Richard Burton received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Marcellus Gallio in The Robe.
Richard Burton is an actor I find completely hard to hate even when he is giving very lackluster performnaces. I just never completely loath a performance he is given for whatever reason. This does not mean that I cannot see fault when he gives a lacking performance though which is most certainly the truth in his performance in this film.
Richard Burton really at first does not have a whole lot to work with. He is just a standard roman tribune, and there really is not anything interesting about him. Burton does not try to add anything interesting about the tribune either. He basically just says the lines, and really does give a rather uncharismatic, and at many times a wooden performance.
The great moments in Burton's performance though after he is touched by the robe of Christ, and becomes deeply effected by it. These scenes are not great becuase they are great acting far far from it, they are great because they are pretty unintentionally hilarious. Burton overacts Marcellus' crazed reactions of guilt and uncertainty so much I almost burst every time he made a crazed look in his eyes and yelled out.
One would think there would actually be a transition shown from Roman tribune to devote Christian, but there is not. The film instead has him be basically stuck up Roman, crazed lunatic, than great Christian. The changes are immediate because they are all done by the touching of the Robe. Burton adds nothing only going from boring and wooden to really over the top back down to boring and wooden.
Burton has a moment here or there, very very brief moments of some sort of honest earnestness or something akin to that, but never anything that really should even be noted. He never makes anything out of Marcellus becuase frankly a better performance could have sold the insanity, maybe done something with the romance with Jean Simmons, or really carried this biblical epic. Burton does none of these, and frankly after watching this performance, and Rex Harrison in Cleopatra, I think I am growing a little more respect for Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur.