Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1961

Here are the five nominees: (Winner in Bold)

Charles Boyer (Fanny)
Paul Newman (The Hustler)
Maximilian Schell (Judgment at Nuremberg)
Spencer Tracy (Judgment at Nuremberg)
Stuart Whitman (The Mark)

Biggest Snub:

Charleston Heston – El Cid

My Overall Thoughts:

This was a year where the two best performances were both from the same film and surprisingly, they didn’t manage to cancel each other out. The other three are all good performances, but don’t come anywhere close to being as powerful.

My Rankings:

Acting Performances

5. Charles Boyer 
4. Stuart Whitman 
3. Paul Newman 
2. Spencer Tracy 
1. Maximilian Schell


4. FannyDidn’t enjoy this one as much as I thought I would. It’s a bit too long and the characters aren’t as sympathetic as one would hope for. I did enjoy the way they try and explore what people would be willing to do for love. I think this might have been a better film had they actually kept it as a musical. The chemistry between the three main characters is lacking and doesn’t work as well as it should.
3. The Mark – Nice look at how a man released from prison after being “rehabilitated” must still deal with his past chasing him no matter what he does or where he goes. Whitman does a very convincing job in the lead, but the story, (which seemed quite controversial when it came out) lacks something that would make it more powerful.  These scenes with Steiger as a psychiatrist trying to help Whitman are somewhat funny since the way people treat these kinds of issues now are much different from how they were treated then. They do manage to get the “creep” factor just right for this kind of subject matter.
2. The HustlerSome interesting themes are explored here, but the movie drags on too much to be effective enough. Newman, Scott and Gleason are great as usual, but I just wasn’t very impressed with the final product. Just seemed very mediocre since it moves a bit too slow IMHO despite the fact that the characters are constantly trying to outmaneuver one another at the pool table.
1. Judgment at NurembergSuch a fabulously written movie that truly captures all of the emotions one would think of in a trial like this. Amazing cast led by the always dependable Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster. Despite being over 3 hours long, it moves by swiftly because of the subject matter and the way it was filmed in the courtroom. Hard to say whether this should have beaten West Side Story (1961) because both are very different movies and styles.

Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Most Definitely!  Schell is superb in JaN and clearly gives the most powerful performance of the 5 nominees. Tracy is a close second.

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

One thought on “Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1961

  1. Disagree with your assessment of “Hustler” “dragging”. It is after all, a character piece, set in a very particular world of hustlers and low lifes and damaged people – where you can dress them up (Scott), but he’s still a lowlife POS. The cast was superb – particularly Newman, Piper Laurie, Scott and Gleason “Look at that fat man move…”.

    I also thought Nuremberg was excellent. (I thought Judy Garland should have won for Best Supporting Actress for that one harrowing scene on the witness stand). What always fascinated me about this year at the Oscars was the fact that it was released firmly in the era when 2 actors nominated in the same category for the same movie would cancel one another out. It happened with Burton and O’Toole 3 years later in “Becket”. But here – Schell (also quite memorable in his American film debut 3 years earlier in “The Young Lions”) overcame competition from Hollywood legend Tracy (nominated the year before for “Inherit The Wind”) and won. If it had “followed the script” – they both should have lost to Newman.


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