The Oscar Quest: Best Actor – 1967
I love 1967, but I don’t necessarily love all the choices they made, Oscar-wise. At least in the sense of what people see. And what do people see when they look at 1967? In the Heat of the Night wins Best Picture. Which I feel is a bad choice, among a field of nominees that includes Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
Fortunately, though, the rest of the year is spread out pretty well. Katharine Hepburn wins Best Actress for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (talked about here), George Kennedy wins Best Supporting Actor for Cool Hand Luke (talked about here), Estelle Parsons wins Best Supporting Actress for Bonnie and Clyde (talked about here), and Mike Nichols wins Best Director for The Graduate (talked about here). Nice way of spreading the wealth. Still, though, I’m not sure it makes up for the fact that the figurehead decision for the year is weak.
And then this category — a lot of people might have problems with it. And I understand that. But actually this is a very solid decision, and one that’s backed up by history (a bit). It also helps to lessen (slightly) the blow of the film winning Best Picture. So I’m actually okay with it (which I didn’t think would be the case).
BEST ACTOR – 1967
And the nominees were…
Warren Beatty, Bonnie and Clyde
Dustin Hoffman, The Graduate
Paul Newman, Cool Hand Luke
Rod Steiger, In the Heat of the Night
Spencer Tracy, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Beatty — It’s Bonnie and Clyde. You need to have seen it.
Warren Beatty is Clyde, and is terrific in the part. Unfortunately he was never going to win against this competition. A shame, but it’s a really tough category.
Hoffman — The Graduate. You also need to have seen it.
I love all the work I don’t have to do here.
Hoffman is, of course, terrific. But this is definitely not a performance that should have won. Definitely nominated, but he’d give better performances over the next decade, and would win twice. I like this as a first nomination, but he didn’t need to win this at all.
Newman — Cool Hand Luke. Another one you need to have seen.
Newman is amazing here, and given how often he’s been snubbed so far (assuming we’re in 1967), which includes Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Hustler (one of the biggest snubs in Academy history) and Hud — he will be my vote. Because this character is iconic, and because Spencer Tracy had two Oscars.
I love how I not only don’t have to explain the performances (because if you haven’t seen them, it’s your fault), but I can just be like, “I’m voting for this one,” without any explanation really, because all of them are worth a vote. God, I love this category.
Steiger — In the Heat of the Night. Probably a film you need to have seen, but this one I’ll draw the line at, you probably need to see it. It’s not necessarily one you need to have seen already, like the other ones are.
It’s about a murder down south, and Rod Steiger is a racist sheriff and Sidney Poitier is Mr. Tibbs, and they work together to solve it, gaining respect for one another in the process.
Great film, great performances, and Steiger was passed over for his great work in The Pawnbroker two years earlier. So he actually winds up being a good decision in this category, even though I’m not voting for him. (Also, logistically, I voted for him for Supporting Actor in 1954, so I covered him on a statue for my purposes.)
Tracy — Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. You need to have seen it.
Spencer Tracy is amazing here. Honestly, had he not won two Oscars (I’ve said before, I can live with 1938 if he doesn’t win in 1937, because there, William Powell or Walter Huston should have won), I’d have voted for him hands down here. Hands down. But, he had two, and Paul Newman had zero. So it’s Newman. But I fucking love this performance. And this film. This is one of my favorite movies of all time.
My Thoughts: Okay, let’s not get out of hand. I’m okay with the decision, that doesn’t mean I’m going to vote for it. I liked Steiger’s performance, but all he really did was chew gum and look mean a lot of the time. He was much better in The Pawnbroker (which is a direct reason why he won here). I didn’t like the performance enough to vote for it, but I like him enough to have won. Plus, everyone else here had or later won an Oscar in some form.
Tracy I don’t vote for because of his two earlier wins. If he only had one of them, I might actually vote for him, and be fully on board with him winning. But he had two. So he’s out.
Hoffman I liked a lot, but he won two later. He’s a dude who could have won this award four times, maybe even five. So we’ll take his two wins and leave it at those. He doesn’t need any more votes.
Beatty I liked, but not as much as Newman or Hoffman. Still, I’d put him a second for a vote because of Hoffman’s later wins.
And Newman — I’m clearly gonna vote for him. It’s Cool Hand Luke. Plus, he hadn’t won by this point, and was snubbed horribly for The Hustler. So Newman is my vote. I keep voting for him until he wins.
My Vote: Newman
Should Have Won: Honestly, any of them. My order being (all things considered): Newman, Steiger, Beatty, Tracy, Hoffman.
Is the result acceptable?: Yup. Steiger deserved one of these, and Newman later won an Oscar, Tracy had two, Hoffman would win two, and Beatty won a Best Director. So this evens out. Acceptable.
Performances I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen any of these films — Cool Hand Luke, Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and In the Heat of the Night, you’re dead to me, you’re not doing it right, and you don’t really like movies. Seriously. All of them.