Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1982: James Mason in The Verdict

James Mason received his third and final Oscar nomination for portraying Ed Concannon in The Verdict.

In the supporting actor category Mason was not the first actor to be nominated for portraying an the adversary attorney in a court room drama as George C. Scott was also nominated for a similar role in 1959 for Anatomy of a Murder a performance that earned my win for that particular year. What I like is to see these two talented actors taken such different approaches to what are very similar character in that they are both there just to win their case, there really is not a personal life mentioned or anything else, yet they still managed to be Oscar nominated.

Well it is most certainly true that one can be nominated for an entirely unimpressive and unsubstantial performance, Mason though as with  Scott managed to show how a great actor can make the most out of just about any sort of role if they actually bother to try. It is just interesting to look at the differences and similarities between Scott and Mason in the ways they both managed to succeed in their roles, and make a substantial impact in their film despite the technical limitations of their part.

Where Scott was more demanding, and intense as his prosecutor, Mason portrays his slick attorney as a relatively quite man but one who like Scott's character is absolutely always in control of his situation. Mason though always presents Ed Concannon as an always prepared man who examines every situation so he doesn't need to get loud or angry, he is in charge because he has determined that he is in charge. Mason always shows with cold efficiency that there is a calculated procedure Concannon takes to everything involved with a case.

Mason has such a great ease in his performance that it makes him a more than just a rival to Paul Newman's Frank Galvin, but in fact makes him seem like his legal superior. Mason for most of the film has complete control in his scenes, and so calmly lays down plan and actions in every scene with just the right degree of  smug superiority. Mason never shows Concannon to be an idiot when it comes to his superior manner and tone, but rather something he has earned his right to use from his long standing history as a lawyer.

Mason is particularly excellent in his scenes of cross examination, since he really does not have a harsh intense attitude, but rather is always polite, even though Mason shows almost a fiendish quality in this calm approach that through his slowly but eloquently put questions he is always carefully tearing into them. I particularly like when Concannon basically harasses a witness, and accuses her of lying, yet he does it with such calm reserve he actually seems even more piercing because of this.

Mason is terrific in every moment he needs to show just how smart, and effective Ed Concannon is creating an almost overwhelming obstacle for Galvin to fight, but my favorite moment in his performance is when he is at a loss for words in a single scene. Mason's reaction is absolutely perfect when Concannon finally is truly surprised by something he hadn't planned for, and Mason shows a vulnerability in this single scene where it Concannon can barely understand that there something has occurred that he has not planned for, simply a terrific moment that perfectly shows a sign of weakness in Concannon.

This is a great performance by Mason who takes what he has an makes the absolute most of it. It would have been very easy to actually have had Concannon be an nonentity in the film, but instead just like George C. Scott in Anatomy of Murder he turns Concannon into a formidable court room villain. His performance here puts to shame other performances that just settle in their roles and never attempt bring more life to the part. This is a brilliant realization of what an actor can do with a character even when the character is limited.


dinasztie said...

What a surprise! :O

mrripley said...

Shocked i thought he was good esp in the scene you mentioned the lost for words scene but he would have not been my winner seems he may be yours,solid though he is.

mrripley said...

gr8 write up.

Fritz said...

I haven't seen him yet but I think he's a great actor!

Anonymous said...

Great performance by this underrated actor

Anonymous said...

He was perfect in that movie. I've always been torn between him and John Lithgow. Looks like he's headed for the win.


RatedRStar said...

Im not surprised lol thats why I picked him to win =D xxxx

Edward L. said...

Yes, he's great in this. For me, it's hard to choose between him and Gossett - both excellent, yet, of course, in such different roles.

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