Wednesday, February 20, 2013

31 Days of Oscar and Mr. Skeffington

For me, there are three actors who were robbed of very deserved Oscars, robbed I tell you!

Cary Grant (for nearly any film he was in), Humphrey Bogart (For Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Petrified Forest or Casablanca), and Mr. Claude Rains for Mr. Skeffington.

I came upon this film late one night, and being a larger than life Claude Rains fan, I decided to stay up till nearly 3 a.m. on a work night to watch it. This film left me in tears. Claude Rains' performance was perfect in every single way.

Film review

Mr. Skeffington takes place in New York City at the beginning of 1914. Bette Davis plays "Fanny" Trellis, a beautiful, highly self-absorbed woman who is always surrounded by men willing and wanting to court her. She "plays" them and toys with them, never really interested in them. Claude Rains plays Job Skeffington, a wealthy NY stockbroker who falls madly in love with Fanny.

When Fanny finds out that her brother Trippy stole a great deal of money from his employer and lost it at the race track, she starts to court his employer, Mr. Skeffington. Fanny and her brother are living on no income and are near bankrupt, and have no way to pay the money back, thus leading to her actions towards Mr. Skeffington. Soon they are married, and her brother Trippy is highly upset with the marriage. Trippy ends up leaving for the army in France and soon dies in combat. Fanny blames her marriage to Mr. Skeffington as the reason her brother has died. Fanny finds out she is pregnant, and her reaction is, "Soon, I will be swollen, puffy and ugly." She leaves for California to have her baby away from the people who know her in NY Society. 

Soon after these series of events, she starts to go out nightly with a gangster who sets up a date so she can find her husband in the company of another woman. This leads to her divorcing Mr. Skeffington. He moves with their daughter to Europe during the World War. Years later, her daughter returns home and beautiful young lady. The same day Fanny goes on a sailing trip with a younger beau and is diagnosed with diphtheria. This leaves her looking haggard and old. A cold punishment for a woman who has been obsessed with her own looks her entire life. Her daughter runs off to marry her mother's younger beau, and Mr. Skeffington returns to NY after surviving a concentration camp. She refuses to see him, but he is now blind and penniless. He needs and still loves her. Finally, Fanny realizes that looks are not everything in life.

What is it about this performance I regard so highly? It is Claude Rains' ability to be stepped on and still show such grace and strength. His heart was constantly toyed with. You can see the pain in his eyes get more constant and deeper throughout the film. I admit I cry during many films, and this one always gets me. He is such a devoted husband and father, putting up with Fanny's constant need for male attention. He still loves her throughout this film. In the end, when he is broken, and blind his emotion is intense and heartbreaking. I am so reminded of Lon Chaney's performance in The Unknown. The raw emotion, hurt eyes, powerful performance just sticks with me every time. He so deserved an Oscar for his performance. Hearing Robert Osborne tell of others considered for this part, such as Paul Henreid, makes me scratch my head. I could easily imagine others in the role of Fanny, but not Job. I feel it was one of the roles that Rains was born to play.

1945 Best Supporting Actor Category

WINNER: Barry Fitzgerald for Going My Way

Nominees: Claude Rains, Clifton Webb for Laura, Monty Woolley for Since You Went Away.

While I have not seen any of these other films, I have my forever favorite with Claude Rains. His performance in Mr. Skeffington will forever be one of my favorites, and I hope, one of yours as well.

I wrote this blog for the 31 Days of Oscar Blog-A-Thon. Thanks, Ladies, for hosting! Sorry, It isn't as long as I would have hoped but, with the impending snowtacular, I've been piled under work all week.

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