Roger Livesey did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Clive Candy in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.
The film itself about the military career of Clive Candy played by Livesey and how he goes from a young soldier to a very old general. There are some performances that cannot tread through the strange tone of the picture like Anton Walbrook as a German soldier who starts the picture as a bit of a caricature meant to be funny, but ends up being the most dramatic character in the film. Livesey though plays Clive Candy and is able to find consistency in his performance despite how inconsistent the film can be at times. Livesey is no doubt helped by the nature of his character which is that of the prim and proper British soldier, who is suppose to be rather consistent.
This is a story that takes place through many years, and although he stays consistent as the very British type he ages and does change in certain ways through the years. Livesey is especially able in this facet of his performance. His manner of just aging is actually quite brilliant as he goes from a youthful man ready for adventure to an old timer would is basically retired. If one has seen his performance in The Entertainer this is a particularly amazing transformation as he moves toward and becomes his older self right within this film. This actually is probably one of finest examples of how to an actor should age his character throughout the course of the film.
In all of his ages he is always within the code of the perfect British Soldier though in that he always stands upright, speaks with distinction, and gives a strong sense of both obedience to his cause and command in his own personal will. There are differences though found in the style of man he is. In the early parts of the film Livesey is quite dashing and daring as the youthful Candy. He expresses the youthful exuberance of the man who takes to his task with all the passion one would expect, but with a certain degree of humor and charm as well. He shows Candy as a man at the top of his game as a professional soldier.
We take a rather large jump as we meet Candy as an older man during World War I. Livesey's physical changes are precise and natural, but as well expresses a spiritual change. Although still very proper there just is not that same strength in his spirit there was before. Livesey though is effective in showing as well a change in outlook and personal style. Candy is no longer outgoing in quite the same way. It is quite remarkable to see Livesey change from the man who steps forward in the passion of a young man, to that of the the older soldier who hasn't been jaded but has settled in his ways where everything he does is much lower key.
In the last phase we meet a retired Candy who Livesey makes as that retired general type. It doesn't feel like cliche or stereotype as Livesey has shown us how Candy has come to this point. In these late scenes he is all together quieter, but with a strong dignified wisdom in him. Again physically Livesey reworks himself again, and pretty effectively suggests the manner one sees in a portrait or picture of a retired general. Livesey also reflects the experiences of Candy in his sometimes somber demeanor that conveys what the man has lost, but Livesey still has a passion in his portrayal. It is at its most restrained but as well at its most moving as Livesey shows really what his current cause means to him.
Roger Livesey performance is a impeccably calculated work that peels away exactly what makes up the life of the proper British soldier who can go from an open energetic young man, to a much slower elderly fellow. He finds the right consistency in style that allows him to traverse through the sometimes rather jarring tonal shifts found in the film. Livesey's portrayal of the film is easily its best facet as he gives a striking portrait of the career soldier. Although I may not have always found that the film entirely worked, Livesey's performance always does making Candy likable and allowing us into the mind of the type of character who usually keeps quite the distance from the audience.