The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor – 1956

I don’t really like 1956. I hate almost all the decisions. Save two.

Around the World in 80 Days wins Best Picture. Mostly people don’t like this one. It’s definitely not the weakest ever, because I can at least understand why they’d vote for it, but, Giant is such a better film. On so many levels. So I don’t like that one. And I don’t like Best Actor, which went to Yul Brynner for The King and I (talked about here). I like Yul Brynner, and I like that he has an Oscar, but, for a variety of reasons explained in the article, I don’t think he should have won. I also despise the Best Actress choice for the year, which was Ingrid Bergman for Anastasia. You can read all the reasons I hate that decision here.

The two decisions I do like from 1956 were Best Supporting Actress, which went to Dorothy Malone for Written on the Wind (talked about here), which I really like (even though the category was tough to call), and Best Director, which went to George Stevens for Giant (talked about here), which is seriously one of the most gorgeously shot films of all time.

Now, this category — I don’t like. And it has nothing (really) to do with who won. It’s just — I felt the category was weak, the performance was barely worth an Oscar, plus, he had one already. Add to that a film and an actor I really like not winning, and it adds up to me just not liking this one.


And the nominees were…

Don Murray, Bus Stop

Anthony Perkins, Friendly Persuasion

Anthony Quinn, Lust for Life

Mickey Rooney, The Bold and the Brave

Robert Stack, Written on the Wind

Murray — Bus Stop is a film about Don Murray as a dude who was born and raised on a ranch in the country. And he knows nothing about the outside world or women, and decides he’s gonna go out into the world and find a wife. And he goes and meets Marilyn Monroe at a bar. She’s a singer there, and routinely goes and pretends to have conversations with men in order to get them to buy expensive alcohol (they buy themselves and her a drink and she only has iced tea). And Murray sees her and immediately falls in love with her and says, “I’m gonna marry her!” And the rest of the film is basically him stalking her and even kidnapping her and then her falling in love with him. It’s quite fucked up. But it’s a comedy, so of course it’s not that harsh.

Murray does a good job with the character in the film, but the thing is — he’s so annoying! Like, insanely so. I know that’s the mark of a good character, but I draw the line at a certain point. To me, he was too annoying (not to mention the lead of the film) to vote for. Plus I didn’t like the film all that much.

Perkins — Friendly Persuasion is abou a family of Quakers. And ultimately it’s about their pacifism. Gary Cooper is the father, and Anthony Perkins is the son. And he’s the one that struggles with pacifism, and eventually joins the war.

It’s a good film. There’s really nothing to summarize in terms of a plot — it’s one of those movies where a bunch of mostly unrelated scenes add up to a great plot. (It’s a really great movie. Trust me.) Perkins does a good job here, but if anyone was gonna vote for him, it would clearly be because he’s Anthony Perkins and not because of the performance. No matter what anyone says to me, if they say they’re voting for Anthony Perkins for this performance, I’d believe it was because they like him from Psycho and his other work. I know it wouldn’t be for this performance, because this performance wasn’t really that good (for a win). I like that he’s here, though. He deserved the nomination.

Quinn — Lust for Life is a biopic of Vincent Van Gogh, in which Kirk Douglas plays Van Gogh. That’s really all you need to know. It was also directed by Vincente Minnelli, and the Technicolor is gorgeous.

Anthony Quinn plays Paul Gauguin, and he’s literally on screen for about twelve minutes. Or maybe less. It’s the shortest Best Supporting Actor-winning performance of all time. I really liked the performance, but in a film that’s over two hours long, this performance was not substantial enough to win this category. It’s abundantly clear that Quinn won this because of who he is. Which is fine. But I can’t vote for such a short performance. I just can’t. It’s not like it’s a performance that hangs over the rest of the film. He just shows up, is really good, then leaves, and that’s it. At least other short performances (like William Hurt in A History of Violence) are hinted at over the rest of the film, and you sort of know they’re coming, and then that fuse gets lit until they show up and they explode onto the screen. Those I can see. This one is just like Beatrice Straight in Network. It’s one scene. I can’t vote for that.

Rooney — The Bold and the Brave is a really good film. I was surprised. The other surprising thing is that a lot of what makes it good has almost nothing to do with Mickey Rooney. I was expecting a not-so-great film with a strong performance by Rooney. I got a good Rooney performance, but I actually got a really strong film.

The film begins with two soldiers — Mickey Rooney and Wendell Corey — Rooney is the soldier who likes going out on the town, women, wine and cards, and Corey is the — well, he’s the protagonist. He’s quiet, has a lot of internal things going on, but is a good guy. We see who he is early on as he spots a sniper, and instead of killina the man, who is about to shoot another soldier, he freezes, and is fortunately saved by a fellow soldier before the man kills him. That soldier is called Preacher — he’s a religious man. Doesn’t drink, doesn’t care for women. And Corey befriends him because he saved his life. And because the men got the sniper, they’re given four days of leave. And on the leave, Corey and Rooney decide Preacher needs some fun in his life, so they pay a prostitute to talk to him and show him some fun. Only, when they talk, she finds out he’s different from the rest of the soldiers, and the two of them fall in love. And she comes to Corey and gives him the money back because she really does love the guy, and he realizes she means what she says. Only Corey finds out who she is just as the soldiers are called back. And he ends up becoming really bitter over it.

