The Oscar Quest: My Oscar Nominations — Best Supporting Actor (1936-1949)

This is part of a series of articles where I’m putting forth my opinions about what I’d nominate in all of the Oscar Quest categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress). Normally I take the categories as they are, but I thought it would be fun to figure out what I’d vote for if I had a ballot each year. Keep in mind, this is only for NOMINATIONS and nothing else.

My only problem with this is that I knew if I did it, too many people, were they doing the same thing, would put on movies that just didn’t belong on an Oscar ballot. (I would too, in some cases. We just like what we like.) My problem was that people would take this exercise as an opportunity to really just go off the rails with stuff (which, if you read through all these articles, you’ll see me call people out for it, since I know exactly which films and which performances people would put on). So my way around this was by creating what I call a “Compromise List” — after I tell you what was actually nominated and what I’d put on my ballot, I’m making a list whereby I try to make everyone happy and keep it mostly close to what would be there, Academy-wise. You’ll see. My lists usually end up being better and not crazy.

The things to take into account with the performance categories — I can only nominate what I’ve seen. So me not seeing something will be a big reason why some stuff doesn’t appear. And, as always, I tell people not to bother me with one random person in one random category, since I have everything to think about. If you want to say something, wait until you’ve seen all the films/tried this yourself before you do it. And I don’t care about foreign performances, for the most part. There’s a long and complicated answer there, but — I don’t. And the big rule for anyone doing this — if someone won a category, YOU CAN’T LEAVE THEM OFF THE COMPROMISE LIST. Can’t do it.

Otherwise — here’s the next set of categories.

1949

Actual Nominees:

  • John Ireland, All the King’s Men
  • Dean Jagger, Twelve O’Clock High
  • Arthur Kennedy, Champion
  • Ralph Richardson, The Heiress
  • James Whitmore, Battleground

My Vote: Ralph Richardson, The Heiress

I don’t have any changes for this one, nor would I really want to change anything. Everything about this category works, even if I’m not totally thrilled with all of the performances. So I’m leaving it. My problem’s with the decision, not with the category.

Compromise List:

  • John Ireland, All the King’s Men
  • Dean Jagger, Twelve O’Clock High
  • Arthur Kennedy, Champion
  • Ralph Richardson, The Heiress
  • James Whitmore, Battleground

My Vote: Ralph Richardson, The Heiress

 

1948

Actual Nominees:

  • Charles Bickford, Johnny Belinda
  • José Ferrer, Joan of Arc
  • Oskar Homolka, I Remember Mama
  • Walter Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • Cecil Kellaway, The Luck of the Irish

Oh, I’ve got some changes here.

My Nominees:

  • Charles Bickford, Johnny Belinda
  • Thomas Gomez, Force of Evil
  • Oskar Homolka, I Remember Mama
  • Walter Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • Anton Walbrook, The Red Shoes

My Vote: Walter Huston, Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Too bad about Leo Genn in The Snake Pit. I’d like to have added him, but I left Homolka on instead. Maybe not the best decision, but it’s already there. Plus I’d rather focus my attention on the other two changes. (Also — absolutely not to anyone in Key Largo on a Compromise List. I know what you’re thinking. No.)

That said — Anton Walbrook is amazing in The Red Shoes, and there’s no way he’d ever get on. They didn’t even nominate Powell and Pressburger for Best Director, for christ’s sake.

That doesn’t preclude us from putting Thomas Gomez, on, though. I feel like José Ferrer gets on no matter what. But Cecil Kellaway doesn’t need to be there. And watch Thomas Gomez in Force of Evil and tell me that’s not a performance that wins this award in most years. I’m changing it if only to get you to see that movie.

Compromise List:

  • Charles Bickford, Johnny Belinda
  • José Ferrer, Joan of Arc
  • Thomas Gomez, Force of Evil
  • Oskar Homolka, I Remember Mama
  • Walter Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

My Vote: Walter Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

1947

Actual Nominees:

  • Charles Bickford, The Farmer’s Daughter
  • Thomas Gomez, Ride the Pink Horse
  • Edmund Gwenn, Miracle on 34th Street
  • Robert Ryan, Crossfire
  • Richard Widmark, Kiss of Death

My Vote: Richard Widmark, Kiss of Death

They nominated Thomas Gomez in the wrong year.

