Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1959

Here are the five nominees: (Winner in Bold)

Laurence Harvey (Room at the Top)
Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur)
Jack Lemmon (Some Like It Hot)
Paul Muni (The Last Angry Man)
James Stewart (Anatomy of a Murder)

Biggest Snub:

Joseph Schildkraut – The Diary of Anne Frank

My Overall Thoughts:

This was a year with 5 fine performances but Heston is way above the rest.

My Rankings:

Acting Performances

5. Laurence Harvey 
4. Jack Lemmon 
3. James Stewart 
2. Paul Muni 
1. Charlton Heston


5. Room at the TopHarvey is pretty good here, but at points he is quite a bore which seems to be on purpose. Sears is also good here, but Signoret steals the show with her Oscar winning performance. Liked the way they were able to be frank about life and what people are willing to do for love and also to get to the top.
4. The Last Angry ManGreat performance by Muni which turned out to be his final role. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor for this role. The selflessness of his character still rings true even after nearly 60 years and in some ways makes this story timeless.  Really liked the way that this film shows that fame and ratings aren’t something that can easily corrupt everyone especially when they feel that they are doing what they are needed for on their own terms. The plot is extremely engaging and manages to get across a great story with a message about being true to one self no matter the cost.
3. Some Like It HotQuote a funny premise that works almost the whole time despite some of the silly antics. Lemmon and Curtis are superb in these roles which seem to go completely against their normal comedic typecast. Like how the plot played out and the way it all comes together in the end. Monroe is fine as costar but she isn’t able to outshine the leads no matter how you look at it.
2. Anatomy of a MurderGreat courtroom drama. Well ahead of its time. Stewart is great in the lead and is helped by an astounding supporting cast. The subjkect matter was quite taboo for its time yet still is done extremely well.
1. Ben-HurGreat epic movie, done expertly. Worthy of it’s 11 Oscars. Heston is great in the title role and it would become his most famous and career defining role.

Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Most definitely!  Heston does a wonderful job as Ben-Hur and the fact that the film swept almost every category definitely helped him win even though he clearly gives the best performance of the 5 nominees that year.

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

One thought on “Did They Get it Right? – Best Actor – Oscars 1959

  1. Disagree on your “snub” for Schildkraut mostly because other than Millie Perkins, the other roles were basically supporting. Yes – Heston deserved the win in a towering performance – which was one of the first movies I ever saw on a big screen and remained – for a very long time – my favorite movie of all time (still Top 10).

    As to genuine snubs – TONY CURTIS for “Some Like It Hot” (along with Marilyn for the same movie).

    The crazy thing with Ben Hur – it became the most honored Oscar winner of all time with 11 wins (its lone loss – remarkably – was for Best Screenplay after a big credit fight) and held that honor alone until tied by Titanic and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – each also with 11. And Heston, who won on what was the ONLY nomination of his long and distinguished career – only got the role as Judah Ben-Hur after it was turned down by both Marlon Brando and Rock Hudson. Kirk Douglas wanted the role – but it was not offered to him. He was offered the role of Messala, turned it down – and it went to Stephen Boyd.

    Classic story involved legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt – who directed the 2nd unit sequences in Ben Hur – including the famed chariot race. Heston went to him and was nervous about the race – and Canutt told him, “Chuck, you stay in the chariot – I guarantee you’ll win the race”.


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