Sunday, 14 October 2012

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1960: Eli Wallach in The Magnificent Seven

Eli Wallach did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Calvera in The Magnificent Seven.

The Magnificent Seven although holds a certain entertainment value certainly is flawed, and inferior to the Seven Samurai.

I actually considered doing all of the supporting six of the Magnificent seven as one group of reviews, but I thought I could just handle them at the the beginning of this review. Steve McQueen shows conviction with every line whether they deserve them or not, and is quite good in his usual way. James Coburn probably is my favorite of the seven even though, or perhaps because he has the simplest role, but he is great at being the stoic bad ass of the group. Aside from McQueen and Coburn the other four all of their little human stories to go with them for better or worse.

Charles Bronson and Brad Dexter are decent even if they are saddled down by dealing far too much with terrible actors supporting their stories. Robert Vaughn has perhaps the most baity role actually, in that he most certainly has the traditional "Oscar scene". Vaughn actually is fine at being quietly uneasy throughout, but his big break down scene doesn't really work even though again he has to deal with terrible supporting actors for the scene. Vaughn does not really earn the scene enough, but I suppose it probably would have been better if he was not supported in such an awful fashion.

Horst Buchholz technically speaking is almost lead as he is sort of playing the Toshiro Mifune role, although Vaughn sort of elements of his role as well, but the role is truncated and heavily changed from the original. Buchholz certainly gives it a try, he is no Mifune, but he is also no Steve McQueen when it comes to conviction and likability. Buchholz just does not make his character of Chico very endearing. He unfortunately becomes actually rather annoying. In fact his performance is the least effective of the six supporting heroes, even though he might actually get the most time individually.

The Magnificent Seven certainly has many reasons why it is inferior to The Seven Samurai. Kurosawa's film is very much a director's film and through his direction he avoid many of the flaws in this version. For example there is far too much on the villagers who are the awful supporting actors I referred to. This version also suffers through clunky philosophical dialogue, and even though there is greater emphasis on the performances in this version for the most part most of the actors do not capitalize on this fact. The Magnificent Seven must be given its due in two points though it has a great score, and a far more memorable villain than the original film.

Apparently Wallach originally wanted the role which was going to be the Toshiro Mifune equivalent character, but ended up being wanted for the role of the leader of the bandits Calvera. Wallach apparently only would take the role if he was allowed to have Calvera look like a man who actually spent his money from his thievery, and this request of Wallach is a great indication to the fact that he refuses to ever allow Calvera to be just a throw away villain. Wallach takes the role that could have been absolutely forgettable, and seeks to make the most of him even with the little time he is actually given.

Wallach in his opening scene brings a great deal of fun and style into the role. In the scene Calvera goes on about telling the village about how he will steal their crops, and their is not anything they can do about it. Wallach is very entertaining in this scene having a certain charm even while carrying the underlying threat perfectly. Wallach takes on the role with such naturalism actually, he does not play Calvera with anger until Calvera would actually get angry. Wallach has a joy here as Calvera tells the people about how he sees the world. Wallach with ease honestly turns Calvera into an actual person first as there is no reason he should be constantly evil.

When Calvera does kill one of the villagers Wallach plays it out brilliantly he does not laugh or enjoy killing in any way. Instead Wallach more realistically portrays Calvera being frustrated with indignation to the villagers for forcing him to kill him. Wallach makes a great first impression and really there could not be more that one would want from a character like this that Wallach gives. To be absolutely truthful Wallach does not make one dread the return of the bandits as one might thing, but the only thing the return of the bandits means more of Wallach's performance as Calvera.

Wallach in all of his appearances manages to liven the screen with his presence, stealing every scene that he is in completely through the great style he brings to part. Every moment and every line delivery he never leaves simple, and makes Calvera a truly entertaining villain. Due to the fact that he never focuses on the menace, Wallach actually creates a far greater impact when the more intense side to Calvera does come out. This is simply just an expert depiction of villain where Wallach does far more than the part required, which perhaps is best shown in his death scene.

Throughout his performance Wallach brilliantly added touches of a certain underlying philosophy in Calvera, that brought about his actions in the film. He lightly portrays the quiet sense of superiority Calvera feels over the villagers that leaves him flabbergasted over the Seven's repeated attempts at helping them. Wallach is simply marvelously as he honestly portray the lack of understanding Calvera has for their heroic actions, particularly in his death scene. Wallach almost allows us to sympathize with Calvera for a moment because he truthfully portrays the moment of disbelief than realization without fault. An incredible performance by Wallach only held back by the limitations of the part, but Wallach shows exactly how a great actor can make the most out of any part.


RatedRStar said...

how he never got an oscar nomination is a disgrace, he is right up there with Peter Lorre and Edward G Robinson on the academy fucking up.

I imagine we ll see Eli again for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and Baby Doll

Michael Patison said...

Totally agree with you on this one. I loved the movie, though it's ineffectually written and acted quite horribly. I liked Vaughn I think less than you and found his "Oscar scene" even less effective than you did, but totally agree that it was because he didn't really earn the scene with the rest of his performance.

Otherwise, I agree that the 3 best supporting performances were Wallach, McQueen, and Coburn, and I liked them in that order. Despite his often terrible lines, McQueen's lines just seem to roll off his tongue beautifully.

Wallach, though, along with the score, is the best part of the movie, delivering a fabulously evil, but equally charming performance.

Michael Patison said...

I original agreed with you, but after rewatching it, I think I'd give him a 5. He's just such a joy to watch every minute he's onscreen.

Louis Morgan said...

Actually I have to agree with you I was on the edge to begin with, but after looking over his scenes again I can't deny him the five.

TParker said...

I loved Calvera. He was pompous, he was arrogant and I loved every minute of it!

stampschick said...

I agree that Wallach as Calvera stole every scene he was in, and deserved at least an Oscar nomination. I'm not at all sure why he was snubbed time and again by the Academy voters, although I know that some actors campaign for nominations, and some actually ARE nominated as a result while others are not, in spite of the campaigning. If he had received an Oscar, he would have been included in an exclusive list of actors to win all 3 of the top acting awards: The Tony award (for Broadway, which he did win, in 1951), the Emmy award (for television, which he won in 1964, I think), and the Oscar, for which he was never nominated. We'll have to be satisfied with the honorary Oscar, the Governors Award, he received in 2010, in lieu of a competitive Oscar. 😐