Oskar Werner received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Schumann in Ship of Fools.
Oskar Werner easily could have been a dual nominee this year and in my opinion he should have been, since he also gave a very strong supporting performance in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, for which he won the Golden Globe, and he should have been nominated for the Oscar. Ship of Fools is an ensemble film, but if there is a lead than it most certainly is Werner. I found him to be the central figure of the film, and actually interacts a little with the other stories and not only his own.
Oskar Werner is the ships doctor, the ship filled with all sorts of characters but as the film says filled with fools. Werner's story on the ship is his relationship with another passenger La Condesa (Simone Signoret) who joins when they stop off at Cuba. This is really the only good part of the film, and this is because of Signoret and Werner. There part of there story is a romantic, but also tragic one, a story of love found between these two travelers but the love cannot really be fulfilled.
Werner and Signoret are perfect together from their first scene where Schumann medically helps Condesa in her cabin. There chemistry is so perfect and natural together that is simply wonderful. Together both of them are just spot on in creating the relationship between these two characters. They create a relationship that is not perfect, but it is incredibly charming one between them, despite also being a tragic one. This sort of relationship is incredibly complicated and difficult to be natural, but Werner and Signoret do this together without fault creating the only truly honest scenes in the film, and basically the only good scenes in the film.
Werner suggests so much about the doctor in the scenes with Signoret, and together they really tell about a lot about their characters even with the shortness of the screen time together. Werner has a few brief moments outside of his ones with Signoret. They mostly are showing the good nature of Schumann as he helps those on the ships, and also his anger at certain people on their ship for their narrow mind views. His major scene for him without Signoret is his final one. His final moments are made incredibly heartbreaking by Werner, and it is a tragic but a proper end to Schumann's, and La Cadesa's relationship. Werner's performance is not long, but it a strong effective piece of acting, that works wonderfully well with Signoret's equally strong work.