John Lithgow received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Sam Burns in Terms of Endearment.
Lithgow's nomination here might be a bit of a head scratch due to his very limited screen time, and the face that perhaps he would nominated over Jeff Daniels. I would say though he probably was held I think by the success of the film, possibly some residual love for his first nomination, and the fact that Jeff Daniels maybe suffered from category confusion, even though he is indeed supporting, and I would say Daniels probably was not favored since he plays a character that is truly despicable yet he has not style in being so.
John Lithgow portrays a small town banker who eventually becomes the lover of Emma largely due to her troubled relationship with her adulterer of a husband Flap (Jeff Daniels). Even though it is a small role Lithgow is actually quite good in it, as the simple man Sam, who has a good heart. Lithgow's performance is fitting as he has a really quiet charm in the role as the descent Sam who wants to try to help out Emma. Lithgow shows that really the idea of having an affair with her is not the first thing in Sam's mind, he genuinely does want to try to be a good man first.
Lithgow has a low key chemistry with Debra Winger that works quite well. It is not that these two are finding the loves of their lives, but rather both are finding someone to bring that some happiness instead. Lithgow is very likable in the role even though his character is an adulterer. Lithgow makes it work though because he has a certain hesitation in his performance that appropriately establishes that Sam has not take the issue like, as well as the fact that Lithgow only ever portrays that Sam honestly has fallen in love with Emma.
Lithgow is good in all of his scenes bringing both heart and humor to his performance. His character's stay in the film is incredibly short, and even his longest scene I would say still is short. I wish Lithgow had been given more time actually, because I liked him in all of his scenes. I especially wish he had been given a more fulfilling final scene than the one he has in the film, the scene is so brief before watching the film again I had entirely forgotten about the scene. This is a good performance by Lithgow, but unfortunately it is limited by the fact the film really is not at all interested in his character.