Then there’s Mickey Rooney’s subplot, which involves him gambling with the men in his unit. He ends up winning over a thousand dollars, but then is called back by the men to play a “winner’s game,” because they want their money back. He goes to play, but Corey tries to talk him out of it, but he talks about a dream of his, to buy a house for his wife and kids, and he goes in. And then they play a long dice game (we actually see a really long dice game), and he goes from losing badly to back up. He ends up winning a shitload of money. Like, over thirty thousand dollars. Only right afterwards, Preacher comes back and calls him and Corey to go on recon patrol. And as they’re there, Corey ends up having to shoot a guy (overcoming that), and they overtake a house, where they stay, trapped, since the Germans are closing in around them. And the Preacher shows his coldness, willing to let a man die rather than spare a man to go for a medic. He also finds out Rooney brought all his money with him (rather than get rid of it, like he ordered him to), and dumps it all on the ground and demands that they go on ahead. The Preacher ends up tripping over a mine and blowing his leg half to pieces, and Rooney runs back to get the money and ends up being shot by a tank. Then Corey ends up blowing up the tank on his own. And he ends up carrying Preacher back to camp.

It’s a really good movie. I liked it a lot. Nearly impossible to find, though. Had to buy a Region 2 DVD. But it’s good. Rooney’s performance is okay, but he’s Mickey Rooney, so it’s cool. Plus this category being what it is — the sheer fact that he’s Mickey Rooney puts him near the top of the list.

Stack — Written on the Wind is a terrific, terrific film. My favorite Douglas Sirk film. I know Imitation of Life and Magnificent Obsession (and even All That Heaven Allows) are better, but I like this one best. Maybe it’s because it’s the first one I saw.

Rock Hudson is a dude who has been friends with Robert Stack since they were young. And he is the son of an oil tycoon. And he’s basically a playboy who drinks and spends money. Meanwhile Hudson is a good dude, and the father actually treats Hudson more like his son than he does Stack. And the film is about Hudson meeting Lauren Bacall and falling for her, but Stack wooing her away with all his money and stuff. And then they get married, and he drinks and cheats on her, and then he finds out he can’t have children, and drinks even more. Meanwhile Bacall falls in love with Hudson, and Dorothy Malone, Stack’s sister, is a nymphomaniac who sleeps with almost every guy in town, and also has loved Hudson since they were children, and — well a lot of melodramatic situations happen. It’s amazing.

Stack’s performance is so great. It’s melodrama, so you have to expect over the top. But I think it’s gloriously melodramatic, the performance. It’s so wonderfully Douglas Sirk. Plus — he’s Robert Stack. How can you not love him? So really, I’m just gonna vote for him because I loved it the best. I’m totally cool with him not winning. But I have to vote for him. Some people you just have to vote for.

My Thoughts: I don’t see how this doesn’t go to either Robert Stack or Mickey Rooney. I mean, sure, I’m biased for Stack, but still. He gave a fun performance. Actually, let’s break it down:

Murray is off. He’s the lead, and, honestly, his character was way too annoying to win this award.

Quinn is literally in the movie for 12 minutes. No way. No way at all. He won because the category was weak and they like him. I understand that. But I’m not voting for him. He also had one. I’ll accept the win but I won’t vote for it.

Perkins is an actor I really like, and Friendly Persuasion is a film I really like — but I didn’t like his performance enough to vote for it. I just didn’t. I didn’t feel it was worth an Oscar. Though he was definitely good.

Now — Mickey Rooney. Based solely on the fact that he’s Mickey Rooney, and hasn’t won an Oscar before, I don’t see how that alone gives him the vote in this weak category. Hell, if I didn’t love Written on the Wind so much, I’d vote for Rooney, sight-unseen. But I have seen the movie, and, while he doesn’t quite give a performance that’s necessarily win-worthy (he also played a somewhat similar role in The Bridges at Toko-Ri two years earlier), I think, in this category, the fact that he’s Mickey Rooney gives him an edge over most everyone else.

But, as I said, I love Written on the Wind. And I know Stack gives a really over-the-top performance, but that’s what I love about it. Plus — he’s Robert Stack. Who doesn’t love Robert Stack? So I’m mostly using his stature to vote for him. I feel it works in a category like this.

I feel either Stack or Rooney should have won, simply for wealth-spreading reasons, and I love Stack’s film, so I’m taking him.

My Vote: Stack

Should Have Won: Stack, Rooney

Is the result acceptable?: I guess. Why wouldn’t it be? Does anyone really care about this category?

Performances I suggest you see: You need to see Written on the Wind, or else we can’t be friends.

Friendly Persuasion is a great film. I hate films about religion and stuff, but this film is fucking great. I don’t know what it is about the Quakers, but I loved this one. Maybe because the film is largely plotless for most of it. I tend to like films that create a story out of unrelated vignettes of sorts. But, this is a really great film, and I recommend it highly.

Lust for Life is a good film. Worth a watch. Vincente Minnelli film, Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh. What more do you need?

The Bold and the Brave — if you can get your hands on it, is really good. Definitely worth a watch. I’m telling you — it’s worth it.

Bus Stop — it’s interesting. Worth a watch. Didn’t think I’d like it, but it snuck up on me. It’s a Monroe film. That’s something. Worth a watch if you’re interested.


5) Murray

4) Quinn

3) Perkins

2) Rooney

1) Stack

One response

  1. samuelwilliscroft

    the typo at the top is priceless

    June 30, 2015 at 9:16 am

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