Richard Widmark received his only Oscar nomination for portraying Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death.
Richard Widmark although had a long screen career he was only ever nominated for his for film role ever as the giggling psychopath Tommy Udo. What I found interesting from his first scene in this film was the fact that Widmark's performance here in no way resembles his later screen persona which was usually a deep voiced commanding figure. In this film though I barely recognized Widmark as he completely becomes the role of Tommy Udo.
As I said Widmark has a deep voice but here that is not apparent in the least. Widmark here instead has a rather high pitched weasel type of voice that works perfectly for the role of Tommy Udo. He makes Tommy Udo not some sort of overwhelming figure who seems to command, but far more freighting by always seeming to be dangerous by just how off of a person Widmark makes him, Widmark always shows that there is something simply off about Udo.
What makes Widmark's performance so memorable though is that Tommy is not only a Killer but a true sadist who loves to kill. The famous wheelchair pushing scene would not be nearly as memorable as it is if it were not for the grinning joyful face that Widmark has the moment Tommy is doing it. There is not a single moment in which Widmark shows any sort of sympathy inside of the disturbing Tommy.
Widmark simply makes the most out of the character of Tommy Udo who easily could have been played way over the top, but instead Widmark makes him bizarrely real in his psychopathy and all the more chilling because of that. There are so many aspects of this performance that could have gone wrong in lesser hands but with Widmark they never do. This is truly an accomplishment becuase of how risky Widmark plays his role, which is a little surprising since it was his first performance in a film.
The way he walks, the way he talks, the way he laughs, and especially the way he smiles only ever work to make Tommy Udo an unforgettable character. Every moment of the film he is in, which is not as much as one might think Widmark makes the most of. He absolutely holds your attention in every scene for every second with his fascinating portrayal. He makes Udo such an effective villain that even when he was off screen I was thinking about him. This is an amazing performance by Widmark that creates a chilling portrait of a smiling psychopath.