Dexter Gordon received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Dale Turner in 'Round Midnight.
Dexter Gordon was not really an actor when he was cast in this film, and is best remembered for being a Jazz Tenor Saxophonist. Now one could think that this is perfect casting, a talented saxophonist as a talented saxophonist. Well this is unfortunately not entirely true. There are many instances of non actors being cast in the right role and they succeed magnificently, or people who are primarily musicians that do the same. Dexter Gordon unfortuantely is not one of these people.
Dexter Gordon almost does not seem to act in this performance, and no I do not mean the does not seem to act in the Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies, or Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story sense. I mean he does not seem to act in that he does not seem to be playing a character half the time rather just reading lines. He is so understated in the role, and in the fashion in what he says some of his lines that frankly he seems bored by his lines sometimes.
Another problem of Gordon's is that he has basically no screen presence. I really mean that. If it were not for his screen-time you could easily think the film was about someone else. Gordon holds so little attention with his completely lacking in charisma performance. Everything he does just is there sitting on screen, never coming off it for a moment, and the problem is Gordon seems far too content with it to be this way as well.
It would not be as bad if Gordon was required to do very little but he is required to espouse about his love of jazz or talk about his struggles with his alcoholism. Gordon though seems so uninterested in basically everything anything he does holds no power whatsoever. I imagine his scenes really wanted deep meaning, or poignancy but Gordon never invests enough in any scene to really create anything out of his lines.
Due to his performance, I wonder why he was really cast, well by the structure of the film it does become very obvious. The film spends a great deal of time, a very great deal of time just having Jazz be played, therefore the filmmakers probably wanted someone who could deliver since he obviously could really deliver Gordon does make sense in that regard.
Gordon certianly can indeed play the saxophone but what he does in these scenes might be something in terms of Jazz, but in terms of acting they are nothing. There really is never an emphasis to show an extra drive in his playing, to further develop the character. Gordon instead plays the sax as you would expect him to do it no more, no less.
I find it really hard to believe after watching this performance that Gordon was nominated, or even stayed in the part due to how lacking he is in the role. I really do believe that had he not already been a famous jazz musician he would not have been given the part first of all, and I also believe that a professional actor would not have been likely to be allowed to get away with giving this performance, let alone be given an Oscar nomination for it.