Friday, 2 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1958: Theodore Bikel in The Defiant Ones

Theodore Bikel received his only Oscar nomination at the moment for portraying Sheriff Max Muller in The Defiant Ones.

Theodore Bikel portrays the Sheriff who leads the posse who is searching for the two escaped chain gang convicts (Sidney Poitier, Tony Curtis). Bikel's role is a rather simple one to say the least in terms of the film. It on occasion cuts from the story of the escaping men to the posse lead by Bikel's Sheriff who wishes only to recapture the men without incident. He merely wants to catch them not kill them making it necessary for him to basically calm down some of his party who think he is being too easy on the men.

Bikel really isn't asked to do very much in the role of the Sheriff. I suppose a southern accent maybe was wanted since he sort of tries to do one in just his first scene than proceeds to pretty much give up on it right afterwards. Other than that he just needs to be a rather kindly Sheriff which Bikel shows in a very relaxed fashion. He is anything but intense and I suppose he is properly humane I guess in his portrayal, as he makes the Sheriff just a nice guy.

The whole point of the performance and the character seemed really just to show the audience that if Poitier and Curtis will be captured they won't be mistreated by those chasing them. Bikel is technically just fine at doing this there is nothing wrong with his portrayal. There just is not much to it either, he is there does his piece every so often sets up the humanness of the man nothing more. He never takes your interest from the main story line but that was not the point of the Sheriff either. It is a satisfactory performance in a functional role no more no less.

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