I was watching Turner Classic Movies the other day and began to think about what year should be considered the greatest year for actors in the male category.
Most movie buffs consider 1939 the best year for movies when Gone with the Wind, Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, The Women, Gunga Din, Beau Geste, Destry Rides Again, The Young Mr. Lincoln, Stagecoach, Of Mice and Men, Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Dark Victory led a parade of great films.
Among male actors, it would have to be a battle between these three years – 1962, 1946 and 1982.
Just look at the various best actor nominees:
In 1982, the field included Dustin Hoffman in “Tootsie” (truly his best role aside from “Midnight Cowboy”), Jack Lemmon in “Missing” (a stunning underplayed role in a powerful Costa-Graves film), Peter O’Toole in “My Favorite Year” (hilarious and heartbreaking as aging actor Alan Swamm), Paul Newman in “The Verdict” (robbed of his Oscar as the alcoholic lawyer given one last case) and eventual winner Ben Kingsley as “Ghandi” (brillaint but not like Newman).
In 1946, the field was led by Laurence Olivier as “Henry V,” Larry Parks in “The Jolson Story,” Gregory Peck in “The Yearling,” James Stewart in his career-defining role of George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but the winner was Fredric March, earning his second Oscar, for “The Best Years of Our Lives.”
All were brilliant performances.
But in 1962, look what was up for the Academy Award (and consider the movies themselves):
Marcello Mastroianni in the classic Italian farce, “Divorce-Italian Style;
Burt Lancaster's moving protryal of Robert Stroud, known as “Birdman of Alcatraz;”
Jack Lemmon's gut-wrenching Joe Clay, devastated by alcoholism in Blake Edwards’ “Days of Wine and Roses" (yes – the man who did “The Pink Panther” did this as well);
Peter O’Toole's stunning movie debut as T.E. Lawrence in “Lawrence of Arabia;”
and the deserved winner – Gregory Peck as the screen’s most beloved lawyer, Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Can think politics and sports ALL the time.