Wednesday, October 13, 2021

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Cinema '62: Best Supporting Actor

Yesterday, we looked at the Adapted Scores of 1962. Today, it's the Best Supporting Actor lineup. All of these actors were here for the first time; none of them would be back for a second nomination ( of them still could, one day). We'll talk about many of these films again, but there is one film for which this was the lone nomination: Billy Budd.

Have you seen Billy Budd, co-written and directed by Peter Ustinov, adapted from the novel by Herman Melville and a play by Louis O. Coxe and Robert H. Chapman? It's a beautifully done movie whose conversations about interpreting justice, shortcomings of the law, and the decision to believe in and behave the best in the face of the worst could be dull or didactic; instead, the intelligent screenplay and complex performances make for an exciting two hours. Good year for boat films!

The nominees:
Ed Begley as Boss Tom Finley
Sweet Bird of Youth
first and only nomination; Golden Globe nominee for Best Supporting Actor

A large supporting role, this Boss Finley, a powerful man used to getting his own way. Oh, that Begley, how he slathers those vowels over you, his bright eyes and big smile disarming you - no wonder Chance took him seriously, no wonder people trust him...well, those he doesn't force into "trusting" him, anyway. Ably conveys the menace of power, and the small-mindedness of small-town big-time.

Victor Buono as Edwin Flagg
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
first and only nomination; Golden Globe nominee for Best Supporting Actor

An accompanist who knows just the right bit of charm to coax a living from deluded old biddies. An imposing figure, Buono - tall, broad, big bright eyes - and he knows it, which is why it's clever of him to make Edwin soft-spoken, his mouth either privately petulant (his truth) or shyly smiling (his mask). His few outbursts aren't just shocking, they're tantrums consistent with his childish aura.

Telly Savalas as Feto Gomez
Bird Man of Alcatraz
first and only nomination; Golden Globe nominee for Best Supporting Actor

An inmate at Leavenworth incarcerated next to Robert Stroud, the so-called "bird man" of the title. Not an obvious nomination, a testament to the popularity of the film within the actors' branch and to the breath of fresh air Savalas provides the narrative. He's rough, uncouth, but Stroud's birds allow him an opportunity to be more vulnerable; even he seems surprised by how he takes to it.

Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali ibn el Kharish
Lawrence of Arabia
first and only nomination; Golden Globe winner for Best Supporting Actor

Sherif Ali is the closest thing this film has to a love interest. He is a friend to Lawrence, but he is not always supportive, he calls him out on his shortsightedness and messianic feints. He advises, he argues, he serves as a sounding-board. From his first scene to his last, he is no sidekick, but a leader, noble, confident, authoritative. Sharif plays the affection dazzlingly (those eyes!), the disappointment heartbreakingly, and the skepticism...consistently. Ali is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

Terence Stamp as Billy Budd
Billy Budd
first and only nomination

Billy Budd is perfect: he bears no one ill will, he's a quick learner, most everyone who meets him loves him, he's a strong and skilled fighter. Perfection is hard, boring even, but Stamp lets us see how much of that is genuine goodness, and how much is Billy making conscious decisions to be so. He is neither angel nor symbol in Stamp's hands, but a real human being who merely tries to listen to the better angels... I do think he's a lead, though, he and Robert Ryan, so I did deduct a star for that.


The Academy voted for the strong performance from Mr. Begley:

My vote:


Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Supporting Actress: Mary Badham (To Kill a Mockingbird), Patty Duke (The Miracle Worker), Shirley Knight (Sweet Bird of Youth), Angela Lansbury (The Manchurian Candidate), and Thelma Ritter (Bird Man of Alcatraz).

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