Hollywood began to recognize that not every lead actor had to be good looking to be a good actor. Hence, Broderick Crawford in All the King’s Men, a performance that has its moments both admirable and overwrought.
Kirk Douglas turned in a searingly physical turn as a boxer in Champion:
Gregory Peck tried to move past his pretty boy looks to take command in Twelve O’Clock High:
Largely forgotten today, Richard Todd snagged a nomination for the combat hospital melodrama, The Hasty Heart, which also features a surprisingly effective Ronald Reagan:
The final nomination went to John Wayne for the recruiting poster that is The Sands of Iwo Jima:
So who did the Academy ignore?
First of all, they picked the wrong Wayne performance. Rather than his gung-ho foray, they should have chosen his far more nuanced turn in John Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon:
Another supposedly lightweight actor also should have been nominated: Van Johnson for his outing as the good-time soldier caught by cowardice and fear in the gritty Battleground:
James Cagney pulled out all the stops in his return to the gangster genre with White Heat: Oedipus never had it so good:
Robert Ryan did an astonishingly good job as a boxer on his way out the door in The Set-Up:
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-Won-Irreverent-Look-Oscars-ebook/dp/B00PKK8MBY/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1415905574&sr=1-2
And now, please vote!