Rex Harrison: Cleopatra
Paul Newman: Hud
Sidney Poitier: Lilies of the Field (winner)
Richard Harris: This Sporting Life
Albert Finney: Tom Jones
Lots of great performances from the men in 1963, and while some of them did get nominations, not all of them did. There are a few we can start with right away here that didn’t get nominated for a reason. Shock Corridor and X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes are movies I love, but Oscar’s not a fan of B-science fiction, so Peter Breck and Ray Milland (respectively) weren’t going to get any love. Movies like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and The Great Escape are fun (and great in the latter case), but are also ensemble casts with no clear lead role. There are also a few roles that I think fit in the “good, but not necessarily worth a nomination” but that might be better than what we have in a couple of cases. These include Tom Tryon in The Cardinal and Steve McQueen in Love with the Proper Stranger. I’d probably also put Cary Grant in Charade in this group. It’s been too long since I’ve seen The Pink Panther, but I recall Peter Sellers as being pretty iconic. Burt Lancaster being ignored in The Leopard seems like a shock to me. I’d also strongly consider Stathis Giallelis in America, America. The real misses for me, though, are both James Fox and especially Dirk Bogarde in The Servant.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I understand that Tom Jones put Albert Finney on the map, but it’s not a role or a movie that does a lot for me. Sadly, it seems like a case where Finney almost had to be nominated as the clear lead in a movie that eventually won Best Picture. In truth, while it’s a fine performance, I don’t think it’s really anything that special, and given a few of our snubs, it’s not a performance that I think belongs here. Finney has been nominated too many times to not have a win, but he’s not getting this one from me.
4. Cleopatra is not a great movie, and I’m not sure I can be convinced that it’s even a very good one in most respects. It’s got a lot of pageantry and costumes and it’s got Liz Taylor in her prime, but other than that, it doesn’t have a great deal that recommends it except for the exceptional performance of Roddy McDowall, who was snubbed because of studio idiocy. He’s the best thing in the film without question, and could he have legitimately been nominated for a lead role, I’d consider him. Instead, we’ve got Rex Harrison, who isn’t in the second half of the film. Huh?
3. Far be it from me to take Sidney Poitier’s only competitive Oscar away from him, but that’s what I’m going to do here. He should have been nominated multiple times in other years, so I’ll fall back on that. I don’t hate this nomination, and Poitier is one of those actors who is instantly likeable on screen and who combines that with a real gravitas when he needs it. Seriously, the only thing that keeps him from the top for me here is that I genuinely like the other two performances a lot more in movies that I like a lot more than Lilies of the Field.
2. Paul Newman won a lot of Oscars before he actually won one for real. To my mind, he turned in the single best performance in the 1960s in Cool Hand Luke, and he didn’t win for that, so why would he win for an almost as electrifying performance in Hud? This is in that difficult spot in his career. After Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Hustler, greatness was expected of him in every role. We expected Newman to be as flawless as he could be, and so he was always passed over for someone having a career year. I wouldn’t complain too much had Newman won, but he really didn’t deserve this one.
1. The best performance of this year is that of Richard Harris in This Sporting Life. Harris is absolutely mesmerizing and magnetic in a role of a man who is truly an awful human being. It’s not easy to be this compelling and this terrible, but Harris manages it by making Frank sympathetic and understandable. Frank wants what he can’t have, which includes respectability and acceptance into society. It’s easy to get that and just as easy to understand Frank’s constant rage at the life he’s been given to live. Harris could not be better in this. Were Dirk Bogarde nominated, he’d be in the hunt for second, but this was so clearly Harris’s Oscar that I don’t know how he didn’t win.