John Huston did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Noah Cross in Chinatown.
Huston handles his first scene impeccably when Gittes first meets him to question him. Huston has a tremendous presence, which could not be used better than it is here. He gives an even better similar type of performance as Lee Strasberg did in the Godfather Part II. Like Strasberg Huston does convey a certain grandfatherly quality in his performance a welcoming warmth as he speaks to Gittes, an ease in his personality that makes it easy to see how he could easily convince other that he has no ill intent toward others.
Huston though masterfully brings to life the two faces of of Cross as Gittes talks to him. Through every little extra question that Cross launches back at Gittes there is something very dark beneath the surface of this man. Huston keeps what exactly it is appropriately as a mystery, but he makes a truly striking dynamic between the apparent warmth of the man, and the more calculated murky side of him. There talk is an incredible scene for Huston and my favorite moment of it is a purely silent one. He waves at some riders with a big kindly smile, but hearing another question Huston effortlessly morphs his expression into that of a man with horrible secrets.
Next we see him is when Gittes has found much of the truth about him and attempts to confront him. Huston creates an imposing villain in the screen, and the evil of the character especially prevailing. Huston is absolutely terrifying in how calmly talks of Cross's evil deeds which Cross feels no regrets over. Huston does not compromise what he established making Cross all the more chilling of villain. Huston still has that warmth here, which he still plays as such even though he means nothing warm in the way he talks, which makes Cross an especially compelling villain. Even when he threatens Gittes it is with a quiet genial command that made as very threatening due to Huston terrific portrayal here.
Noah Cross in the end does not lose in the film, and really Huston is the one who makes there no question to why this happens. Even when Gittes is trying his best to take him down Huston never loses the command of his character who pulls right to the front of every situation, no matter what the odds might seem to be. Huston through his three scenes makes Cross an unforgettable villain that controls the film without any seeming effort, and is a very disturbing portrait of depravity. In final act of the film as Cross comforts his "granddaughter" is made absolutely horrifying by Huston due to with such ease Cross is able to hide his evil. Huston gives an outstanding performance that makes a great villain with very little time at his disposal.