Without even going to check what else could have been nominated, I’ll tell you flat out that three of the nominees stay no matter what. And Bickford is tipping toward “has to stay” as it is. Gomez is the only truly expendable nominee. But fortunately 1947 sucks, so I doubt we’ll have much to add to this.

Oh, here’s a good one — Hume Cronyn in Brute Force. Watch that movie. He’s awesome as the sadistic warden. I doubt he gets on, them not liking to go with unlikable violent characters often (and Widmark already filling that spot), but I’ll mention it.

And I don’t know how John Garfield doesn’t get nominated for Gentleman’s Agreement here either. Well, I guess because he got the lead nomination. (Still, I thought he was better than Bickford. But it wouldn’t make a Compromise List, most likely, so I won’t bother.)

Honestly, I don’t really have anything. On performance alone, Garfield gets on here, regardless of the lead nomination. But Gomez got fucked over in 1948, in my mind (though probably not really, in an objective sense), so I’m just leaving the category alone. At least he got something.

Compromise List:

  • Charles Bickford, The Farmer’s Daughter
  • Thomas Gomez, Ride the Pink Horse
  • Edmund Gwenn, Miracle on 34th Street
  • Robert Ryan, Crossfire
  • Richard Widmark, Kiss of Death

My Vote: Richard Widmark, Kiss of Death

 

1946

Actual Nominees:

  • Charles Coburn, The Green Years
  • William Demarest, The Jolson Story
  • Claude Rains, Notorious
  • Harold Russell, The Best Year of Our Lives
  • Clifton Webb, The Razor’s Edge

 

 

 

 

My Vote: Claude Rains, Notorious

Tough year. I bet a lot of people automatically put on Lionel Barrymore or Henry Travers for It’s a Wonderful Life, but neither of them make a Compromise List. Demarest is really the only expendable nomination there, and that’s (somehow) the only nomination he ever had. And I’m not taking him off just because we all love that movie. They didn’t need the nominations.

Not to mention — if I’m gonna vote on performances from a movie I love, I’d vote on either Raymond Massey or Roger Livesey from A Matter of Life and Death. But those wouldn’t happen wither.

I’d also say that Dana Andrews was much better than Harold Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives, but I won’t bother arguing since I can’t change it no matter what.

That said — on my personal list (which I’m not making since I know the category is staying the same) — I vote for Victor Mature in My Darling Clementine all the way. Doc Holliday fucking steals that movie, and I don’t understand how he doesn’t get a nomination. (Yes I do. Because it’s not 1947. In 1947 he gets on. This year is too strong and there’s a bias against westerns.)

So I put Mature on instead of Russell on my ballot, but Russell has to stay on, so I’m leaving the category alone.

Compromise List:

  • Charles Coburn, The Green Years
  • William Demarest, The Jolson Story
  • Claude Rains, Notorious
  • Harold Russell, The Best Year of Our Lives
  • Clifton Webb, The Razor’s Edge

My Vote: Claude Rains, Notorious

1945

Actual Nominees:

  • Mikhail Chekhov, Spellbound
  • John Dall, The Corn is Green
  • James Dunn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • Robert Mitchum, The Story of G.I. Joe
  • J. Carrol Naish, A Medal for Benny

 

 

My Vote: James Dunn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

What about Barry Fitzgerald in And Then There Were None here? There’s no need for Chekhov or Dall to be here. (I don’t care for the Naish performance either, but at least I can understand that one. And the Dall one I can also sort of understand, but only if there’s nothing else.)

Other than Fitzgerald — maybe someone from Mildred Pierce, but the point there is that it’s a female-driven movie, so that would negate the point.

I don’t really have anyone else. So I guess we’ll just leave it. The right person won anyway.

Compromise List:

  • Mikhail Chekhov, Spellbound
  • John Dall, The Corn is Green
  • James Dunn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • Robert Mitchum, The Story of G.I. Joe
  • J. Carrol Naish, A Medal for Benny

My Vote: James Dunn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

1944

Actual Nominees:

  • Hume Cronyn, The Seventh Cross
  • Barry Fitzgerald, Going My Way
  • Claude Rains, Mr. Skeffington
  • Clifton Webb, Laura
  • Monty Woolley, Since You Went Away

 

 

 

My Vote: Barry Fitzgerald, Going My Way

Oh, we got some changes here.

