Bobby Darin best known as a singer apparently tried to pull a Frank Sinatra by attempting to break into dramatic acting through a supporting turn in a film about the military. This film is ripe for Oscar baiting with several of the performances being very broad particularly by Eddie Albert, and by Bobby Darin. The only person who tries to downplay his character's mental instability is Robert Duvall. Darin though was nominated though and I have a feeling this was largely due to his name, and fame as a singer, as well as just how baiting this role was.
Darin has several scenes of Corporal Tompkins either when he is refusing to tell about his traumatic experience in the war or his big Oscar scene where he does tell his story during the war. Darin is full on ACTING in these scenes. He actually is not bad, and does have a great deal of conviction in the role. His big confession scene is especially indulgent to Darin who just acts up a storm. A big storm that does have a certain effectiveness, even if it is quite a scatter shot approach, he wants something to stick, and I can't say he fails in this regard.
His huge Oscar scene though really does go on for way way way too long. It just keeps going and going, and considering how Darin desperately wanted to win the Oscar, I would not be surprised if it was Darin who pushed for his scene to go long as long as it does. As if Darin just desperately wanted to prove he had acting chops, and just wanted that Oscar really really badly. Again Darin is actually fine in the scene but I think it would have been a far more effective and memorable scene if it had been shorter. As it is it becomes far too self indulgent, and forced by nature muting Darin's performance.
Another flaw though comes in the film itself which is too episodic. The three main cases just do not meld perfectly and the film could have used tighter editing. Darin whole character placement in the film is far from perfect making his transitions and transformations once again muted. When we do see Darin though he does his best to bring Topkins along his way. Firstly showing a man avoiding his problems, than conflicting over revealing his pain, showing his pain, than finally dealing with it. Darin does his best in all of these phases but the film does not bring it together well enough.
Darin does well throughout the film giving an effectively natural enough performance throughout. I won't say it ever becomes an amazing performance, but than again the weaknesses of the film perhaps prevented it from doing so. Darin does certainly not go for the underplaying route he leaves that to Robert Duvall, which is perfectly fine actually since he does succeeds in bringing some of the pain of this soldier to life. This is far from a perfect performance, and yes it is an early example of Oscar bait to the extreme, but I would still say this is a good performance.