Friday, 4 October 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1978: Harry Dean Stanton in Straight Time

Harry Dean Stanton did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jerry Schue in Straight Time.

Harry Dean Stanton, the always reliable character actor, comes in about halfway through this film as the former criminal associate to the main character Max (Dustin Hoffman) who Max comes to in an attempt to make some big scores. The last time I wrote about Harry Dean Stanton was for his out of the ordinary and quite extraordinary lead performance in Paris, Texas. Stanton in this film is more in the place he has spent throughout his career which is that of the small supporting player. This is a great example though of what makes Stanton such a good character actor.

Jerry is not a major character. Jerry really is there just to serve a very purpose small purpose, but even in this small purpose Stanton makes a strong impact on the film. In just one scene where Max meets with Jerry again, Stanton sets up Jerry as a down to earth criminal. Even though this is just one scene, and a short one at that, Stanton indicates so much in a very short time about Jerry. He suggests even so much more about the man then even technically matters given Jerry's point in the story. Stanton brings the right casual style with Hoffman, alluding to their old time together, and just an underlying desire for crime that is perfect fit for a career criminal like Jerry.

Stanton is just great in the next series of scenes where Jerry and Max go to commit big time scores. Stanton actually owns each of these scenes roundly steals the scenes from Dustin Hoffman despite Jerry not being the main character. Stanton though is quite fascinating in his portrayal of Jerry as a professional above else. Stanton gives create detail to every facet of running the crime and gives a depiction of a sane man committing a crime. One of his best moments is when Jerry and Max plan to hold up a card game and Jerry lectures Max on the need for a shot gun for such a thing. What makes Stanton so good is although he is forceful, there is always the warmth of a friendship in his lecture.

Stanton is again terrific when Max and Jerry rob a bank and Stanton vividly depicts every phase Jerry goes through during the course of the robbery. Stanton has Jerry put on an act actually as he takes the bank, making Jerry in the moment to be the potentially violent man who is able to control the whole bank. Stanton always keeps Jerry a smooth customer who is professional above else, and is very effective in showing the very real frustrations, underneath the act, as Max is taking too long. The best part though is right after they escape Stanton has Jerry drop the whole violent thug act and reveal instead Jerry enjoying the thrill of pulling the job and enjoy the benefits.

Stanton is able to make Jerry surprisingly three dimensional and sympathetic in his short time on screen. The main reason is Stanton gives a whole portrait of a pretty average man who is criminal, and only wants to handle a crime in the most professional way possible. Frankly I felt fed up with Max right along with Jerry because Stanton always makes everything that Jerry does quite reasonable. Harry Dean Stanton does so much more with the role of Jerry then was needed of him, as he is the best part of the film despite his limited screen time. Stanton gives such an interesting portrayal of the stick up artist Jerry, I wished the film actually had been about Jerry since Stanton was able to do so much despite having so little to work with.


RatedRStar said...

I wonder what his chances are for getting in for Alien, along with John Hurt or Ian Holm since I always remember that Alien has such a great cast.

Anonymous said...

RatedRStar: Holm was fantastic. Stanton was good, Hurt was also good (because he always is), but he's not in it much. Louis might completely disagree, though.