None but the Lonely Heart (1944): Clifford Odets Melodrama, Starring Cary Grant in Oscar Nominated Role and Ethel Barrymore in Oscar-Winning Turn

Cary Grant delivered many Oscar-caliber performances, but in the “wrong” genre–comedy.  The Academy voters have always underestimated comedies and actors associated with both romantic and screwball comedies.

Thus, only when he played “serious” roles in shlocky melodramas, such as “None But the Lonely Heart,” did Cary Grant get the Academy’s seal of approval, that is, Best Actor nomination.

Set just before WWII in London’s slums, “None But the Lonely Heart” is a family melodrma, directed and written by playwright Clifford Odets, adapting to the screen Richard Llewellyn’s novel.

Cast against type, Grant plays Ernie Matt, a young Brit embittered over the loss of his father in thr last war.

At the beginning of the tale, Ernie is a restless, irresponsible cockney.  Ernie’s shiftlessness also defines his love life. The musician Aggie Hunter (played by Jane Wyatt) genuinely cares for him, but he prefers the company of gangster’s ex-wife Ada (June Duprez).

Ada’s former husband (George Coulouris) convinces Ernie that the quickest way to wealth is crime and he joins a band of thieves.

Ernie’s only maningful relationship is with his terminally ill mother (the grand Ethel Barrymore). Nearly caught in one of his acts, Ernie returns home, only to realize that his mother had become a “fence” to gain quick cash, because she knew she was soo to die of cancer.  Indeed, later on, Ernie’s mother dies in prison, and he decided to reform and seek a better life while using legitimate means.

While Cary Grant did not win the Oscar, Ethel Barrymore did get the Supporting Actress Award.

Overwritten and not particularly weel directed by Clifford Odets, “None But the Lonely Heart” was a commercial flop for RKO, who invested extra-money in the production in order to get Barrymore, who was then on Broadway in the play “The Corn is Green.”

While well respected as a stage and screen actress, Barrymore (sister of John and Lionel) was not the first choice for the part of Ma Matt.  Cary Grant wanted Laurette Taylor to play his mother, but the actress could not be relied on due to her alcoholism.


Oscar Nominations: 4

Actor: Cary Grant

Supporting Actress: Ethel Barrymore

Scoring: C. Bakaleinikoff and Hanns Eisler

Film Editing: Roland Cross


Oscar Awards: 1

Supporting Actress


Oscar Context:

The winner of the Best Actor was Bing Crosby for “Going My Way.”

The Scoring Oscar went to Max Steiner for “Since You Went Away.”  Barbara McLean won the Editing Oscar for “Wilson.”

Running time: 113 Minutes.

Directed by Clifford Odets

Released: October 17, 1944 Wide


Cary Grant as Ernie Mott

Ethel Barrymore as Ma Mott

Barry Fitzgerald Twite

June Duprez as Ada

Jane Wyatt as Aggie Hunter

Dan Duryea as Lew Tate