Official Nominations: John Wayne. Richard Burton. Dustin Hoffman. Peter O’Toole. John Voight.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the late 60s saw a troubling shift for Hollywood as the old guard of musicals and costume dramas became less popular and the demand for more realistic, gritty, and dramatic films was heightened. The Academy still sought to perpetuate the old ways by offering some strange choices of films as their nominees and winners. In this category this year, we see a list of five legends – some existing and some who would later cement their titles, but it’s quite amusing to see them getting confused about what is considered ‘Old Hollywood’ and awarding John Wayne with a win. Part justified for his performance, part political based on his popularity and past works, it seems like an unusual choice. Wayne is good, but Wayne is Wayne, eye-patch or nor.
Peter O’Toole seems like another example of this pandering to the old ways – a good performance wavering between stiff and charming, but in a film which few will remember. Richard Burton’s nomination is another unusual choice – a film few will think of when they think of him, and a film whose success at the Oscars appeared to be part of a vicious marketing campaign more than anything else. The final two nominations then are for the same movie, with Hoffman and Voight giving two of their finest performances as a pair of hustlers looking to make a fast buck and exploit a cold and uncaring world by undertaking seedy dealings – it’s the Anti-American dream and it’s difficult to pick a winner out of the two, Hoffman the more obvious of the two due to the more hyperactive character veering between street wisdom and desperation.
My Winner: Dustin Hoffman
My Nominations: Jon Voight. Dustin Hoffman. Michael Caine. Robert Redford. Paul Newman. David Bradley. Oliver Reed. William Holden. Helmut Berger.
Only two of the official nominees make it over to my list, both from Midnight Cowboy. Michael Caine gets the nod for another early iconic performance in The Italian Job – a film which has still not made much of an impact in the States, bizarre considering the Brit Invasion of the 1960s. Fellow Brit Oliver Reed is great alongside a strong leading cast in Women In Love, while a young David Bradley looked set to be one of the next big things after a memorable performance in Kes which received glowing reviews. Outside of Britain, Helmut Berger makes a definite impression in the shocking and dark The Damned as one of the most reprehensible figures in cinema – unfortunately it’s a film few people have seen. Back in the US, Robert Redford gets my pick over Paul Newman in BCASK and William Holden is ostensibly the lead and figurehead in The Wild Bunch, leading his men with a weary guile from one near miss to inevitable demise.
My Winner: Helmut Berger
Who is your pick for the best Actor of 1969 – any of the above, or someone else entirely? Let us know in the comments!