Roland Young received his only Oscar nomination for portraying the titular Cosmo Topper in Topper.
Roland Young is the very first case of category fraud in Best Supporting Actor as Roland Young is not supporting film. This is rather the indications of the trend that is common which is character actors in lead roles, as well as unassuming characters can commonly find themselves put in the supporting category. The film is titled Topper for a reason as it is about the stuffy Topper being basically forced to be more carefree by his ghostly friends. This is not even a case of secondary male lead, Cary Grant is not even in the film all that much and half the time he is he is only a disembodied voice.
Roland Young whole performance is pretty much made up of him being stuffy and being taken aback by his other worldly friends. The whole point of his performance really is to be funny as the proper man is forced into improper behavior by them. Young certainly is a proper enough man with his demeanor as Topper but Young actually might try to be to realistic as Topper. He is always very to the point, and underplays every situation maybe a little too much. I would rather he wouldn't overact, but maybe in reality Young's Topper is just a bit too stiff.
Not that being is stiff is the incorrect way to portray Topper, that is the point of the character, I just think there probably could have been funnier. It is actually very difficult to do the straight man right, to be comedic without ever seeming to be comedic, but Young does not really accomplish this difficult task. A straight man must somehow have the same comedic energy that matches the comedians, but at the same time never looks like he is having fun, Young certainly does not look like he is having much fun, but the underlying comedic energy never is there.
I don't want to sound too harsh because Young really is not bad as Topper he certainly fits the role, and portrays it without overacting. At the same time though this could have been a truly classic comedic performance with a greater straight man in the role. There is the occasional moment where Young does have a glint of how the performance really should have been but there really are not enough of them. He also is perfectly fine in his portrayal of Topper loosening up.Young is always consistently competent in the role, but he never really makes the part hilarious when it very well could have been.