My Nominees:

  • Leon Ames, Meet Me in St. Louis
  • William Demarest, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
  • Barry Fitzgerald, Going My Way
  • Thomas Mitchell, The Fighting Sullivans
  • Edward G. Robinson, Double Indemnity

 

My Vote: Edward G. Robinson, Double Indemnity

I also had to leave off one of two nominees from Lifeboat. Both Walter Slezak and William Bendix were terrific. I can’t tell which I liked more, the guy acting innocent who’s actually a German agent trying to sabotage them, or the genuinely nice guy who gets killed and you feel horrible for him. Either way, they were absolutely amazing.

Then — somebody was amazing in The Keys of the Kingdom. It had to have been Thomas Mitchell, since I’m pretty sure the character was a drunk. And he was in The Fighting Sullivans this year as well, and was terrific there, too. (Note: Went back and added him after the fact.)

Why are there so many goddamn good performances in this year? Why couldn’t some of them be 1945?

Thomas Mitchell, The Keys of the Kingdom (or maybe Edmund Gwenn). One of them is terrific.

Also, even though it’ll never happen, and is like, 11th on the depth chart right now — Walter Brennan in To Have and Have Not was awesome. (But again — it doesn’t even rate in this fucking year. That’s how strong it is.)

Oh, and — Walter Huston was great in Dragon Seedbut I refuse to vote for whites playing Asians on principle.

That said — what the fuck do you do?

Fitzgerald won, he stays. Woolley was most likely gonna get on. Clifton Webb is one I feel people would cry foul for if I left him off (though I don’t see what makes that performance so special). Rains is Rains. And Hume Cronyn never got nominated for anything else, even though he’s clearly one we can take off.

But what goes on?

I’ll grant you that Leon Ames never gets on in a million years, and Demarest is in a comic role, so that’s probably out too. Edward G. Robinson was amazing, but that movie was really about the leads, so I can live with it. (Though he never got nominated for anything. What the fuck is that about?) The Lifeboat nominees — it’s clear they didn’t much care for the film (Note: this is a relative term, people) outside of Hitchcock’s direction (it’s one of those where they clearly like how it was shot but would never nominate it for Best Picture — just look at the films only nominated for Director and you’ll see what I mean), so I leave them off.

The only person who really seems like they should be on is Thomas Mitchell. He plays the father of the Sullivan boys, and is the heart and soul of the film, and then plays drunk again, which won him his first Oscar. I really think he should go on, but there’s so much shit to wade through with this year, I’m gonna leave this for now. Right? Should I? Or fuck it.

You know what? Fuck it. I’m changing it. Because what does it matter? Because nobody misses Cronyn if he’s not there.

I should be taking Webb off too, but I won’t. At least there’s evidence they sort of liked that one.

Compromise List:

  • Barry Fitzgerald, Going My Way
  • Thomas Mitchell, The Fighting Sullivans
  • Claude Rains, Mr. Skeffington
  • Clifton Webb, Laura
  • Monty Woolley, Since You Went Away

My Vote: Barry Fitzgerald, Going My Way

(Man, I really want to put on someone from Lifeboat instead of Webb.)

1943

Actual Nominees:

  • Charles Bickford, The Song of Bernadette
  • Charles Coburn, The More the Merrier
  • J. Carrol Naish, Sahara
  • Claude Rains, Casablanca
  • Akim Tamiroff, For Whom the Bell Tolls

 

 

 

My Vote: Claude Rains, Casablanca

Did I mention Joseph Cotten for Shadow of a Doubt in lead? I can’t tell whether he goes lead or Supporting. Either way — it’s more the direction than the performance there, anyway, and it would never happen. So let’s just move on from that.

I really like Frank Morgan in The Human Comedy, but there’s no way he gets on with a list like this. Coburn and Rains don’t go anywhere, and Bickford and Tamiroff were coming along with their films no matter what. And Naish — I don’t fully get the nomination, but I’m not gonna argue.

