John Huston joins others directors Vittorio De Sica, John Cassavetes, Eric Von Stroheim, as also an actor nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Luckily unlike De Sica, and Stroheim he was nominated plenty of times for his writing and his directing, and properly won for both. Huston though received this nomination from his very first credited performance as an actor. Although it should be noted that Huston continued as an actor and certainly would have been very deserving of a nomination and even a win for his performance in Chinatown. Huston instead though was only nominated for this film.
This does not mean that Huston was undeserving of a nomination here, since seeing him here does make it a little surprising that Huston did not act sooner in his career. Huston's personality, and especially his voice just command a certain undeniable presence. Although I can't say it is particularly difficult to steal a scene from Tom Tryon, Huston still deserves credit for doing so. Huston absolutely does control every scene he is as the superior to Tryon's priest. Huston commands the screen with absolute sway which certainly works well for his character who is suppose to be a domineering man.
Huston does bring some life to the picture as the Cardinal in charge of Stephen. This is a time where I think I do need to give most of the credit to John Huston. There is not anything especially special about what he says to Tryon's character early on other than question some of his rebellious behavior, and accuse him of being overly ambitious. His character is a rather typical authority figure here, and his lines are pretty much the same. Huston though has a certain energy, and even a charm the livens up the scene greatly. Huston really handles the whole powerful Cardinal with ease, and even a certain joy that seems effortless.
He also has two more dramatic scenes one where he is attending to a sick priest played by Burgess Meredith, and another where he tries to convince Stephen to really thing about whether or not he wants to continue to be a priest or not. Huston is very effective in both of these scene really bringing a weight to the scenes that Tryon just is not able to do. Huston though is not in the film nearly enough or given enough to do for this to be a great performance, which is unfortunate since he is the best part of the film. I wish it had been about him because Huston gives a strong effective performance he makes something out of a character that really could have been nothing.