Saturday, 26 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1983: Charles Durning in To Be Or Not To Be

Charles Durning received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Colonel Erhardt in To Be Or Not To Be.

To Be Or Not To Be is the Mel Brooks remake of the comedy about a group of actors who try to foil a Nazi plot in Warsaw Poland.

Charles Durning I must say must have been a popular, or very well liked guy during 82 and 83, since both times he was nominated for films in which he was the sole nomination. Also both films were unsuccessful in some way Whorehouse critically, this film commercially. Also just like his first nomination his role is quite small and only in a few scenes. It would seem there had to be some other reason he was nominated these two times, like people were not sure who to put in a blank spot and said I like Charles Durning I'll vote for him. I suppose why not as Durning is always a competent character actor, and at least this time he was nominated for the right performance unlike in 1982.

Durning portrays one of the many bumbling Nazis in To Be Or Not To Be who are fooled by the actors. I must say I enjoyed the three main Nazi villains who all are amusing in their own. Jose Ferrer was pretty good as a treacherous professor, and Christopher Lloyd has some very enjoyable scenes with Durning as an S.S. Captain and S.S. Colonel respectively. Lloyd being an absolutely no nonsense Captain following order and always claiming not knowing anything, whereas Durning is the more casual superior who is constantly blaming others for any problems or even sometimes even making a joke at Hitler's expense.

Durning is not particularly threatening, only Ferrer has any sort of menace as a villain, but that is really the point of his character. The Colonel is just suppose to be a comical character. Durning is enjoyable enough particularly in his exchanges with Christopher Lloyd with Durning being the more explosively comical one and Lloyd acting as the strange man. They both have a fun dynamic as the two act surprised at their failures with Lloyd being taken aback, and Durning always yelling at Lloyd to always try to remove any blame from himself.

Durning is also enjoyable when he is being constantly surprised by the various impersonations the actors do to fool him. Although most of what he does is make a surprised look, or plead not to have his Hitler jokes revealed Durning still manages not to be repetitive and I certainly did continually get a chuckle out of his antics. Also I will give Durning credit he really does not go over the top with his performance, and is probably funnier because of it. He is always a Nazi officer who is bumbler acting this way not just an actor doing crazy things as characters very often become.

I must say this is an entertaining performance from Charles Durning even though it is quite simple, but hey he stays funny in all of his scenes even if he only has a few of them. I would say though that he is not the best part of the film, combined with Christopher Lloyd he is the best part of the film, and alone he is just one of the most enjoyable films. I probably should say this is not the greatest comedy ever but I laughed enough to say it was still a good one and to his credit most of the laughs in the film came from Durning. This is not the most complex of performances but Durning certainly puts his all into being funny, and he is, so mission accomplished.


RatedRStar said...

I thought he was 5 star worthy in Dog Day Afternoon along with John Cazale and Chris Sarandon, all of them were great.

Louis Morgan said...

Yes he was great in that and the amazing part was how much he did with his in many way very limited character.

RatedRStar said...

He was indeed =), I think its a surprise he wasnt nominated along with Cazale over Sarandon.