Monday, 13 October 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1953: Jay Robinson in The Robe

Jay Robinson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Caligula in The Robe.

The Robe is a pretty bland biblical epic with a bland leading performance by Richard Burton and is many ways like Quo Vadis which was also rather bland. Like Quo Vadis though there is one man who refuses to be bland and once again it is the actor playing the Roman Emperor in the film. In Quo Vadis it was Peter Ustinov playing the infamous Roman Emperor Nero, in the Robe it is Jay Robinson who plays perhaps the even more infamous Caligula. Robinson appears in the opening of the film, before Caligula has been made Emperor, to basically attempt to outbid our hero Marcellus Gallio (Richard Burton) at a slave auction. Robinson is great as he prances on the scene in a way only a man who knew he was about to have absolute power could. Robinson's smile is perfect showing a man loving his place, but as well a man having a such a joy of performance that it's hard not to have fun watching it.

Robinson's performance is quite good at realizing Caligula's character even though the film technically does not get into Caligula's personal lusts, in fact a different actor could have played him as just some jealous power hungry guy. That's not the case for Robinson who seems to suggest Caligula's various perversions merely in that devious grin of his and just the whole odd way he carries himself in every scene. Robinson seems to show a man who loves various pleasures far too much just in the way he slants in his chair. Honestly Robinson does not waste a gesture in making his Caligula one sick man even though we don't see much of it first hand. Technically speaking most of the time is spent with Caligula terrorizing Gallio eventual wife Diana (Jean Simmons) as he basically wants Gallio dead after he has converted to Christianity. Well even within the limits of the role Robinson still makes sure to get the most out of it.

Robinson is incredibly entertaining in the scenes where Caligula is in some way thwarted in his attempts to get Gallio. Robinson plays Caligula in these scenes like a spoiled brat who's not getting the present he wanted. Robinson is glorious in showing the rampant insanity of Caligula that in it's heart is childish in nature fitting for a man who has anything he wants handed to him no matter how crazy the request may be. My only problem with Caligula in this film is he's not in the film as much as Nero was in Quo Vadis. Robinson has about four scenes in the film and two of those scenes are a bit short. There's just not enough Caligula to go around because he's unquestionably the best part of the film. Robinson energizes the proceedings whenever he shows up and actually makes the film entertaining with his antics. Almost alone Robinson prevents the film from being completely forgettable as he gives one reason to watch the film.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like an interesting performance, I should see it even if I'm not excited about the movie. Can I ask you what would be your nominees for Actress and Supporting Actress for 1953?

Scott Gingold said...

You need to review Malcolm McDowell in Caligula (1979)!

luke higham said...

Louis: I fucking dare you to watch Caligula, starring Malcolm Mcdowell.

Scott Gingold said...

By the way Jay Robinson also portrayed Caligula in Demetrius and the Gladiators.

Louis Morgan said...



1. Audrey Hepburn - Roman Holiday
2. Geraldine Page - Hondo
3. Maggie McNamara - The Moon is Blue
4. Janet Leigh - The Naked Spur
5. Ava Gardner - Mogambo

Supporting Actress:

1. Thelma Ritter - Pickup on South Street
2. Gloria Grahame - The Big Heat
3. Kinuyo Tanaka - Ugetsu
4. Machiko Kyo - Ugetsu
5. Deborah Kerr - From Here to Eternity


I may have to attempt that someday.

I've actually been meaning to watch Demetrius just to see Robinson's reprisal.