William Holden won his Oscar from his second nomination for portraying Sgt. J.J. Sefton in Stalag 17.
I guess I should say there will be some more obvious spoilers in this review as they are really required for me to appropriately and fully describe what I see in this performance. The second thing I should say is that I find it quite amusing that William Holden apparently found the part too unlikable and cynical, and did not want to play it. I find this quite amusing becuase William Holden probably ties with William Powell for best portraying a multitude of the most cynical and sardonic characters in film history.
This performance as Sefton certainly is one of Holden's most cynical character, and really is perfectly cast in the role. What I really like about this performance though is how it changes during the initial viewing of the film, and the subsequent viewings of the film. In the first viewing, my first viewing anyway, I did not know who the traitor was and it very well could have been Sefton since I did not know what manner the film was going to go in.
William Holden for me has the perfect mystery and intrigue in about the first half of the film where it seems all to likely that Sefton may in fact be the informer only to be able to get a slightly nicer time in the prison camp. Holden perfectly expresses Sefton's cynical nature at all times being that this is simply who Sefton is, and it will exploit or bet on anything to get ahead in some way. Holden tunes Sefton's nature well as having the right degree of mystery as whether he would go so far to sell out his fellow countrymen, or not.
Well here is the spoiler, Sefton is not the traitor someone else in the camp is therefore, Holden is required to do something quite difficult. He must become the man you are suppose to completely hate and instead become the man you are suppose to at least like and somewhat sympathize with in his troublesome position int he prison camp being the only person who knows for sure he is not the traitor after all. Holden manages to to do this with a great ease merely by creating an urgency and honesty out of Sefton, not out of nowhere, but something he merely hid with his sardonic humor the rest of the time.
On my second viewing I found Holden this time simply entertaining as well as effective throughout the film. I just love his whole delivery throughout every single moment he has. Holden just does the whole sardonic cyncial nature of Sefton absolutely perfectly making him just an enjoyable character to watch even when he is being quite the jerk, I still found him likable as well due to Holden still finding a creating deal of charisma with his cyncial character nonetheless. I found myself enjoying every moment of his performance from beginning to end largely becuase of the incredible ease he has throughout the film. This is not the most complex performance of all time, but it is a character that Holden brings out to its fullest in a most enjoyable fashion.