Trevor Howard did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Professor Steven Stratton in The Passionate Friends.
The Passionate Friends tells the usual story of two lovers who continue their passions far too long in their life without making a proper commitment. It is a well handled version of this story though particularly since it is directed by David Lean.
Trevor Howard portrays the man in the situation to Ann Todd's Mary who is the woman in the situation. Trevor Howard in this performance as Steven has a considerable charm in his portrayal. He and Todd don't have perfect chemistry due to Todd, but Howard is able to override this a bit with his performance. Howard handles this type of role well by not trying to make Steven some sort of rebel personality that entices Mary. Instead Howard honestly just makes Steven just a very charming, and fun loving fellow that makes it easy to see why Mary would be as taken with him as she is.
Their problems arise at first though because Mary does not want to be married where Steven most certainly wants to be. Howard is quite good in his portrayal of the passion in Steven in this respect. He is genuine in making Steven a bit of a hopeless romantic. This type of character trait could have made Steven either seem dull or a dullard, but Howard's earnestness overcomes any problem that really could be associated with it. Howard makes this overwhelming aspect to Steven's personality work and he succeeds in showing why Mary would be both pulled in by as well as even pulled away with it due to his intensity for these feelings.
Eventually troubles arise as she leaves Steven and marries a wealthy older man Howard (Claude Rains), but they still carry on. Howard properly has that same enthusiasm in his performance to push forward to make the continued affair convincing. Howard's role is fairly straight forward except for a scene where he must more directly confront Mary's husband over the affair. Howard is good in this scene as well, showing the appropriate passion within Steven, and important showing that the love Steven feels is truthful even if not exactly the most well thought out idea either.
At the end of the film Steven moves on to another woman, and Howard plays this effectively though because he does not suggest Steven as a bad man for doing this. Instead he again shows Steven to be a genuine man who really just has a great deal of love to give more than anything else. It not that his current love is false or his past with Ann was false either instead Howard correctly portrays Steven as a true romantic. This is a nicely handled performance by Trevor Howard, even if the role is somewhat simple and there is another performance that you remember far more vividly from this film.