Jack Lemmon won his second Oscar from his fifth nomination for portraying Harry Stoner in Save the Tiger.
This is an acting showcase for Lemmon, and it does seem that it was tailored made to give him that chance at his lead Oscar. I think you can sort of tell this by his jubilation at hearing his name called when he won this year, clearing wanting to win a whole lot. This though even though is Oscar bait, his performance luckily does not feel like it even though it seems like it should, because Lemmon really does indeed invest in his character.
I have been a little mixed on Lemmon's past dramatic performances, I loved him in the Days of Wine and Roses, but I really hated him in Tribute. What were the major differences between these performances, well a lot of things, but most importantly the obviousness of the performance. In Tribute Lemmon never stopped his Lemmonisms, and his overacting, where in Days he stayed on the mark and realistic, even in the sanatorium scenes luckily for Lemmon his performance here is far more like his Days performance than his one in Tribute.
Harry Stoner is a businessman who really is just barely getting through life clearly always having a hard struggle to make it through the day. Lemmon is quite effective early on in presenting the sheer horrible state of the character. After all his performance starts with him screaming with pain in bed, over what the film does not say, but I think one could easily say it is over his entire life. Lemmon is good because he does not overplay the state of his character as he easily could, but is better showing the persuading pain in Stoner in a realistic fashion.
Lemmon is interesting in that he does show that Harry goes through a whole manner of facades through his day, at rather different levels. He tries to to act like a competent businessman, around his workers, he tired to act happy, and be high energy, but Lemmon carefully shows the overarching dread that is always prevalent in some way in his character even when he is pretending to be happy, even though he is not at all.
Lemmon's performance is manic, and covers a lot of different emotional ground in his performances, whether it is regret, hatred, exhaustion, and desperation but Lemmon always stays consistent in his portrayal. It is always part of Harry Stoner. Stoner never really stops moving which works extremely well for his performance. He tries anything to make his businesses work, or his life work, and Lemmon is perfect in showing how painful his struggle and desperation is because he never seems off which is what makes his performance effective.
This performance really honestly works which I find is amazing especially since there are scenes that are most certainly pure Oscar baiting scenes. One in particular is his speech at the beginning of a fashion show of his companies where he breaks out thinking of the dead men of war. This scene seems to come almost of nowhere, but Lemmon sells it anyways because he absoultely invests his heart and soul into the scene, to make it completely of Harry Stoner, and completely heartbreaking.
The same goes for many of his other Oscary moments as well, surprising as it is. When it slowly focuses on him an he talks to himself, I felt that was authentic and interesting because it showed into the rapid fire mind of Stoner, and how his mind refuses to stop, and really how on edge he is, or as well his looks and the way he walks in the film. As obvious of an actor thing it could have been, it again honestly intensely portrays the detrimental state of Stoner.
This is really a fascinating performance because despite being in a purely Oscar baiting film, Lemmon manages a honest and effective performance. He never overacts in a performance that could have been only overacting. Lemmon is always makes every scene, no matter how strange or possibly over dramatic still part of the whole of desperation and isolation that is Harry Stoner.