I don’t need Frank Morgan on, and the other film I’d think to nominate people from — The Ox-Bow Incident — who do you nominate? There are so many performances there.

We pretty much have to leave this one.

Compromise List:

  • Charles Bickford, The Song of Bernadette
  • Charles Coburn, The More the Merrier
  • J. Carrol Naish, Sahara
  • Claude Rains, Casablanca
  • Akim Tamiroff, For Whom the Bell Tolls

My Vote: Claude Rains, Casablanca

1942

Actual Nominees:

  • William Bendix, Wake Island
  • Van Heflin, Johnny Eager
  • Walter Huston, Yankee Doodle Dandy
  • Frank Morgan, Tortilla Flat
  • Henry Travers, Mrs. Miniver

 

 

 

 

My Vote: Frank Morgan, Tortilla Flat

Oh, I can fix this shit easily. It’s not that this category is horrible, it’s just that it’s a category of #2s and #3s with no #1. So that just makes it look horrible.

Watch this:

My Nominees:

  • William Bendix, Wake Island
  • Walter Brennan, The Pride of the Yankees
  • Walter Huston, Yankee Doodle Dandy
  • Claude Rains, Now, Voyager
  • Henry Travers, Mrs. Miniver

See how easy that was?

I don’t see how Rains doesn’t get on between that role and Kings Row. (Not to mention Casablanca, which premiered before the year was over, even if it wasn’t eligible until ’43.)

The Brennan one was just to make it look better. He shouldn’t be there at all.

(Also — no to anyone from Ambersons. I just — it’s not really a performance movie.)

Also, although it would have never happened — I really liked what George Sanders did in The Black Swan. You barely realize it’s him.

The only change I’m making on the list is putting Rains on. Otherwise, it works.

The only question is…who do I take off? Yeah, you know what? Sorry Frank.

Compromise List:

  • William Bendix, Wake Island
  • Van Heflin, Johnny Eager
  • Walter Huston, Yankee Doodle Dandy
  • Claude Rains, Now, Voyager
  • Henry Travers, Mrs. Miniver

My Vote: Claude Rains, Now, Voyager

1941

Actual Nominees:

  • Walter Brennan, Sergeant York
  • Charles Coburn, The Devil and Miss Jones
  • Donald Crisp, How Green Was My Valley
  • James Gleason, Here Comes Mr. Jordan
  • Sydney Greenstreet, The Maltese Falcon

 

 

 

 

My Vote: Sydney Greenstreet, The Maltese Falcon

This category is pretty much perfect. I’d vote for Coburn for The Lady Eve instead, but whatever, he’s on there.

The only other potential one (which isn’t even really that much of a choice) is Edward Arnold in The Devil and Daniel Webster. But no — not even that really makes things better.

And honestly — I don’t think they vote anyone else from Kane on this list. (I don’t know if I’d vote anyone else on this list. It’s mostly all about Welles.)

I don’t see why anyone would change this category.

Compromise List:

  • Walter Brennan, Sergeant York
  • Charles Coburn, The Devil and Miss Jones
  • Donald Crisp, How Green Was My Valley
  • James Gleason, Here Comes Mr. Jordan
  • Sydney Greenstreet, The Maltese Falcon

My Vote: Sydney Greenstreet, The Maltese Falcon

1940

Actual Nominees:

  • Albert Bassermann, Foreign Correspondent
  • Walter Brennan, The Westerner
  • William Gargan, They Knew What They Wanted
  • Jack Oakie, The Great Dictator
  • James Stephenson, The Letter

 

 

 

 

My Vote: Walter Brennan, The Westerner

Two changes here, for me.

My Nominees:

  • Albert Bassermann, Foreign Correspondent
  • Ralph Bellamy, His Girl Friday
  • John Carradine, The Grapes of Wrath
  • Walter Brennan, The Westerner
  • Jack Oakie, The Great Dictator

My Vote: John Carradine, The Grapes of Wrath

Even John Qualen was good in His Girl Friday, but I felt Bellamy had the tricker part (even if he was nominated for it before).

