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The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor – 1967

1967 is a landmark year made corporate, in my mind. In a year with Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate, and even Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, truly landmark films that mark the big break from classical Hollywood tradition, they go with In the Heat of the Night for Best Picture, which feels like the Hollywood version of one of those films. That’s just my own personal opinion on the matter.

Rod Steiger also won Best Actor for the film, which is cool. I wouldn’t necessarily vote for him, but he was good enough to win for The Pawnbroker, and this I look at as kind of a makeup Oscar. Best Actress was Katharine Hepburn for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, which is fine. I don’t think she beat anyone else who needed to win. Sure, I’d have voted differently, but it’s not that bad, because her competition also won Oscars. Best Supporting Actress was Estelle Parsons for Bonnie and Clyde, which was a fantastic decision. She was incredible. And Best Director (talked about here) was Mike Nichols for The Graduate. Fantastic decision.

The Best Picture decision does actually feel softened by the fact that the wealth was spread around very well, but still, that’s the one that gets remembered. And then there’s this category, which silently adds another great and classic film to the shared wealth. And I fucking love that.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – 1967

And the nominees were…

John Cassavetes, The Dirty Dozen

Gene Hackman, Bonnie and Clyde

Cecil Kellaway, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

George Kennedy, Cool Hand Luke

Michael J. Pollard, Bonnie and Clyde

Cassavetes — The Dirty Dozen is the ultimate ‘men on a mission’ film. You know Inglourious Basterds? Doesn’t happen without The Dirty Dozen

The film is about a bunch of generals who organize a suicide mission against the Germans. They get Lee Marvin to take 12 convicts, and train them to go on this mission. That’s the film, I’m not telling you anymore, you should have seen it, it’s a classic.

Cassavetes plays Franko, a dude sentenced to be hanged for murder. And he’s cocky and doesn’t give a shit, because he knows he’s gonna die anyway, so he takes the stance of, “Why the fuck should I help you?”, and pretty much doesn’t listen to anything they say. And he even goes to run away at one point, even though they were told, if one runs away, you’re all gonna be sentenced for it. And the rest of the men, having bought into Marvin and his methods, make him stay, and he stays and — well, watch the film.

Cassavetes is great here. He really stands out among the rest of the cast. Thing is, though — I wouldn’t vote for him. I’d vote for at least two other people over him.

Hackman — Bonnie and Clyde (double nomination!) is a classic film about — well, you know who. And the film is about them. It’s an essential film, so you need to see it, and I’m not telling you what it’s about, past:

They rob banks.

Gene Hackman plays Clyde’s brother, Buck. And he shows up with his wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons), and pretty soon, they’re involved with the gang. Hackman is really strong here, and it shows the later success he’d have. If I were voting solely in 1967, not knowing anything about the future, there’s a strong chance I might vote for Hackman here. I thought his performance was really great. But to me, knowing he’d win two Oscars later, I don’t really want to give him this and deprive someone else of an Oscar. Plus I can use the vote split between him and Pollard as an excuse too.

Kellaway — Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is a film whose message has remained strong to this day. And the film remains thoroughly entertaining too. The only real knock against it is that it’s a bit stagy, but you know what — it has to be.

The film is about an older, seemingly liberal couple (Tracy and Hepburn), whose sensibilities are put to the test when their daughter comes home with a black fiancé. That’s the film, you need to have seen it — it’s brilliant.

Kellaway plays a priest, and friend of Tracy’s and Hepburn’s, who had been playing golf with Tracy and comes home to hear the news. And he pretty much pries his way into the situation as an excuse to talk sense to Tracy. And he’s pretty funny here, and is the voice of reason throughout most of the film.

I really liked his performance, and he’s an actor who deserves an Oscar. Thing is, though — parts of the performance felt, I don’t know — you know when you have that older relative that starts doing something they shouldn’t be doing, and it’s embarrassing? That happens here. That moment when Kellaway starts singing the Beatles song — it’s like, “Dude, you’re an old Irish dude who was in movies from the 40s! Don’t do that!” So that, plus the fact that I love Cool Hand Luke and George Kennedy means I’m not voting for Kellaway.

Kennedy — Cool Hand Luke is about a rebel stuck in prison. And his nature gets him into trouble.

You need to have seen this. I’m not gonna summarize it for you.

George Kennedy plays Dragline — the big shot of the prison, who doesn’t like Luke at first, and deliberately picks a fight with him — that great fight where Luke refuses to stay down. And then Kennedy slowly gains respect for him, and eventually becomes his biggest friend and supporter. And he begins to look up to Luke, and escapes with him, but then — well, you know what happens at the end. It’s really touching.

I think Kennedy deserved this all the way. I loved the performance so much. He was brilliant.

Pollard — Pollard plays a gas station attendant who is picked up by the gang. They figure he knows about cars, so they use him as a driver. And eventually he’s the one that gives them up. Not because he wants to, more because he has to.

It’s a strong performance. Really strong. Probably more strong than Hackman’s, but I’m one of those people who lets star power influence me to an extent. I like when someone I like delivers a good performance more than when someone relatively unknown does so. Either way, I’m using the vote split as an excuse not to vote for these two. They were fantastic, but — George Kennedy.

My Thoughts: I vote Kennedy here. Pollard and Hackman cancel each other out. Cassavetes was never going to win, and Kellaway was good, but not as good as Kennedy. Kennedy’s a guy who deserved an Oscar over his career. I’m glad he got it here. He’s my vote.

My Vote: Kennedy

Should Have Won: Kennedy

Is the result acceptable?: Oh hell yeah. Kennedy was amazing, and it gets Cool Hand Luke into the win category among these other great, great films. This is a film people need to see, and if they weren’t going to reward Newman, I’m glad they rewarded Kennedy. He’s a great dude and was great here. Love the decision.

Performances I suggest you see: Bonnie and Clyde, The Dirty Dozen, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Cool Hand Luke — yes, all of them — if you haven’t seen these movies, you are dead to me. These are all essential films.

Rankings:

5) Pollard

4) Cassavetes

3) Kellaway

2) Hackman

1) Kennedy

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