Gig Young won his Oscar from his third and final Oscar nomination for portraying Rocky in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?.
Gig Young Oscar win is quite interesting here as he was the only win for the film that received nine nominations, and really in some ways out of the three nominees for the film he has the least emotionally draining scenes at his disposal, which many times is the type of performance Oscar likes. Young wins should not have been too much of a surprise though since the category is commonly called the veteran's category, and even sometimes the villain's category and Young was both a veteran actor at the time and portrays the film's villain.
Gig Young as Rocky is the only substantial character who is not one of the downtrodden dancers but rather the emcee of the event. Gig Young joins the ranks of the likes of Robert Montgomery and Anthony Hopkins for a complete change in character from one Oscar nomination to the next. Gig Young enjoyable comedic turn in Teacher's Pet holds pretty much no resemblance to his turn as Rocky in this film. Rocky who is not usually mentioned as a villain after all he most certainly never laugh maniacally or really acts like an obvious villain.
Rocky though really is just as evil as those villains who make their antagonism well known, but more on that later. Gig Young turn as Rocky at first does not resemble a villain but just a business man running a contest to earn some money. Young is strong from his first moment have a low key but remarkable presence that ensures the fact that he owns the contest, he is the one in charge and Young makes sure there really is no question about that. Young instantly establishes a sly intelligence within his portrayal of Rocky to really suggest the fact that the contest will not be something that is easy to get through.
His low key moments though stand in great contrast to when Rocky actually is hosting the event. Gig Young is absolutely on the mark as the emcee putting in an enormous degree of energy in the proceedings that stands in that is entirely unlike all the dancers slogging through the event, Young always shows that Rocky has momentum for the entire event never being off for a moment. A horrendous of an event as it is Young in these scenes only shows that when Rocky is on he is on with each and every ounce of himself, and does at least seems to quite enjoy himself unlike the dancers.
Rocky's villainy comes out though as he manipulates the dancers in the contest to suit he wants to ensure that the audience is pleased. Young is brilliant in Rocky's manipulative moments because simply how cold and harsh Young is about it. Young acts as if Rocky treats it as just a simple business nothing more which is very chilling especially in Young low key approach he takes to Rocky's manipulations. What is especially strong about Young's work though, because he never leaves Rocky as a simple villain.
To Rocky it is all a show to him, which is how he can take every effect his manipulation has in stride. His expression for example when Jane Fonda character decides to perform on him sexually to gain some sort of favor with him Young is brilliant in showing just how much Rocky takes it in stride. He sees nothing strange about nor does he see it as anything will effect him, just something more of that comes with the show that he does mind taking. Young though doesn't show Rocky as a completely inhumane monster, even though his actions make him quite close to one.
In his two scenes where he deals with women having serious breakdowns Rocky somewhat more humane side is apparent. The first is a simpler but in the scene it is clear that Rocky does have his limits, his second though is incredible. Although the scene really is set up to be Susannah York's Oscar scene for me the scene belongs to Young. As he shows some degree of tenderness in the moment that is within Rocky somewhere. Young is especially gentle in this scene in a way that is simply outstanding as it Young shows it to come from the same exact man who carelessly abused the same woman to help bring her to that point.
This is simply a great performance by Gig Young that never fails to achieve with his character. There is not a single missed opportunity within Young performance and succeeds in every aspect of his character as well as another. Whether it is his cruelest moments, his somewhat gentler ones, or his moments of great showmanship Young is absolutely on the mark. It is a memorable very effective performance from Young that perfectly personifies society frankly with his character but never lets Rocky be a simple personification but instead always a whole man still.