Now, in terms of what (if anything) can be changed…

Brennan and Oakie stay. Stephenson probably has to stay, since I know never to fuck with the films I hate most, since these fucking Bette Davis movies get all sorts of nominees. Bassermann I can live with. Gargan makes no sense, though. So I’m putting Carradine on. Let’s give him some recognition for a career of great performances.

  • Albert Bassermann, Foreign Correspondent
  • John Carradine, The Grapes of Wrath
  • Walter Brennan, The Westerner
  • Jack Oakie, The Great Dictator
  • James Stephenson, The Letter

My Vote: John Carradine, The Grapes of Wrath

– – – – –

I’m still watching 30s movies, so I’ll be updating these as I go along. Fortunately this category only goes back to 1936, so it’s not gonna be as hard as the lead categories.

 

1939

Actual Nominees:

  • Brian Aherne, Juarez
  • Harry Carey, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  • Brian Donlevy, Beau Geste
  • Thomas Mitchell, Stagecoach
  • Claude Rains, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

 

 

 

 

My Vote: Thomas Mitchell, Stagecoach

The only person I’d put on my list (and can’t imagine why he didn’t make it in the first place) is Leslie Howard for Gone With the Wind. It’s Gone With the Wind. You nominate all the principals.

So I’m taking off Donlevy, since, while he was good — he’s no Ashley Wilkes.

Compromise List:

  • Brian Aherne, Juarez
  • Harry Carey, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  • Leslie Howard, Gone With the Wind
  • Thomas Mitchell, Stagecoach
  • Claude Rains, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

My Vote: Thomas Mitchell, Stagecoach

 

1938

Actual Nominees:

  • Walter Brennan, Kentucky
  • John Garfield, Four Daughters
  • Gene Lockhart, Algiers
  • Basil Rathbone, If I Were King
  • Robert Morley, Marie Antoinette

 

My Vote: Basil Rathbone, If I Were King

 

Walter Huston was good in Of Human Hearts. I’d like to say Lionel Barrymore was Supporting in You Can’t Take It With You, but you know they consider him lead, so I can’t even pretend like he’d get on here. But Huston was good, so I’ll keep him in mind when I see more stuff.

Oh… wait. Erich von Stroheim in Grand Illusion. I don’t know if that can make a Compromise List, but — I’ll see what I can do when it comes to that.

1937

Actual Nominees:

  • Ralph Bellamy, The Awful Truth
  • Thomas Mitchell, The Hurricane
  • Joseph Schildkraut, The Life of Emile Zola
  • H.B. Warner, Lost Horizon
  • Roland Young, Topper

 

 

 

My Vote: Ralph Bellamy, The Awful Truth

How about Adolphe Menjou in A Star Is Born? I don’t remember the specifics of the performance too much (especially having seen so many versions of that story), but I’m sure that’s more of a performance than half the ones one this list.

1936

Actual Nominees:

  • Mischa Auer, My Man Godfrey
  • Walter Brennan, Come and Get It
  • Stuart Erwin, Pigskin Parade
  • Basil Rathbone, Romeo and Juliet
  • Akim Tamiroff, The General Died at Dawn

 

 

My Vote: Walter Brennan, Come and Get It

Victor Moore was amazing in Swing Time. Stuart Erwin is a joke nominee. They had no idea what “supporting” actually meant, I think. How about Frank Morgan in The Great Ziegfeld? or Claude Rains in Anthony Adverse? There’ll be some changes here. I’ll make this first category look respectable.

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2 responses

  1. Michael

    I’m actually VERY surprised you didn’t nominate Frank Morgan or Ray Bolger for The Wizard of Oz in 1939. Harry Carey’s nomination was a joke as his part was so small and required him to smile several times on camera and laugh eventually and put down his gavel. That was by far the worst of the main 6 categories in 1939. Donlevy, Aherne, and Carey didn’t belong. I replaced them with Morgan and Bolger, and I haven’t decided whether to nominated Howard or Nigel Bruce in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

    October 8, 2012 at 6:03 pm

  2. samuelwilliscroft

    everything aside, have you seen Fritz Lang’s M and what did you think of it if you did?

    May 23, 2015 at 11:59 am

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