J. Carrol Naish received his second and final Oscar nomination for portraying Charley Martin in A Medal For Benny.
J. Carrol Naish portrays Charley a man of Mexican descent who is the father of the rouge and hero Benny. I must say that as with his performance in Sahara Naish actually does disappear into the role fairly well in that I did not recognize him instantly. He did not just seem like an actor doing an accent like the two romantic leads of the film did. He does manage to be a character rather just a bad actor attempting to portray a part, something that commonly is not the case when doing an accent.
As with Sahara Naish's accent for his character does not really avoid the stereotype of accent for said particular nationality or ethic group, but as with Sahara Naish has the right sort of conviction with his accent, and his character to make it work. Naish does not lose his accent ever or his manner as the poor rather meek man. It does not falter or flee, and he makes Charley a believable character. Also his accent seems absolutely genuine compared to the strained accents of some of his co-stars.
Although he still given a rather limited character he does have a bit more to do then in Sahara which he was barely in. In the first half of the film he is just a kindly, but poor man in the neighborhood who keeps losing money to constantly borrowing Joe. Naish just makes Charley into a nice old man that is very easy to empathize with. Even though Charley is not given much screentime early on Naish does make Charley the most likable character, even all he does it get told about his money troubles for most of his early scenes.
Naish though never turns Charley into a depressing sort of character though, as he shows an enthusiastic optimism, Naish succeeds in making Charley a fairly endearing character. Later in the film he is given a little more to do when he finds out his son Benny has become a hero posthumously. Naash is good in showing the pride and grief in Charley over the news of his son, and does bring some genuine emotion to these moments which otherwise are rather lacking.
Near the end of the film Naish almost seems to become the main character as the town tries to use Charley as a means to bring interest into the small town in rather shameless ways. Naish's is good in these final few scenes as he shows the continuing sadness and pride in Charley, that forces Charley to finally stand up to the town pitiful attempts to make money off his son. He has a nice moving moment at the end showing exactly what he felt for his son, even though that relationship was less than it could have been since we never see Benny, and the whole aspect of Charley's character almost comes out of nowhere in the script.
This is a good performance by Naish though despite his extremely limited material at his disposal. Although I won't say it is a great accomplishment, he does manage to make Charley the most interesting part of the film, and the only character you really care about. Naish really never has a great moment in his performance, but he is fine throughout the film, even though given the times his character could have been basically just an accent nothing more, but Naish instead finds some genuine emotion in the part.