Sunday, July 15, 2018

Day Four: Best Supporting Actor

Now that we've honored The Nun's Story for its lead actress and score, Porgy and Bess for its orchestrations, and Wild Strawberries for its screenplay, its time to let another film into the fold. And we'll do that by looking at the nominees for Best Supporting Actor, made of four first-timers, only two of whom would be back for more.


Hugh Griffith in Ben-Hur
***

Notes: First of two nominations, first and only win; National Board of Review Winner for Supporting Actor

An unlikely winner, Griffith's Sheik Ilderim is just a dash less broad than you think it is. He has a fantastic scene where he entices Stephen Boyd's Messala to take a very rich gamble on the chariot race. And he's a good time entertaining Judah Ben-Hur in his tent, trying to get him to belch in appreciation of the fine dining. It's some welcome comic relief that goes beyond the dye job, but I'm still shocked this is the performance from Ben-Hur that got nominated.

Arthur O'Connell in Anatomy of a Murder
***

Notes: Second of two nominations

Folksy alcoholic attorney whose arc from mess who can't get hired to unexpected hero of the hour plays more or less in the background, subtly. It helps that his second chance comes up within the first thirty minutes of the movie. O'Connell, to his credit, does not overplay a moment. Not the drunkenness, not the career rehab, not the chemistry with James Stewart: it's all natural.

George C. Scott in Anatomy of a Murder
*****

Notes: First of four nominations

Much like the character, a performance that sneaks up on you. Quiet at first, with a respectfully condescending manner that grates - Scott even gives him an odd highfalutin' accent: something about his vowels sounds practiced, a great choice that makes Claude Dancer's distance from this small town even more deliberate. And when he fights, he fights hard: the sweaty, clobbering evisceration he attempts on Mary Pilant; the quiet, confident redirection he gives the local DA; his "embarrassed" manipulation of Laura Manion's rape accusations - this guy plays to win.

Robert Vaughn in The Young Philadelphians
**

Notes: First and only nomination; Golden Globe Nominee for Supporting Actor

Mind-boggling. How is this the sole performance to be honored by the Globes and the Oscars? He's solid, delivers witticisms with the appropriate drollness, plays pathetic drunkenness at the just the right pitch for this kind of movie, but that's it. It's not especially unique or revelatory - it just...is.

Ed Wynn in The Diary of Anne Frank
***

Notes: First and only nomination

Wynn is convincing as the oft-annoyed, doom-and-gloom dentist who can't stand the close quarters of the attic. He annoys you to the brink of insanity, but then there's this hopelessness in his slackened face and downcast eyes. He's our last hint of what's happening outside, and it's not pretty. Wynn, mostly known as a comic actor, delivers the goods.

Also in the conversation:

  • Fred Astaire, On the Beach (Golden Globe Nominee for Supporting Actor) - A surprise snub, though maybe his come-and-go "British" accent was a hurdle. His scientist-turned-lush is a welcome change of pace: cynical, straight, but not without heart. *****
  • Stephen Boyd, Ben-Hur (Globe Winner for Supporting Actor) - As Messala, the villain and object of Ben-Hur's obsessive revenge quest, Boyd is, surprisingly, the film's beating heart. There is always something going on just beneath the surface. You can't take your eyes off him. *****
  • Peter Finch, The Nun's Story (BAFTA Award Nominee for British Actor) - BAFTA had no lead/supporting distinctions, but he's probably in less than 15 minutes of the movie; still, he has a great impact, and you miss him...much like Hepburn's nun. *****
  • Laurence Olivier, The Devil's Disciple (BAFTA Award Nominee for British Actor) - A scream as a British commander during the Revolutionary War. No villain; indeed, he's almost comic relief, in an already light film! ****
  • Tony Randall, Pillow Talk (Golden Globe Nominee for Supporting Actor) - Funny; delivers dick jokes with class. ***
  • Joseph N. Welch, Anatomy of a Murder (Golden Globe Nominee for Supporting Actor) - As the out-of-town judge with the Huckleberry Hound voice, Welch steals the movie with aw-shucks comic timing and dignity. *****

------------------------------------

Griffith benefited from the Ben-Hur sweep.


But I just don't see it. In fact, I only see one nominee that comes close to deserving the Oscar...

GEORGE C. SCOTT
for
ANATOMY OF A MURDER


In our next adventure, we'll look at Best Director: Jack Clayton (Room at the Top), George Stevens (The Diary of Anne Frank), Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot), William Wyler (Ben-Hur), and Fred Zinnemann (The Nun's Story).

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Day Three: The Scores

A music break, and a large one at that. If you've been here before, you may recall that the category for Music Score used to be split into two categories: Original and Adapted. The names sometimes changed - this year, they were called Scoring of a Dramatic/Comedy Picture and Scoring of a Musical Picture - but the kinds of films nominated in each category remained the same. The one exception would probably be On the Beach, whose "original score" gets quite a boost from its use of "Waltzing Matilda."

Let's have a listening party, shall we? Starting, after the jump, with.....

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Day Two: Original Screenplay

We began our 1959 adventure yesterday with the nominees for Best Actress; today, we look at Best Original Screenplay. Long the place to honor comedies and foreign films, the 1959 roster is made up entirely of just such films. Oh yes - according to the WGA Awards, which at this point divided nominees by genre and not by whether they were original or adapted, even North by Northwest is a comedy. Do we agree? Did it deserve to lose to Pillow Talk? Check after the jump, will ya?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Day One: Actress, 1959

The year is 1959. My parents are born. Berry Gordy founds Motown Records. The Clutters are murdered in cold blood. And the nominees for Best Actress are....

(after the jump....)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Come Monday

Meant to post a tease earlier this month, but what are you gonna do? Starting tomorrow, we take a look at the films of 1959, featuring:


Ben-Hur
Winner: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Charlton Heston), Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith), Best Dramatic Score, Best Cinematography - Color, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration - Color, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design - Color, Best Sound Recording, Best Visual Effects


Black Orpheus
Winner: Best Foreign Language Film


The Diary of Anne Frank
Winner: Best Supporting Actress (Shelley Winters), Best Cinematography - Black-and-White, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration - Black-and-White


A Hole in the Head
Winner: Best Original Song ("High Hopes")


Pillow Talk
Winner: Best Original Screenplay


Porgy and Bess
Winner: Best Musical Score


Room at the Top
Winner: Best Actress (Simone Signoret), Best Adapted Screenplay


Some Like It Hot
Winner: Best Costume Design - Black-and-White


....and many, many more, including non-Oscar-nominated films like A Summer Place, House on Haunted Hill, and The Crimson Kimono!

It all starts tomorrow with Best Actress: Doris Day in Pillow Talk, Audrey Hepburn in The Nun's Story, Katharine Hepburn in Suddenly, Last Summer, Simone Signoret in A Room at the Top, and Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer.

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