Who Should Have Won the Best Actor Oscar for 1932-33?

One of my favorite actors won in this category this year: Charles Laughton, in his star-making turn as the priapic king, Henry VIII:

The-Private-Life-of-Henry-VIII -1933.jpg

I’m not sure there has ever been a moment in history which turned so intently on the male genitalia as Henry’s mixing of marriage and the church — but that is never shown in this movie. Instead, we get a royal, randy romp in the hay.

Certainly, Laughton deserved the Oscar more than the anemic Leslie Howard in the time-travel romance-fantasy, Berkeley Square (which was American horror write H. P. Lovecraft’s favorite movie).

Typical Howard performance, all hesitation and caution and timidity.

Paul Muni’s heartfelt, sincere turn in the crusading I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang has lasted much longer in our collective memory. Muni was never better than he was here:


Those were the three original nominees. But others may find more support from some of you.

Fredric March had a very strong, tortured turn in The Eagle and the Hawk as a WWI flight commander troubled by the men dying under his command.

Poster of the movie The Eagle and the Hawk.jpg

The Great Profile had one of his best movie parts in Dinner at Eight, an all-star extravaganza better in almost every way than Grand Hotel. John Barrymore plays a tortured wreck of a man, a shell of a man. He’s quite good.

Dinner at Eight cph.3b52734.jpg

That’s Madge Evans to the left there.

Two more iconic and well-remembered performances remain.

The first is hard to see.


Claude Rains had to convey a superb performance without his face, and often with his body, with a voice alone. The humor James Whale so loved comes out beautifully, with dripping irony.

And finally, a performance that still haunts me, thirty years after seeing it in a revival house. Ladies and Gentlemen, the incarnation of evil, Pater Lorre in Fritz Lang’s chilling masterpiece M.

M poster.jpg

Lorre had other iconic roles — as Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon, as Ugarte in Casablancabut his child-killer in M. will remain as his most chilling moment. He is the face of evil, an evil that requires nothing supernatural to sustain it.

As always, I have much more to say in my book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OPEELH0

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