Thursday, September 03, 2009

Best Supporting Actor of 1966

The nominees for Best Supporting Actor of 1966 were…

Mako as Po-han, an engine room coolie on a U.S. gunboat in China in “The Sand Pebbles”.

James Mason as James Leamington, a wealthy London businessman in “Georgy Girl”.

George Segal as Nick, a young New England college instructor in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”.

Robert Shaw as King Henry VIII in “A Man for All Seasons”.

The winner was Walter Matthau as “Whiplash” Willie Gingrich, a slightly less than honest lawyer in “The Fortune Cookie”.

If I chose the Oscars, these would be the results…

The nominees are…

Richard Attenborough as Frenchy Burgoyne, a Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class in “The Sand Pebbles”. Attenborough was always a very charismatic actor and Frenchy was a role that brought that attribute out brightly. He is exactly the type of friend you would want to have if you found yourself on a gunboat in China in 1926. Attenborough infused the character with honor and loyalty. You can’t help but feel for him as he longs for Maily, the bargirl he would do anything to save. His devotion to the woman he loved and his overwhelming desire to be with her led him to a tragic end. Attenborough was successful in wrenching the emotions of the audience. It was one of his finest performances and deserved a nomination.

Mako as Po-han in “The Sand Pebbles”. The Academy got it right nominating Mako. It was an incredibly strong performance. He made you feel some of what it must have been like to be a Chinese worker on one of these gunships, enduring the discomforts and indignities. Even though it was difficult for his character to communicate with Steve McQueen’s Jake Holman, his vivid and animated expressions got the point across well. Watching their growing friendship was one of the highlights of this movie. From his introduction through his big barroom fight scene to his devastating end, the movie belongs to Mako whenever he is on screen. He was my number two pick in this category.

Lee Van Cleef as Angel Eyes, a vicious hired killer searching for buried gold in the Civil War-era old West in “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly”. Van Cleef represented the bad in this movie’s titular triumvirate and he certainly lives up to that appellation. He kills with no mercy. He beats women and orders torture to get the information he wants. He’ll double cross you before you can blink. With his cold eyes and calm demeanor, you never can tell what he’s plotting to do next, but you can be sure that he’s up to no good. Angel Eyes is one of the most compelling and well-drawn of all the villains of the Western genre and Lee Van Cleef was the perfect actor to play him. He definitely deserved a nomination.

Pierre Vaneck as Major Roger Gallois, a WWII French Resistance soldier in “Is Paris Burning?”. You’ve probably never heard of Pierre Vaneck. This would be because he has acted almost exclusively in French films throughout his over 50 year career in cinema. “Is Paris Burning?” is one of those all-star ensembles where there isn’t a single character who really stands out above the others. Pierre Vaneck’s performance, on the other hand, is the obvious stand-out of the film. After he gets himself through some extremely dangerous territory, he stands before a group of American generals, including Patton and Bradley (played well by Kirk Douglas and Glenn Ford). His impassioned speech asking them to march on the city and save Paris from destruction by the fleeing Germans was moving and inspiring. I recommend this movie based on that scene alone. It certainly should have netted him an Oscar nomination.

And the Oscar goes to…

Walter Matthau as “Whiplash” Willie Gingrich in “The Fortune Cookie”. This is one of those relatively rare instances where the Academy chose correctly. Matthau deserved the Oscar he won for his portrayal of a crooked lawyer who hits the insurance fraud jackpot when his easily manipulated brother-in-law (Jack Lemmon) is injured on the job in front of a huge television audience. It was the first film of many to team Matthau with Lemmon and it gave many people their first look at the crotchety, short-tempered curmudgeon that Matthau played so well from The Odd Couple to The Bad News Bears to Grumpy Old Men. Watching Matthau cite case history by page number from memory to the astonishment of the more “respectable” lawyers is worth the price of admission alone. With me making the picks, Matthau keeps his well-earned Oscar.  


Robert Hamer said...

But was his performance really a "supporting" one? I always thought that Walter Matthau's win was a case of category fraud, basically when a studio will campaign an actor in a leading part for Best Supporting Actor/Actress to increase their odds of getting nominated or even winning (think Jamie Foxx in Collateral or Al Pacino in The Godfather).

Anonymous said...

Good evening

This post was interesting, how long did it take you to write?

Anonymous said...

Good point, though sometimes it's hard to arrive to definite conclusions