Monday, 19 September 2011

Best Supporting Actor 1974: Lee Strasberg in The Godfather Part II

Lee Strasberg received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Hyman Roth in The Godfather Part II.

Lee Strasberg  is best known for being an acting teacher than an actual actor himself. Although Strasberg has been in a few more obscure films in smaller parts, The Godfather Part II was his first truly notable role. Strasberg's plays Hyman Roth the Jewish mobster who holds a great deal of power, and acts as the primary antagonist of the film, since he seeks to take down the Corleone family due to their murder of his friend Moe Green in the first film. Roth though does not do it ever by outright saying he is planning a war, but instead does it by saying he wishes take a business proposition together. In his first scene the powerful Roth is seen in a rather modest setting watching baseball as he talks to Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) as he talks about their business. Strasberg is excellent in immediately establishing the nature of Roth.  Strasberg shows both a friendly almost fatherly quality toward Michael as he talks to him in a quiet casual manner, yet Strasberg always suggest the cold calculating killer beneath his welcoming exterior.

Strasberg keeps up appropriately with this facade toward Michael in the rest of his scenes until he finally breaks open about why he really wants his revenge. Strasberg is again terrific in this scene as well when he shows really the true viciousness behind Roth. There is a true deep hatred Strasberg conveys in this scene, with only a small bit of hesitation since after all in his business everything is business even death. It is an amazing moment really becuase he not only conveys the hatred, but also how the hatred honestly stems from his love for his friend more than anything else. Strasberg really is not in the film a great deal, but in his few scenes he most certainly leaves a strong impact. He not only vividly brings to life this particularly sort of business man, he also manages to create a memorable villain as well. Hyman Roth perhaps could have been easily a forgotten part of this great film but Strasberg manages to stand out within the limits of his character.

4 comments:

dshultz said...

Man, I love this performance. When I first saw the Godfather Part II, when Roth and Michael first met, I sort of bought into his nice old man shtick, but even then, I could detect the slightest hint of resentment, of anger, but I thought of this as simply part of a man who deals in the sort of business he did. The levels of subtlety and reveals are amazing.
Could You do a review of John Cazale as Fredo along with your other reviews for this year?

Anonymous said...

Awesome performance, somewhat underrated

Sage Slowdive said...

Hmm, it's kinda hard to notice him in the context of the film, but he's does make an impression. Still, a mixed performance for me.

Anonymous said...

Lee Strasberg's performance is mesmeric... a timeless, definitive jewel of a piece, providing both an interpretation of this (one imagines, almost contemporary) rarely exposed, heavily censored screen character type and an invaluable 'masterclass' for method acting.

IMO Strazberg's Hyman Roth (1974) and Olivier's Dr Christian Szell (1976) are significant and so very similar. Enjoy, frankw August 2013.