Thursday, 31 January 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1973: Robert Shaw in The Sting

Robert Shaw did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Doyle Lonnegan in The Sting.

Robert Shaw portrays the main villain of the film an Irish mobster who is chosen to be the mark by con artists Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford), and Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) due to Lonnegan having ordered the murder of Hooker's mentor. Robert Shaw is one of my favorite actors and he shows exactly why with his performance here as Lonnegan. Lonnegan honestly is not that complex of the role as he  really does fall entirely for the con artists plan all the way. What is great about Shaw's work here is making Lonnegan a compelling villain when he easily could have been a one note and frankly boring performance.

Robert Shaw has a certain screen presence where he just tears into a scene. Shaw honestly has a lot of fun with the role while keeping his performance being entirely serious. Whether it is his Irish accent that only amplifies Lonnegan's characterizations as a hard Irish mobster. He also even incorporates his own personal injury into again suggesting a bit of history of the man by playing Lonnegan a man with a limp, he just adds so much with these smaller elements in his performance. Robert Shaw technically is doing a quite of lot of "acting" here but he has deadly conviction in the role making it so, just like all my favorite actors, it is a completely invisible.

Lonnegan is a fairly small role, and really does get have all that much to say, but Shaw makes the most every moments he has.  This particularly true in the scene where he plays cards with Gondorff as they both try to out cheat each other to win the game. Shaw is the master of the deadly stare, and he is brilliant in the way he shows just how much anger he is cooking up inside himself. When Gondorff repeatedly beats him Shaw conveys that level of disgust in Lonnegan in his steely eyes, and that violence is cooking right beneath his surface. When Lonnegan finally forcible corrects Gondorff on the correct pronunciation of his last name the intensity in Shaw's performance is incredible.

For a harsh villain one needs to look no further than to Robert Shaw for cold brutality never is portrayed by anyone more naturally than Robert Shaw. In one of the earliest scenes with Lonnegan he casually orders the murders of two people, as well as just as casually remarks to one of his men that if those two men are not killed he will have to kill far more people to retain his power. Shaw is brilliant in delivery such unabashed cruelty in Lonnegan. There is not even a second thought in his head about the situation he is just going to have them killed. Shaw shows this as just business as usual something that Lonnegan is very use to by now, and any hesitations would make things bad for business.

In the actual process of the Sting almost everyone around Lonnegan is playing some sort of game, acting out a part, or playing up some sort of angle to set up Lonnegan for the Sting. Shaw is right in the center of it all and he plays a very important role as the mark, because he stands as the man who is acting in a completely honest fashion oddly enough. Shaw therefore gives a very realistic performance here, and his reactions through the process are spot on. This is very important to the film as Shaw runs the fine line of showing Lonnegan going along with the Sting, but as well there is a incisive way in the way he looks that properly suggests at any moment the Sting could be kaput. 

This is a great performance by Robert Shaw, as the role of Lonnegan could have been easily eaten whole by the purposefully more flamboyant performances of the con artists. Shaw never allows this to happen instead he successfully steals scenes (from Redford) or perfectly shares scenes (with Newman) as the villain of the piece. Shaw simple sinks his teeth into this part in a way that most other actors would not have been able to do. If there is one reason more than any other why Robert Shaw is one of my five favorite actors is that he makes me just love to watch him act in a way that very few actors do. I love watching his performance here which absolutely makes Doyle Lonnegan a villain you love to hate.


RatedRStar said...

=D I enjoy Shaw very much Louis 2, I only have one minor problem, not with Shaw, or this performance, but I always wanted to see him play a nice guy or a heroic character once =D I love all of his villainous performances, I just wish I could have seen Shaw play a sweet nice guy lol cause he might have made me love him as an actor rather than simply, respect him =).

Louis Morgan said...

He plays a good guy in Force 10 from Navarone. Its not a particularly good film, but I liked him in it.

Edward L. said...

This is a flat-out great performance. He nails the whole thing. A sign of his greatness is that even in the scene where he is eating his breakfast, and delivering his lines through mouthfuls of food, he never loses sight of Lonnegan's control and power. I always adore Shaw. Such a tragic loss.

Michael Patison said...

I completely agree. I have a hard time when people say they didn't think such-and-such an actor was very good in a movie because he/she portrayed the villain and they just couldn't stand the character by the end. That's what makes a great villainous performance. When you can't help but hate a character, no matter how decidedly uncomplex it is.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I barely remember him. It's been so long since I saw the movie. Weirdly, it's my dad's favorite movie.

JamDenTel said...

Apparently the only reason he wasn't nominated for an Oscar was because he insisted on being billed above the title. Otherwise, I bet he would've won this, given how much the Academy liked this film.

A couple of future suggestions for 1976 alternates: Shaw's work in SWASHBUCKLER and ROBIN AND MARIAN (as the Sheriff of Nottingham).

Btw, I saw Taking of Pelham One Two Three based partly on your writeups of Shaw, Balsam, and Matthau, Really good movie. Great performances, great ending.

Anonymous said...

I saw ya favorite actors list were mostly lead actors, what about supporting kind of actors, who would ur favorite 5 supporting actors be..

Louis Morgan said...

JamDenTel: I will definitely keep him in mind for those performances.

I'm glad you enjoyed Taking of Pelham.

Anonymous: Hmm a difficult list to make as supporting actors are sometimes hard define, but I'll try with actors who mostly played supporting parts.

1. Robert Shaw
2. Claude Rains
3. Peter Ustinov
4. Charles Coburn
5. John Cazale

Troublesome list in that I felt I had leave out actors like Gary Oldman, and Brendan Gleeson as well as others who have plenty of leading performances to their names.

Michael Patison said...

I agree it's a hard line to draw. I'd say that I might consider Gleeson a "supporting actor" just because the casual movie-going populace is going to know him much better in his supporting roles than in his leading roles whereas I think Oldman's probably equally well known for both.

Michael Patison said...

And also, I completely agree with Te list and am so glad you included Cazale.

Anonymous said...

He was absolutely brilliant, I love the film and it was the one that made me a fan of him, I just needed to see more of his filmography, he was the best part of the film. He really should have won the Oscar that year, what a criminally underrated actor, I can ask any of the people I study with if they know who he is, and I'm completely sure that none of them would say they do. Such a shame!

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@ Michael: Well, yeah, for the general audiences. Yet his two best performances, In Bruges and The Guard, were leading roles. But yeah, I'd still qualify him as a character actor. Character actors could be described as "uncoventional" leading men and women from time to time.

Sam Rockwell is in a similar boat. He's had leads from time to time (Moon, Snow Angels, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), but his supporting roles are more common. No matter what role he's in, I love watching him, even if the movie is shit.

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At the sharp villains need look no further than Robert Shaw cold brutality is not represented by anyone more naturally than Robert Shaw. In one of the first scenes of Lonnegan casually tells the murder of two people, as well as casually remark to one of his men, that if these two people do not die will have to kill a lot more people to retain their power. Shaw is brilliant in the delivery of such cruelty Lonnegan flustered. There is even a second thought in my head about the situation he is just going to have to kill them. Shaw shows how just, as usual, something that is very Lonnegan used so far, and any variations would make things bad for business.

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I barely remember him. It's been so long since I saw the movie. Weirdly, it's my dad's favorite movie.
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