Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1958: Burl Ives in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Burl Ives did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Harvey "Big Daddy" Pollitt in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Burl Ives actually already was determined the best supporting actor of 1958 by the academy for his performance in The Big Country. That's certainly a good and deserving performance that was easily the best of the nominees, but was it even Ives's best work from 1958? 1958 also saw the release of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof the adaptation of the stage play where Ives's showed his unexpected acting chops, and he went on to reprise his role of Big Daddy, which is probably his most remembered acting role, the film version.The oddest things about the Oscar choice actually is that they simply seemed to prefer Cat on A Hot Tin Roof in every other way since it found itself nominated in most of the major categories including picture, actor, and actress. The funny thing is that if Ives had been nominated for this film then it actually would have been its sole win as well.

Ives, like in The Big Country, plays a patriarch although this time in a modern setting opposed to the old west, and Big Daddy is certainly a different man from Rufus Hannassey. We first meet Big Daddy in the film as he arrives back to his large estate after an apparent health scare, and he believes himself now safe to live out his life for a while longer and deal with the problems in his family. Ives is magnificent in the part and certainly puts the big in the Big Daddy and that's not referring to his large frame. No Ives has an incredible presence as Big Daddy and he commands every scene that he is with such an ease. The way he stands in frame has even a certain magnetic quality to it, and simply through the way he carries himself Ives is able to instantly establish Big Daddy simply as the man capable of all the great accomplishments that everyone seems to describe him as.

Ives's has a terrific grasp on Big Daddy as a character and is particularly effective in portraying the rather cynical edge the man has. Big Daddy only respects a few things and a few people, and does not mind showing his disrespect in one way or another. Ives knows how to deliver every vicious line with a great proficiency and is rather tremendous in reinforcing the way Big Daddy takes over every situation he is in. Ives is just as great though when Big Daddy must listen to those he does not respect such as his wife or his older son and his wife who do not hide their desire for Big Daddy's estate. Ives is able to pack just as much of a punch just in his expression as Big Daddy chooses to ignore and attempt to avoid the interaction. He expresses this distaste in Big Daddy almost in a wholly silent fashion yet with just the same brutality as when he chooses to verbalize it himself.

Big Daddy though does see promise in his younger son Brick (Paul Newman) and his sultry wife Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor), although he also sees an obvious problem when somehow Brick fails to conceive with such a wife. Ives is excellent in his scenes with Newman because he never allows them to become just  a simple story of a cold father and a son wanting love. Ives brings so much more to these scenes than that. There is certainly the distance as Ives brings the fierce discipline of the father as Big Daddy basically forces the injured and alcoholic Brick to move with out a crutch and not drink as tries to find out the problem with Brick. Although there certainly is a certain coldness in Ives's performance there is behind it a hear though as well as deep within Big Daddy treatment of Brick Ives suggests that he is doing it honestly to try help his son. Ives makes it the imperfect combination it is but a completely genuine relationship he creates.

The last part of his performance though is a rather extreme change brought on by Big Daddy learning that he is in fact dying after all. Ives's portrayal of Big Daddy ailment is well handled, and he eases back properly on that dominance he exuded so well beforehand. Here in these scenes Big Daddy becomes far more reflective of his own past as well as his connection with his son. Ives is quite moving in these scenes by showing a greater urgency and earnestness in Big Daddy as he attempts to find some way to fix his house before he dies. Ives by subtly giving off that slight sense of warmth before very naturally changes Big Daddy making it so the better qualities of the man he suggested before grow stronger. His best scene though is when Big Daddy reflects on the death of his own father. Ives is very moving as he powerfully shows what his own father meant to him. In the way Ives looks in the moment you can see Big Daddy reliving the past as well seeing himself in his father.

Burl Ives's work is easily the highlight of the entire film. Any scene with Ives has such an energy that is sometimes somewhat missing in some of the other scenes in the film. Ives truly makes the film with his performance as he realizes Big Daddy with the needed complexity for such a part. In lesser hands Big Daddy could have been a one note character as perhaps just a boisterous old man or just a cruel father who fails to understand his son. Ives mediates exceptionally well giving a very interesting portrait of a man trying to maintain his well earned legacy any way that he possibly can. Ives completely controls the film and absolutely makes the part his won. Although The Big Country is definitely a very strong performance in its own right and was not at all a bad representation of Burl Ives's talent as an actor, the best representation of that talent in 1958 was found through his great performance in this film.


RatedRStar said...

He was a wonderful actor, never given a bad performance ever, I should also say Burl Ives was a pretty good singer as well, have you heard him Louis?.

Louis Morgan said...

Yes he's a great singer too in fact he's probably one of the best singer turned actors.

RatedRStar said...

In the film, The Big Country, I think they should have had Burl Ives shoot Bickford point blank in the face, rather than have both shoot each other.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

You see Edge of Tomorrow Louis?

Louis Morgan said...

RatedRStar: Yeah that would have been a better ending.


Yes I have.

luke higham said...

Louis: Ratings & Thoughts on the Cast of Edge of Tomorrow.

Louis Morgan said...


Tom Cruise - 4.5(I thought he was in top Cruise form here. He did an interesting subversion of his usual persona by starting out not very heroic at all and in fact pompous and thick headed. I thought he did a great job of showing how each send back not only grew the knowledge of the character, but as well slowly made him into the type of hero that Cruise more often plays)

Emily Blunt - 3.5(Cruise obviously gets the showier part and she might not scream war hero but I think the film's explanation makes that actually work. She plays off Cruise rather well and does good job of her own progression from a blunt(no pun intended) coldness to a warmer presence.)

Bill Paxton - 3(I thought he did a pretty good job as the constantly annoyed sergeant, and inserted just the right amount of humor. I particularly liked his reaction when one of Cruise's character's actions doesn't quite work out for him)

Brendan Gleeson - 3.5(In the case of most mainstream films with Brendan Gleeson in them I could have gone for far more of him. Nevertheless he does a good job of bringing a bit of depth to what is a very standard and simplistic character)

Noah Taylor - 3(I'll take this time to give a shout out to his performance in Game of Thrones since no one asked about him. In Game of Thrones all I can say is who knew he could be that intimidating and exude that kind of menace. I would say from that performance he could have easily played Danny Huston's character in The Proposition rather than the part of the scared soldier. Anyway in Edge of Tomorrow Taylor's good in his expository character by bringing the right energy with just the right quirk to make him stand out)

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I loved the fact Emily Blunt basically had Cloud's sword from Final Fantasy VII.

markg said...

Hi Louis I have just been looking through 2001's supporting actor after reading your reviews of Gary Oldmans work and can't find any word anywhere in you 2001 supporting field for his turn in Hannibal,i feel this is one of Oldman's best and would love to know your opinion and ranking.

Louis Morgan said...

I only kinda watched Hannibal once, but I really need to actually watch it to give my thoughts on Oldman.