Build a bridge for the enemy, win an Oscar!
Alec Guinness infamously joked that his entire acting career was based on doing nothing, but on the big screen, the less you do, the more likely you are to be great. Subtlety rules — and few were more subtle than Guinness in The Bridge on the River Kwai:
Anthony Franciosa doesn’t seem to have known what the word subtle meant in A Hatful of Rain, but a drunk scene is a typical Oscar bait, and he succeeded in getting a nomination for what is now a largely forgotten film about drug addiction:
Marlon Brando continued to try on new accents as an American soldier in love with a Japanese woman in Sayonara, based on the novel by James Michener (who had experienced the same kind of prejudice with his Japanese wife):
Anthony Quinn tries to replace his dead wife with Anna Magnani in Wild Is the Wind, but she prefers his adopted son Anthony Franciosa (the movie is an obvious rip-off of Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms):
Finally, Charles Laughton got his last Oscar love for his comic turn as the defense attorney in Billy Wilder’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution:
So who did the Academy overlook?
Two outstanding performances.
One, Andy Griffith in the bitter (if somewhat forced) assault on the influence of television in American life by Elia Kazan, A Face in the Crowd. You’ll never watch The Andy Griffith Show in quite the same way ever again:
And finally, the actor’s actor, Spencer Tracy, delivered a deliciously comic performance as a computer expert sparring with Katharine Hepburn in Desk Set:
If you would like to make other suggestions, please do so below in the comments!
As always, I have much more to say in my book: http://www.amazon.com/WHO-Irreverent-Look-Oscars-Volume/dp/069232318X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
And now, please vote!