Official Nominations: Gig Young. Rupert Crosse. Elliot Gould. Jack Nicholson. Anthony Quayle.
Gig Young already had almost thirty years of performances and two Oscar nominations before he picked up the win for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They. It’s a suitably reptilian performance, a Cowell before there was a Cowell, as he eggs on competitors for his own amusement becoming the viewer’s focal point for rage, becoming more venomous with each minute. Rupert Crosse was primarily a TV actor before landing the role in The Reivers, and becoming the first African American to be nominated in this category. It’s a fine performance but your focus is always drawn to McQueen so it feels like a strange nomination. Gould picks up a nomination for his straight-laced portrayal and landed him on the map – it would almost become his signature role as he would continue to tow the line between comedy and drama with a straight face. Jack Nicholson makes an impact in Easy Rider, firmly announcing himself to the world in a typically madcap way. For the next few years Nicholson would play straighter characters before eventually going ‘full Nicholson’, and here he manages to shows a little of both sides. He is a minor character and doesn’t have a huge amount of screen time, but uses that time to perfection. Finally, it’s Anne Of The Thousand Days again and Anthony Quayle. It’s… very stagey, Quayle is good at authority but not so good at authority slipping away. It’s fine, just not something I would ever pick.
My Winner: Gig Young.
My Nominations: Gig Young. Jack Nicholson. Noel Coward. Gregory Peck. Robert Duvall. James Cann. Robert Ryan. Richard Thomas.
Only two from the official list make it over to mine. My list sees existing and future legends competing for the crown, with Noel Coward bringing the laughs in The Italian Job. Many would say that Peck’s role in Marooned was as a lead – he was certainly the big name, but I find it more of an ensemble piece so for the sake of argument he’s being included. It’s a tense movie and Peck is his usual commanding self, and is conflicted and at odds with various characters throughout the movie. It’s a good performance and a movie no-one really remembers. Robert Duvall gets a nomination for The Rain People, already a star thanks to a number of previous big hits, but happy to appear in this seemingly minor indie. Again it isn’t a huge role but he garners enough empathy from the viewer and Natalie that he becomes another integral part.
Robert Ryan was notable as Captain Nemo in 1969, but he gets the nomination for his performance as Deke in The Wild Bunch, the Grim Repair stalking the central gang. We see him in flashback and in the present, and though ostensibly the villain we know that his revenge is justified given the circumstances. Ryan is just as cunning as the men he is chasing down and though it seems he is always one point behind he is in fact one step ahead. My final pick is for Richard Thomas, only 18 but already a veteran, very good as the bronzed, snobbish teen who gets his kicks through punishing and humiliating others – a little against type. Burns gets the most admiration in the film, but Thomas is very strong too.
My Winner: Gig Young
Let us know in the comments who is your pick as the Best Supporting Actor of 1969!