Friday, February 6, 2009

I Heart Bobby Darin ~ Captain Newman, MD (1963) and the Academy Award Nomination

It's that time of year. The 81st Academy Awards are in a few short weeks and everyone is a buzz with Oscar fever. To honor the Oscars I wanted to talk about something very few people know about. Bobby Darin's Academy Award nomination. Yes, Bobby Darin, singer of classics such as Splish, Splash, Mack the Knife and Artificial Flowers, was nominated for his role in Captain Newman, MD (1963). This was the line-up:

1964 ~ Best Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Bobby Darin in Captain Newman, MD
  • Hugh Griffith in Tom Jones
  • John Huston in The Cardinal
  • Melvyn Douglas in Hud
  • Nick Adams in Twilight of Honor

Bobby Darin would lose to Melvyn Douglas to that year, but I believe that being recognized by the Academy for his performance solidified him as a talented actor. Most people think of Bobby Darin as a singer or the other half of the Bobby Darin & Sandra Dee marriage. Some might even think of him as a TV personality who had a knack for entertaining. I think of him as an actor.

I was already impressed with his performances in Pressure Point (1962), State Fair (1962) and Come September (1961) . I watch If a Man Answers (1962) several times a year! He could play a loveable cad or a Nazi sympathizer. He could be funny and charming or he could be angry and disturbed. So I was really happy when Captain Newman, MD (1963) came out on DVD. I got a chance to watch what was honored to be his best performance on screen.

Captain Newman, MD is a wonderful little film. It's not driven by one plot, rather several smaller plots that involve the various characters. Gregory Peck starts as Captain Newman, head of Ward 7, a psychiatric ward at an army hospital. Captain Newman is kind and genuinely cares for his patients, who are all WWII soldiers deeply disturbed by what they've seen and experienced on the battlefield. Newman gathers the best staff to take care of his patients including Corporal Laibowitz (Tony Curtis) and Lieutenant Corum (Angie Dickinson). We follow them as they deal with three of the worst cases. There is Colonel Bliss (Eddie Albert) whose seen all his men die and becomes withdrawn and violent, Captian Paul Cabot Winston (Robert Duvall!) who feels shame for his cowardice as a POW, and Corporal Jim Tompkins (Bobby Darin) who survives a harrowing plane crash only to see his best buddy die.

The scene that got Bobby Darin his nomination was done in one take (according to David Evanier's book Roman Candle). Captain Newman gives Tompkins flak juice (sodium pentothal) which puts Tompkins in a subconscious state where he reveals the details of his last mission. Darin throws his whole body into the scene. He's lying there, eyes closed, his body writhing as he goes from happy moments to harrowing ones. It's amazing and heart-wrenching to watch (although my pictures look a little silly).

I highly admire Bobby Darin. He did so much with his short life. Knowing he didn't have long to live, he lived life to the absolute fullest and wasted no time pursuing his dreams!

I recommend that you watch Captain Newman, MD (1963). Below is the trailer of the movie from the TCM Media room. It gives you a little taste of the mixture of drama and comedy that make up this film.

And remember, that Turner Classic Movies is in the midst of their 31 Days of Oscars Festival. More on that to come! In the meantime, visit the TCM University for more details (click on the banner below).


  1. Wow, Leo Rosten wrote "Captain Newman, MD?" He did "The Joys of Yiddish."

    A Bobby Darin thing: My Mom is still a huge fan and, after he died, she was so upset that she wanted to throw all her Bobby Darin records away.

    At the time, she was somehow dissuaded, held onto them, and now I have least 11-12 records, all of which I have listened to.

    Ergo, while I can conceivably think of him as an actor, I still regard him as one of the greatest singers and interpreters of American music ever. Plus, he was so cool on his TV show, too. :-)

  2. Every year there are great performances that lose out to other performances that are also great but, sometimes, maybe not quite as good. It's interesting to go back and see some of the amazing performances that didn't win.

  3. Somehow, I have never really warmed up to BD. Not quite sure why. Could be because 60's movies aren't my cup of tea, so I miss out on him. I have seen State Fair, and I did like him in it. He's kind of the "bad" guy who loves a girl so much, he changes to get to be with her.

    So - I vow, that the next time a BD movie comes on, I will watch it. Reading your post makes me feel like I'm missing out.

  4. To me Bobby Darin is mostly a singer, but a very good one. i prefer his jazzier records with lush arrangements that ooozes luxury.

    What did you think about Kevin Spacey as Bobby in Beyond The Sea?
    I was surprised Spacey was such a good singer and learned he was a musical actor before Keyser Zoese set in.

  5. Erica - Yes, I totally agree, he was so cool on TV. He was a born entertainer. I'm so glad your mom kept those records!

    Robby - It is, there are so few I know about. It's worth researching.

    Casey - I understand, I was the same way. But you are missing out on so much '60s fun, so get on the bandwagon!

    Jonas - I thought Beyond the Sea (2004) was atrocious. Kevin Spacey was way too old. Bobby Darin was youthful and vibrant. Spacey was just tired. Plus I didn't like how they constructed the story with all those weird flashbacks and fantasy sequences. Not right.

  6. Hi, Raquel! Jeanine here. Hope you don't mind my diving into your (awesome) blog action . . .

    Ooh, time to update the netflix queue, check out the Bobby Darin!

    Melvyn Douglas, though, is wonderful. He (and everyone else, actually) really was brilliant in Hud--which is one of my absolute favorites.


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