Best Actor – 1966

Official Nominations: Paul Schofield. Alan Arkin. Richard Burton. Michael Caine. Steve McQueen.

1966’s Best Actor category saw a number of big hitters jostling with newer stars. Schofield picked up the official win for a reprisal of the role he perfected on stage in A Man For All Seasons. I’m not a fan of this sort of crossover, and though obviously it is a classy performance, he won’t be getting my vote. Alan Arkin became one of the only actors in history to get a Best Actor nomination for his first full performance, and would go on to continued success over the next 6 decades, his performance in The Russians Are Coming ensuring many more hit roles. Richard Burton picked up his 5th acting nomination, but yet again lost out, while Michael Caine cemented his credibility and standing after Zulu and The Ipcress File, with Alfie. Steve Mcqueen rounded up the nominations with a rarely talked about war film The Sand Pebbles where he drifts between anti-hero and anti-villian, gaining his only Academy nomination.

My Winner: Steve McQueen

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My Nominations: Steve McQueen. Alan Arkin. David Hemmings. Clint Eastwood. Donald Pleasance. Marlon Brando

Only McQueen and Arkin make it over onto my list this time around, and I’ve added a trio of legends, and one who just missed out on legendary status. David Hemmings has appeared in some huge films, but never really made that lasting impression, one film, one character who propelled him into eternal stardom. Blow-Up remains his finest moment, a combination of perfect actor discovered for perfect role, with the perfect director in place to achieve the perfect performance. Clint Eastwood meanwhile had been honing his skills in Italian Westerns in recent years to get work, and in ’66 his stardom exploded thank to the mega-hit The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Eastwood commands the screen in every scene, and gives a stunning lesson on how to convey a hundred thoughts and emotions with the barest of movements and fewest of words. Brando pops up again in 66 with The Chase, an unusual, and long-forgotten film dealing with racism and corruption in the wake of a prison break. My final pick is for Mr Pleasance in Cul-De-Sac, another forgotten one, this time by Roman Polanski. Pleasance is excellent as an already paranoid man decaying further into madness.

My Winner: Clint Eastwood.

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Who is your pick for Best Actor of 1966 from the Official Nominations, or from my nominations – or are there any performances from 1966 you feel are better? Let us know in the comments!

Best Actor: 1963

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.