Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1967


Here are the five nominees: (Winner in Bold)

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)

Biggest Snub:

Sidney Poitier – In the Heat of the Night

My Overall Thoughts:

This is a year where there were 5 very powerful performances nominated, but the era of the 60’s and the ideas of openly discussing racial issues took precedence here. Not all of these films translate well enough after 50 years, but at the time, they all dealt with very relevant issues.

My Rankings:

Acting Performances

5. Dustin Hoffman
4. Warren Beatty
3. Paul Newman 
2. Rod Steiger
1. Spencer Tracy

Movies

5. The GraduateThis film is more iconic for a few of its scenes and its music but still isn’t as amazing as some claim. Cast is great with Hoffman, Bancroft and Ross all giving career defining performances. The music is amazing and the Simon & Garfunkel songs have always been associated with this film (and vice versa). There are some really great scenes in this film, but something just seems off in the way that the story is told. Nichols won Best Director for this film, but the film failed to win any of the other 6 nominations.
4. In the Heat of the NightMediocre best picture, mediocre murder mystery but the themes make it worth watching.
3. Bonnie and ClydeThe thing that makes this film so great is the chemistry between the two leads played by Beatty and Dunaway. The way that the plot is presented works really well because we see how things can slowly escalate in situations like this until they get completely out of hand. The supporting cast is just as good as the leads and its great seeing how Hackman, Parsons and Pollard each hold their own against the two powerhouse actors they are paired with. All 5 of them got Oscar nominations for their roles, but only Parsons walked away with gold that year.
2. Cool Hand LukeNewman is great in this role because he feels like one of us and perseveres through every difficulty he is tasked with just solely on will. This helps him accomplish two goals; He gains respect from his fellow prisoners and drives the guards mad that he cannot be broken. Loved Kennedy in this because he seems like one of the hardest prisoners and grows to admire Luke so much that he becomes not only his friend but his follower and supporter in everything he does. Has its slow points and the theme is not an upbeat one but Newman’s Luke helps us thru with his perspective on life.
1. Guess Who’s Coming to DinnerExcellent movie, great acting, great dialogue and story with a very true message that even stands the test of time up through modern times.

Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Yes and No!  In 1967, Steiger’s performance and the film in general were way ahead of their time, but the story doesn’t age well enough which gives us a mediocre murder mystery. Tracy was superb in his final role and that film also deals with race relations and is still a relevant story 50+ years after it was made.

Let me know what you think about these films and my rankings!

One thought on “Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1967

  1. Wow – so much to nitpick here… Suffice it to say that any criticism you have of the nominated films is slightly tainted by the fact that you didn’t see any of them in the actual year they were released (a problem similar to you being less than impressed by Midnight Cowboy). I saw all 5 in 1967 – so it’s hard for you to assume the mindset of America and the world and be able to see these films through the prism of the actual year. Not your fault. But whether they age well or not, is not the point – the point is the message they each delivered and how impressive that was 50+ years ago. We were in the middle of the Civil Rights era and riots and Detroit on fire etc. when In The Heat of the Night was released. Some movie theaters in the Deep South wouldn’t even play the film. Forget the “mediocre murder mystery” at the core (and I disagree with that assessment – plus it was based on a novel AND it won Best Adapted Screenplay for Sterling Silliphant), it was a raw look at race relations in the deep south – and the random arrest of a Black man for murdering a white man.

    All 5 of these performances were excellent and anyone who won would’ve been deserving. The fact that Steiger won (like Newman would – NOT for his best performance – that was in The Pawnbroker) when he didn’t have to compete with his co-star – Poitier – was significant. I agree with your “snub” pick. Poitier not only was overlooked for Heat, but also for To Sir With Love and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner – ALL in 1967. Another “snub” was Albert Finney (and Audrey Hepburn) for “Two For The Road”, as well as egregious Best Song omissions – “To Sir With Love” and “Mrs. Robinson” from The Graduate neither of which was even nominated.

    Steiger’s performance as the bigoted white Southern sheriff as not “ahead of its time” – it was a portrait of what was happening in America at the time. Not a big acting stretch. And Tracy was excellent in his final role – he died less then 3 weeks after filing wrapped. It was a star making turn by Hoffman (in a role that Nichols turned down Redford for) and Beatty and cast were all superb in Bonnie and Clyde – which- along with The Wild Bunch – set a new bar for movie violence on screen.

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