Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1965

Here are the five nominees: (Winner in Bold)

Richard Burton (The Spy Who Came In from the Cold)
Lee Marvin (Cat Ballou)
Laurence Olivier (Othello)
Rod Steiger (Pawnbroker)
Oskar Werner (Ship of Fools)

Biggest Snub:

Omar Sharif – Doctor Zhivago

My Overall Thoughts:

This was a pretty weak year for Best Actor performances despite having very well known actors in the running for the award.

My Rankings:

Acting Performances

5. Lee Marvin
4. Richard Burton 
3. Laurence Olivier
2. Rod Steiger 
1. Oskar Werner


5. Cat Ballou – Very strange Western comedy that is done too over the top. The characters aren’t interesting enough to care about and the dialogue meanders along most of the time. Still baffled as to how Marvin walked away with a Best Actor Oscar for this role because this wasn’t very memorable or powerful at all.  The best part of this film are the singing narrative interludes by Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye.  Other than those few scenes, this film can be easily skipped over.
4. Othello – Great cast but the story moves along too slowly to stay interesting.  Never having been a fan of Shakespearean verse, listening to these great actors was not easy for nearly 3 hours. Olivier’s blackface is strange to look at and seems even more anachronistic 53 years after this was made.  The themes of jealousy and revenge helps make this one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies even if I personally had trouble feeling connected to these performances.
3. The Spy Who Came In from the ColdEnjoyable spy thriller that shows how complex the whole espionage system was during the height of the Cold War in the mid-1960’s. This was La Carre’s first film adaptation and even though parts move extremely slowly, they are able to give us a realistic look at the way spy games were played during those days. Burton is quite good in the lead and he gives us a character who is developed quite well in that we see how much he is willing to give up in his personal life in order to do his duty for his country no matter the cost. They do a great job showing the way of life of spies on both sides which shows how universal these men and women are despite pledging allegiance to different sides.
2. PawnbrokerSteiger is superb as this man who has kept to himself as much as possible due to the psychological torture of years gone by. Great study into how a person can be traumatized years after an event with no help in sight to recover. Loved how we got to see him in three different stages of his life and the contrast in his personality in all three. What’s most powerful are the themes that are left for the viewer to decipher on his/her own because it represents Holocaust themes that were not verbalized in the 60’s.
1. Ship of FoolsExcellent film because the characters are written so well and each and every one is so diverse that their interactions can cause friction or friendship depending on the moment. Superb character study of different kinds of people done exceptionally well. Amazing cast helps make this film so memorable. Dunn and Werner stand out the most here as being the best tho. Can’t wait to see this again because it is so interesting on so many different levels.

Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Not at all!  I can’t understand how Marvin could win an Oscar for such a role. Any of the other four nominees would have been better choices  despite this being a pretty weak year for performances. Sharif (who wasn’t even nominated) really should have won.

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

One thought on “Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1965

  1. Looking at this list – I have to agree with you on both counts. Sharif was jobbed and as I said in an earlier post (about Steiger winning for “In The Heat of the Night”) – he SHOULD have won for The Pawnbroker. Hands down. With Werner a distant 2nd. He WAS superb. It was a harrowing film and a quietly searing performance. Hard to watch. (The scene where he impales his hand – to try to feel… something. And that silent scream. Incredible) But if they saw enough to nominate him – they should’ve seen enough to give him Best Actor. Not one of the Academy’s shining moments.


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