Thursday, April 4, 2019

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Day Four: Best Actor, 1961

When I look at the Best Actor nominees for 1961, my mind immediately leaps to the Tony Awards rules - you know, how if you're above the title, you're the de facto lead, and if you're below the title, you're featured/supporting? Anyway, when I see Charles Boyer) and Maximilian Schell (fifth-billed - was he the cut-off?) among the Lead Actor nominees, that's what I think.

That's all. The nominees after the jump.

Charles Boyer as Cesar
fourth and final nomination

More a supporting part than a lead, but Boyer's moving performance is the best in the film, with the surest hold on its comedy and pathos.

Paul Newman as "Fast" Eddie Felson
The Hustler
second of ten nominations; BAFTA Award Winner for Best Foreign Actor, Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor - Drama, NYFCC Award Runner-up for Best Actor

A performance summed up by Sarah Packard's line, "You're too hungry." Newman's reliably magnetic: too cocky, too clever, too proud, too hungry for the reputation, for the win - and yet not without some hope. Terrific, sexy work.

Maximilian Schell as Hans Rolfe
Judgment at Nuremberg
first of two nominations, first and only win; BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Foreign Actor, Golden Globe Winner for Best Actor - Drama, NYFCC Award Winner for Best Actor

More a supporting part than a lead; still, a magnetic presence. Schell's shouting would be histrionic if he didn't indicate the tactician at work behind the eyes, expertly parrying. Charming and intimidating.

Spencer Tracy as Chief Judge Dan Haywood
Judgment at Nuremberg 
eighth of nine nominations

Leans into Haywood's modesty and quiet attention to detail - he deliberates even outside of chambers, listening carefully. Chummy, surprisingly romantic, and ably executes the final sermon - er, sorry, summation - without belaboring the moral or changing character. Just so...natural!

Stuart Whitman as Jim Fuller
The Mark 
first and only nomination

Approaches a difficult role with clarity, empathy - no shrill theatrics here, even in his louder moments, but a sincere examination of a tormented man struggling to change. It's a performance that gets under the skin, lingering long after the last frame.

Also in the conversation:
  • Fred Astaire, The Pleasure of His Company (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor - Musical/Comedy) - didn't get to see it, I'm afraid
  • Warren Beatty, Splendor in the Grass (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor - Drama) - Pretty good here! **
  • Richard Beymer, West Side Story (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor - Musical/Comedy) - Lip-syncs for his life, but do you believe he was ever part of this gang? ***
  • James Cagney, One, Two, Three (NYFCC Runner-Up for Best Actor) - Hamming it up, delightfully. ***
  • Maurice Chevalier, Fanny (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor - Drama) - Boyer gives the best performance, but Chevalier's no slouch, either. ***
  • Peter Finch, No Love for Johnnie (BAFTA Award Winner for Best British Actor) - Solid. ***
  • Albert Finney, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (BAFTA Award Nominee for Best British Actor, NBR Winner for Best Actor) - I love, love, love this movie and this performance. *****
  • Glenn Ford, A Pocketful of Miracles (Golden Globe Winner for Best Actor - Musical/Comedy) - Ok! **
  • Bob Hope, Bachelor in Paradise (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor - Musical/Comedy) - Why don't people talk about this movie?! A real hoot! *****
  • Vladimir Ivashov, Ballad of a Soldier (BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Foreign Actor) - If he doesn't work, the movie doesn't work - and it works, oh boy, does it work! *****
  • Fred MacMurray, The Absent-Minded Professor (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor - Musical/Comedy) - Doofy, goofy - just what's needed. ***
  • Sidney Poitier, A Raisin in the Sun (BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Foreign Actor, Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor - Drama) - BIGGER and BROADER than his co-stars, but it feels right. Nails that last monologue. ****

It is said that while on set, Spencer Tracy predicted this turn of events:

Right movie, I say! But wrong performance. My vote goes in a direction that pleasantly surprised me:


We wrap up this first week tomorrow with Best Director: Stanley Kramer (Judgment at Nuremberg), Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita), Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise (West Side Story), Robert Rossen (The Hustler) and J. Lee Thompson (The Guns of Navarone).

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