Tuesday, May 10, 2022

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1950: Supporting Actor

And we're back, with the nominees for Best Supporting Actor. Presented by the previous tyear's Best Supporting Actress winner, All the King's Men's Mercedes McCambridge.

This was the final nomination for all these actors - and only one of them, Edmund Gwenn, was nominated before! We have an Indian chief, an elderly counterfeiter, an old heistmaster, an entertainment journalist, and a butler with a past. The nominees:

Jeff Chandler as Cochise
Broken Arrow
first and only nomination

There is always going to be irony in Old Hollywood's insistence on making films interrogating western mythology, heroizing Native American figures...and then casting white actors in the roles - especially when Broken Arrow features a scene-stealing (and uncredited) turn by actual Native American Jay Silverheels. Chandler is good in the role, though the way it's written, he can't do much to challenge the "stern chief" stereotyping.

Edmund Gwenn as William "Skipper" Miller
Mister 880
past winner, second and final nomination; Golden Globe winner for Best Supporting Actor

Half the nod is the role itself, an elderly, gentlemanly criminal whose crime of small-scale forgery is borne not of malice or greed, but of economic desperation - and boy, can't we all relate? My problem is Gwenn rests on his cuddly mannerisms: he doesn't even attempt a different accent, though we are told he's a German immigrant. Gwenn is nice, it's not a bad performance, but...a nomination?

Sam Jaffe as Doc Erwin Riedenschneider
The Asphalt Jungle
first and only nomination

Jaffe doesn't overplay the man's courteousness, nor does he demand audience sympathy. He plays Doc simply as a man who knows how to do his job, a professional. If anything, he underplays, that's what makes him so effective - and, funnily, so easy to like. The wheels are constantly turning, judging each interaction, seeing the plays, the risks, the escape routes. A confident performance.

George Sanders as Addison DeWitt
All About Eve
first and only nomination; Golden Globe nominee for Best Supporting Actor

Makes a delicious meal of Addison DeWitt, Broadway's biggest bitch. The eternal smirk is not just an enjoyment of his own bon mots, but calculated, keeping him at arm's length so he may continue to socialize with these people while still maintaining the patina of journalistic distance. Genuinely frightening in his final scenes, the cold, selfish, dangerous man within revealing himself behind closed doors. He really is a viper...one you can't help wanting to get a drink with.

Erich von Stroheim as Max
Sunset Blvd.
first and only nominations; Golden Glove nominee for Best Supporting Actor

Deadpans his way through much of the film, letting his eyes and a slight movement of his lips convey the devotion to his leading lady, his fear that it will all crumble around her, his...well, sadness, in general. Half the impact, too, is that Von Stroheim really was a director of films featuring Gloria Swanson; the way he plays this part, "directing" Norma's moods while keeping Joe abreast of motivation and background, is of course there in the script, but Von Stroheim also includes this in certain intonations - quiet authority, if you will. A marvelous, well-calculated performance.

Sanders won the Academy Award, one of the most beloved wins in Oscar history. So, of course, I vote for someone else:


Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Supporting Actress: Hope Emerson (Caged), Celeste Holm (All About Eve), Josephine Hull (Harvey), Nancy Olson (Sunset Blvd.), and Thelma Ritter (All About Eve).

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