Walter Huston won his only Oscar from his fourth and final nomination for playing gold prospector named Howard in The Treasure of Sierra Madre.
I clearly am I a fan of Walter Huston, giving him wins for both of his lead nominations. There is something about his presence and manner that I always enjoy watching especially when he is given a good character. In Treasure I find his performance is rather interesting and is usually not given credit for his technical prowess in this particular film. Huston played the Devil, and a rich businessman as believably as possibly, but here he plays a grizzled old down and out prospector and he is just as believable. I really enjoy his mannerisms in this film. He is perfectly made up in the film with the suspenders, and hair but Huston only adds to it using very effective voice and effective mannerisms such as his posture, and the way he squints his eyes, that only add to his character, and makes Huston even more believable as the prospector.
Huston adds a lot to this film as usually does (heck he even adds something in his 5 second cameo in The Maltese Falcon) his presence is always very strong and always adds some energy to his films. I feel he adds more energy than usual with his performance here. I love every minute he is on screen always making the scenes move along do to his movements and his perfect way of speaking. He never in this film lets a film become dull automatically begins Huston never is dull for single moment in this film. Huston has the several scenes where he is required to show rather extreme joy and loudness, in say the last scene where Howard is laughing or the earlier scene where he laughs at his fellow prospectors for not recognizing gold below their feet. These scenes almost have to be played over the top, but I still do not think Huston does. Yes he is laughing, dancing and loud, but Huston does this so well that it seems as a natural part of Howard's character opposed to it being an actor forcing it to be something the character does.
The greatest part of his performance involves the utmost subtlety form Huston which works marvelously. Howard is a knowing prospector and is the wisest of the three prospectors in the story even though he is not a genius. Huston shows Howard deeper knowing of gold, greed and men perfectly. From first the slightly more obvious time in his entrance scene where he tells everyone of gold, where Huston tells of Howard history setting up the character, to later when Howard knows more than the others about greed. From his first reaction to Dobbs' and Curtin's (Tim Holt) handshake, where Huston through his face shows Howard knows the trust of the men will not stand the test of greed well, to later when he is dealing with the fighting among the prospectors. Huston as Howard always shows a certain wisdom while still showing that his character knows he is not really that smart. He also excels at showing that Howard tries to do the right thing but still is not a good enough man to stand up for what is truly right. Huston does all this without saying a thing he shows it through his face which he without fault makes completely into Howard's face. Huston excels in every one of his scenes, and gives a very effective performance.