Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Best Supporting Actor 1950: Erich von Stroheim in Sunset Blvd.

Erich von Stroheim received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Max von Meyerling in Sunset Blvd.

Now here is a performance and character I find that raises the interesting question of the difference between great casting, and a great performance. It must be said that it was quite brilliant to cast Erich von Stroheim as Norma Desmond's butler. The fact that Stroheim really was a famous director as Meyerling reveals himself to have been does add an extra layer. That Stroheim just like Meyerling had been reduced from once being a great director not quite to being a butler, but still being reduced to playing a butler. This casting just does add to whole underbelly of Hollywood feel to the film that works quite well in its favor.

Now his actual performance is a different story, since if you had no idea who Stroheim was his casting really would not have added an extra layer to the film. Stroheim early on just does a the butler duties of a butler role. He does them well with the right undercurrent of strangeness which goes well with the strangeness of the whole life of Norma Desmond. Stroheim is not given much to do, but he stays noticeable as a fixture of Norma Desmond's mansion. Stroheim does display the right odd devotion and caring of Meyerling to Desmond, and I do like his small way of revealing more of Max along the way, such as when he says not to look to closely at Norma Desmond's fan letters.

Meyerling is of course not just a butler but Desmond's ex-husband, and director. Stroheim does handle this reveal well, and did suggest it properly beforehand. He also is good at showing his inability to disappoint Norman when he is unable to tell her the truth about her popularity. Also Stroheim is good in the final scene showing Meyerling inner director come out at the end. I think Meyerling is a very interesting character far more so than he needed to be. Stroheim also does really portray the part as well as one could, his background does add to the film, but I do not think this is an amazing performance though. It is good Stroheim was perfectly cast, but I just cannot call this a great performance.

1 comment:

dinasztie said...

I think this is a great performance.