Laurence Harvey in Room at the Top
Notes: BAFTA Award Nominee for British Actor, NYFCC Runner-Up for Actor
Strikes the perfect balance between sympathetic and sleazy. Just a supremely watchable actor and performance, one that gets you to empathize with the character. He could be better, he could be happy, he even sees what that would be like, he wants to - but he doesn't.
Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur
Heston himself probably wouldn't defend himself as an actor with great range, but what skills he has he deploys expertly. Give or take an awkward, "But I'm a Jew...?", Heston fully commits to his feelings - soft romance mumbling, clenched-teeth seething, throaty despair shouting (this especially). He's capital-a Acting, and it works!
Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot
Notes: BAFTA Award Winner for Foreign Actor, Golden Globe Winner for Actor in a Musical or Comedy
Both as written and as played by Lemmon, Jerry/Daphne is inconsistent in his levels of confidence, trickery, caution. Lemmon certainly gets the laughs, whether it's about having a "big surprise" for Sugar or being "the lucky girl" on the other side of an engagement - but is he always in character? I'm unconvinced. A laughing-gas performance, I shuddered seeing him on-screen.
Oscar loves a veteran in grumpy old man mode. Muni is solid in just such a role, but he's sucker-punched by the spurious roads the script takes his character down. He's great, the movie is not.
James Stewart in Anatomy of a Murder
Notes: BAFTA Award Nominee for Foreign Actor; NYFCC Winner for Actor
I love James Stewart in this movie. That voice, first of all, is perfect for the role of a small-town lawyer who'd rather go fishing than go to court. He wears sardonic well, dropping one-liners like they're commas. Then you see him at trial, his wild objecting and outbursts, and you're not sure how much is the actual last resort of a man desperate to validate himself...and how much is an act meant to throw off the other side. Feels like both.
- Richard Burton, Look Back in Anger (BAFTA Award Nominee for British Actor, Golden Globe Nominee for Actor in a Drama) - At the wrong register, playing too obviously the anger and cruelty without giving any reason to inspire a one-way love affair, much less a triangle! **
- Bradford Dillman, Compulsion (Cannes Winner for Actor [shared]) - How much is true insanity, how much is chest-thumping play-acting? Dillman keeps us unnervingly on our toes. ***
- Anthony Franciosa, Career (Golden Globe Winner for Actor in a Drama) - Doesn't overplay his character's loss of soul. ***
- Clark Gable, But Not for Me (Golden Globe Nominee for Actor in a Musical or Comedy) - Takes the piss out of himself with a winking good humor. ****
- Cary Grant, Operation Petticoat (Golden Globe Nominee for Actor in a Musical or Comedy) - Has one of the greatest eaction shots I've seen in a movie. Ever. ****
- Fredric March, Middle of the Night (Golden Globe Nominee for Actor in a Drama) - Perhaps more pathetic than he means to be? ***
- Sidney Poitier, Porgy and Bess (Golden Globe Nominee for Actor in a Musical or Comedy) - Reportedly uncomfortable with the role, which has him lip-syncing almost the entire performance (this is an opera, after all) - it's evident. *
- Joseph Schildkraut, The Diary of Anne Frank (Golden Globe Nominee for Actor in a Drama) - I consider this supporting; either way, a worthy nomination - he plays calm so brilliantly, so reassuringly, you almost forget the fear in his jaw. *****
- Viktor Sjöström, Wild Strawberries (National Board of Review Winner for Actor) - I actually think he's warmer than the character should be, but there's something so sad about his face! ***
- Dean Stockwell, Compulsion (Cannes Winner for Actor [shared]) - An intriguing portrayal of doormat narcissism, leaving you wanting more...too bad the script is not as interested! ***
- Orson Welles, Compulsion (Cannes Winner for Actor [shared]) - Shows up an hour into the movie and dominates the last 40 minutes, delivering a spectacular 10-minute speech that, while repetitive, never bores and moves the spirit. ****
Heston's win became, almost immediately, Exhibit A in nay-sayers' Reasons Why Hollywood Is Phony And The Oscars Are A Joke.
Obviously, I liked him a lot more than most. But my vote easily goes to...
ANATOMY OF A MURDER
Tomorrow....yes, it's Best Picture! Anatomy of a Murder, Ben-Hur, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Nun's Story and Room at the Top!