Who doesn’t love David Niven? If you’ve never read his two books of Hollywood anecdotes, Bring on the Empty Horses and The Moon’s a Balloon, you’re in for a treat!
And if you think Niven should have won the Best Actor Oscar for what is essentially a supporting role in Separate Tables, I’m going to have to disappoint you.
Niven was up against Paul Newman, for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Newman has the hardest acting job in the world for a heterosexual male: he has to display no attraction for Elizabeth Taylor whatsoever in her presence. Given that his character in the play is dealing with repressed homosexual (or bisexual) longings, Newman’s lack of interest in Taylor was the only pointer the movie version was allowed to have.
Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier were both nominated for The Defiant Ones, perhaps the most dramatic examination of racism and prejudice in Fifties film (Curtis insisted Poitier be given equal screen credit, for which Poitier was eternally grateful):
Spencer Tracy got a nod for The Old Man and the Sea, a Hemingway adaptation that desperately cries out for better special effects. By the way, Ernest and his wife Mary have bit roles as tourists in the bar:
The Academy, as is so often the case, overlooked excellent choices.
The first of those is Jimmy Stewart in one of his finest roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (and yes, you do have to pretty much ignore the plot holes):
Finally, they also overlooked Orson Welles in what may be his finest screen role, in Touch of Evil (I wonder if Marlene Dietrich had a recipe for chili, given her love of cooking?):
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!