found this to be so boring you wouldn’t believe. Nothing happens! I can’t believe Lukas won here. He doesn’t do anything at all. This, to me, is one of the worst decisions of all time, and probably ranks second or third in the worst Best Actor-winning performances of all time. I know they were probably voting for the sentiment over the performance, but still — it was terrible. For shame, Academy.

Pidgeon — Madame Curie is a biopic of Marie Curie and her husband. Greer Garson and Pidgeon play them both. And, this is about as standard a biopic as you’re gonna get. It’s not bad, but it’s not particularly good, either. It’s just kind of there. It has its moments, but overall it’s pretty run of the mill.

Pidgeon — I’m not sure why he got nominated. I guess it’s because they nominated both of them for Miniver and wanted to keep it going. But I never thought of him as the type of actor who should have been nominated for Oscars. He’s just kind of bland. Plus, going up against Bogie — there’s no way I vote for him here. No way in hell. He wasn’t that good, for my money.

Rooney — The Human Comedy is a really great film, about a young boy whose brother has gone off to fight in the war. And in order to help the family out, he takes a job at a telegram office as a delivery boy. And the film doesn’t really have a plot. It’s more about what the homefront was like during the war, focused specifically on this one boy and his family. And it’s a really great film. I highly recommend this one. It’s really fantastic.

Mickey Rooney is great here, and, for my money, if it weren’t for Bogart, he should have won. He’s a legend, and he would have been an infinitely better choice than Lukas.

My Thoughts: Well it’s certainly not Paul Lukas, that’s for sure.

Cooper won two years before this. No way.

Pidgeon is just lucky to be nominated. He was never that much of a lead actor, for my money.

So that leaves Bogie and Mickey Rooney.

Well who the fuck do you think I’m voting for?

My Vote: Bogart

Should Have Won: Bogart (or even Mickey Rooney at least, over Lukas. Lukas was terrible)

Is the result acceptable?: Top five worst decisions of all time. That bad. Bogie should have won this.

Performances I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen Casablanca, you’re dead to me.

The Human Comedy is a great, great film. I really loved this. It just felt like a great intimate story with a lot going on, and — it’s just great. I highly recommend this, and I think you should see it.

Madame Curie — standard. See it, don’t see it. Whatever.

For Whom the Bell Tolls — I don’t like it, but some people consider it a classic, so I mention it.

Watch on the Rhine — see it only if you really want to see why Lukas shouldn’t have won. Otherwise, don’t bother.


5) Lukas

4) Cooper

3) Pidgeon

2) Rooney

1) Bogart

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