Best Leading Actor 1915
Some say that when you act, you put on a mask and pretend to be what you are not. There’s a counter-theory, however, that really good acting comes from the ability to take off masks and show sides of yourself that no one knew were there – maybe even including yourself. We all have many characters within ourselves, and an accomplished actor works from within to bring out their best performances.
This year’s nominees for best actor in a leading role all went beyond the simple process of masking themselves to find inspiration from life and their own emotions, and brought that to a screen audience that was newly interested in understanding the feelings of the characters on the screen. Henry B. Walthall gave a tortured performance as Edgar Allan Poe in “The Raven,” showing how he suffered as a writer and as the husband of his much-younger cousin. Charlie Chaplin reached deep inside himself to bring pathos and believability to his long-standing “Little Tramp” role in “The Bank.” Rockliffe Fellowes brought both the hardened criminal and the repentant sinner to life from Owen Kildare’s book for “Regeneration.” George Beban brought out of himself the struggles of an immigrant in an unfriendly new world for “The Italian.” And finally, Vitold Polonsky gave a haunting vision of a man who spurns his true love and must live with the consequences in “After Death.”
The nominees for best Leading Actor for 1915 are…
- Henry B. Walthall for “The Raven”
- Charlie Chaplin for “The Bank”
- Rockliffe Fellowes for “Regeneration”
- George Beban for “The Italian”
- Vitold Polonsky for “After Death”
And the winner of the Century Award is…Vitold Polonsky in “After Death!” The key to Polonsky’s performance is precisely his own suppressed passion and his inability to communicate his emotions. In that sense. Polonsky is playing against his own feelings in this role, but still has to transmit the feelings he dare not show to the audience – while also showing his own frustration and inability to understand them! In that sense, his performance goes beyond the more straightforward, if also powerful, examples of his competition in this category. Polonsky’s performance is nuanced to a degree still rare today, and nearly unheard of at the time.