Fred Astaire received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Harlee Claiborne in The Towering Inferno.
Fred Astaire's nomination here is most certianly a career nomination, and can almost be taken as an insult, since they nominate him here as a small supporting player in a disaster movie but never for any of his romantic, and musical leading roles that he was supremely popular for. Fred Astaire can be marked as someone who technically was nominated for an Oscar, but in the type of way which was for a little to late in most's view.
I hate the Towering Inferno, I really do, I find no pleasure in watching disaster films, and this one is no different. The characters are usually so thinly drawn that it is almost impossible to recognize them by any other way than the actor who portrays them. I will give Astaire credit Astaire is the one of two characters who does not fall into this category, the other luckily is Jennifer Jones' Lisolette Mueller whom Astaire's character shares a romance with.
Claiborne is at first just a conman who attempts to charm Lisolette into buying into a con. Astaire fuses the right fake charm into this scene that is fitting of his two bit con man personality, well still alluding to his inability to truly be as harsh as needs to be for his job. After the disaster becomes known Caliborne wipes away all his charm and confesses to Lisolette what she basically already knows. Astaire changes from phoniness to honest and sincere charm shows the true charm of Claiborne.
Astaire and Jones are very sweet together, and create a very nice little romance that I frankly wanted to see much more of than the two dimensional relationships of the rest of the film. Unfortunately except for their sweet goodbye, portrayed with a lot of charm and heart by both actors the film decides to throw Jones out of an elevator, and plunge to her death even smacking the side of the building on the way down adding unneeded insult to her death.
Astaire afterward has a single scene where he finds out the sad truth, where he effectively conveys his heartbreak, but a little bit of happiness, after all he got handed a cat by O.J. Simpson. Astaire, and Jones really are mistreated, and I saw no reason to kill her character, since they were the only one's who were able to bring genuine emotion to such material. In the end although I liked his performance, I cannot say he still is amazing by any means, but does remain for me, along with Jones, the only thing worthwhile about the entire film.