Official Nominations: Sidney Poitier. Albert Finney. Richard Harris. Paul Newman. Rex Harrison.
The Best Actor category this year is most famous due to the deserved win of Sidney Poitier- the first black actor to win a competitive Oscar. This appeared to be a breakthrough for both society and the awards- while society was definitely on the up, the awards remained stilted with regards to race for some time after this. It remains unclear whether this was a political win but out of the nominations there is no more deserving winner. Paul Newman gives another memorable lead as Hud, a young arrogant man who wants to do things his own way and rebel against his father. It is another fine performance and one which could have picked up the win in another year. Tom Jones is a fairly unusual film with all of the nods to the camera and audience, and while Finney does command the screen and give the character plenty of effervescence, the film isn’t my sort of thing and my memory of his performance suffers for it. Harrison is one of a number of famous performers in Cleopatra and while he gives everything he can, all eyes were either on Taylor- the only performer seemingly able to stand out amongst the lavish scale of the film. Harris on the other hand does give a stand out performance full of emotion in a film unfortunately about rugby and love. Even though the film isn’t my pint of beer, Harris does make the gritty nature of the film shine through with his potent and often unspoken feeling.
My Winner: Sidney Poitier
My Nominations: Steve McQueen. Sidney Poitier. Richard Attenborough. Peter Sellers. David Niven. Marcelo Mastroianni.
Only Poitier makes it onto my picks but doesn’t pick up the win. How Peter Sellers wasn’t nominated remains a bit of a mystery given that he created an iconic character out of nothing, and while the film may not necessarily be anything special, his performance is one for the ages. Equally, Mastroianni gives arguably the definitive portrayal of the artist in trouble, a self obsessed man who can’t escape his own ambitions and fears in 8 and a half. Most other actors would have collapsed alongside the genius of Sellers in The Pink Panther,but David Niven gives just as brilliant a performance and one which he is probably most fondly remembered for. My final picks both come from The Great Escape; Some people may not agree that with such an ensemble cast that no one actor can be called a lead, but as I keep saying- things work differently in The Spac Hole. Dickie Attenborough leads the British Resistance with a stiff upper lip resolve while Steve McQueen is the yank rebel who stirs things up both for the prisoners, resistance, and guards and generally makes a nuisance of himself. The two are polar opposites yet both strive for the same goal- getting themselves and as many of their friends out of Hell. Both are standouts amongst an impressive cast and both symbolize the stereotypes which each side saw the other as, yet as a viewer we get to see the human beneath the cliché. McQueen gets the win for me as he never been more cool, more influential, and packed as much conviction into a role as he does here.
My Winner: Steve McQueen.