Glenn Ford did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Det. Sgt. Dave Bannion in The Big Heat.
Glenn Ford is not the greatest leading man from the period as some of his performances can be a bit bland, and he does not exactly have the most range as an actor. In the Big Heat it appears as though this will be fairly standard Ford type of performance as the film opens. That being the devoted man with a loving family but dealing with some tough issues like his roles in Trial and The Blackboard Jungle. It is a fairly good example of it though as Ford has enough charm and likability in his scenes with his family. In the scenes of the early investigation Ford is also wholly solid in showing the straight method of Bannion as he goes about his task. He brings the right underlying passion in his portrayal of Bannion drive but is careful to show that at the end of the day Bannion still seems to be a man who's merely doing his job, although definitely determined to it to the best of his ability.
Of course everything is suddenly turned on his head when the gangsters who were behind the murder make an attempt on Bannion's life. Bannion is not harmed but the gangsters accidentally kill someone very close to the man instead. It is interesting as the film turns the usual Ford character on his head as Bannion has to deal with this death and it changes from the upstanding cop he was before. Bannion instead turns into a much darker character than before and it is rather fascinating to see Ford handle the role at this point. It's a bit more of stretch for him and Ford breaks apart his usual performance in a rather effective fashion. He pretty much drops the average guy charm instead giving a far more withdrawn portrayal as he conveys the way that Bannion seems to be now consumed by his desire for revenge.
Glenn Ford changes from the Glenn Ford style hero to a far more hard bitten type of detective more in the style of Robert Mitchum or Kirk Douglas. He does so in a rather convincing manner actually and gives a strong portrayal of Bannion as he is more interested technically in causing suffering for those who wrong him than simply upholding the law. Ford portrays it almost a sort of madness in Bannion as he seems to be almost wholly bent to the idea of revenge without being able to think of much else. He carries himself with a certain intensity at all times portraying Bannion, although in the right, as in a way lost to his own hatred. The only time Ford expresses a different side to Bannion is when must recall the one he lost. Ford makes these scenes rather poignant without making them seemed forced showing them as though he is remembering the good rather than experiencing it.
This is a good performance by Glenn Ford and he effectively leads the film noir quite well. He manages to break the mold of his usual standard sort of performance and is fairly striking in taking this more daring approach with work. I will be blunt when I say this is not quite a great performance though as Ford is not quite a great actor. He is indeed a decent one, and this is easily the best performance I have seen from him. Now having said that I do this Bannion as a character had potential for a truly great performance and one could easily see that if it were indeed in the hands of someone like Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum or maybe Ray Milland. Ford never quite reaches the heights one would imagine were possible for the role, but even so it is really a solid performance that still realizes his character rather well.