Sean Connery and Michael Caine did not receive Oscar nominations for portraying Daniel "Danny" Dravot and Peachy Carnehan respectively in The Man Who Would Be King.
It is interesting to note that its director John Huston intended to make it for some time originally planning for Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable to play the lead roles. Although that probably also would have made a pretty good film the performances probably would not have been nearly as fitting for the parts of Danny and Peachy. The reason I am reviewing both of them together is that it is hard to separate them, there are a few differences in their performances which I will get to, but a great deal of the success comes from their work together as one. One aspect that the two share that makes both Danny and Peachy great characters is the past of the two men that we learn from both Caine and Connery's performances.
Danny and Peachy are adventurers and con men to say the least who intend to find some fortune by out scheming one of the natives out of a fortune of some sort. These two are a mischievous sort and the duo play this marvelously. The both have wink and sly grin to go along with their scheme. They handle this just right bringing us into the scheme right along with them through their mutual charms, and never seeming self indulgent as they could have easily been. Caine and Connery are both of the time and are always within in their story with their scheming. They have a certain knowing in their style but this always feels natural to the pair while still naturally bringing out the humor of the situations they get into quite effectively.
One of the ways they do this is although they are mischievous con men they are mischievous con men who are former proper British soldiers as well. Both of their styles are a brilliant combination of both of the rather low with the oh so proper. Connery and Caine both play them with a great firmness in style and step. They were soldiers their is no doubt about that and they absolutely sell the idea that the two men would write up a proper contract about their insane expedition before starting it. They play this type of style both with the utmost conviction, but as well with the utmost wit about it too. They are able to make their march not only the march of soldiers but as well easily finds the humor in making it part of the dynamic between their actions and method.
The two act as the best type of guides as they take us through their adventure through this strange mix of proper British conviction along with their more technically low brow scheming. Connery and Caine take such an unique approach for the leads of an adventure film and it absolutely pays off. It is interesting in the way that Caine and Connery bring out the pride of individualism as men in the manner in which they go about their task even teaching the natives how to fight and die like "real" soldiers, while they have this sharp edge still as they still show a sarcasm in their delivery. Connery and Caine find such an enjoyably dichotomy that makes this such a particularly fun ride.
Caine and Connery as a duo are perfect for one another. Caine and Connery are two of the most charming and charismatic actors around, and the fact that neither out charms the other it only makes the charm of the two only amplified with the two. Caine and Connery play off each other with expert timing never seeming to lose their place as one never does for a moment overwhelm the other performance together they are just an extremely entertaining pair. What is so special though is they are able to each stand out on their own when necessary as well. When they do stand out it does not seem like they are trying to one up the other instead they each allow one another great individual moments while never losing the terrific chemistry they have together.
There is a splitting point for each though as Danny is accidentally declared a god by the natives taking a role as a King. Connery changes his style a little bit when he starts portraying Danny who is swept up into the whole idea of being a god and begins to believe it himself. Connery nicely changes from the slightly sarcastic soldier to a man of lordly dignity who wants to rule his dignity as a king and a god should. Connery is excellent as he eases into this delusion and shows that the con man starts to leave him and the over confidence of his delusions begins to rise in him. Connery makes Danny become exactly what he believes him to be, and effective shows how the former con man could so easily forget his purpose and be enveloped by the delusion.
Caine's performance moves in the other direction as Peachy's cynical edge only becomes stronger as Danny becomes more and more earnest. Caine is equally good as he moves Peachy in the opposite direction of Danny in his portrayal of Peachy's reactions to Danny. He shows Peachy almost in complete disbelief to the point that he just finds it all very amusing. Caine is very good as he moves Peachy's reaction from a cynical bemusement to the situation to a much sadder disappointment in his comrade. Caine is a very to the point as Peachy bluntly expresses this disappointment and does well to stand as basically the call for reality to Danny which is made particularly incisive because Caine expresses that the humor in Peachy is now gone from this matter.
Thanks to the schism between Danny and Peachy is believably portrayed it really makes the finale of the film all the more powerful. After Danny's godhood is shown to be nothing more than a falsehood. This revelation leads them both two a bitter end and a quick reconciliation as they find themselves surrounded by angry natives. When Danny apologizes to Peachy it is a great moment because it not only is it very funny in the way they still do things in their proper British fashion, but it is also very sweet in that it shows how genuine the friendship between the two has been all along. This also contributes incredible final scene between the two of them as Danny goes to meet his maker. It is a beautiful scene as they both sing "The Son Of God Goes Forth to War" and we see just how much Danny and Peachy really meant to each other as well as how much we as the audience have grown to love the rascals.
These are great performances all on their own and truly something special when considered together. Sometimes with two leads there is a duel to see who conquers the picture, but in this case Caine and Connery rule the picture as Kings together. Neither shines brighter than the other they together instead are almost symbiotic in their characterizations of these peculiar yet very endearing pair of adventurers. The two together are both in top form throughout the picture, they are brilliant as a team and stay brilliant even when they slide apart. These are wonderful turns from both actors and rank as some of the very best work from each of the actor's cannon, and they just might create two of the very best characters you have ever been able to go on an adventure like this with.