Alan Bates did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Gabriel Oak, Peter Finch did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning NBR, for portraying William Boldwood, and Terence Stamp did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Frank Troy in Far From the Madding Crowd.
Well this is one where it is easy to see why all three of the actors were ignored for the film since not only would they have suffered from category confusion they also would have had severe internal competition. Although they are all on the border, with Bates being the closest, of being lead but their stories are always secondary to Bathsheba's and each man will disappear for extended periods of time. Bates is the closest and the first man that we meet as he begins the film as a shepherd with his own land. At this time Gabriel makes his affection known to Bathsheba but she rejects him, and soon afterwards he loses his land after his dog chases all his sheep off a cliff. After this this leads Gabriel looking for employment elsewhere and ends up working at Bathsheba's farm. Honestly it's easy enough to feel sorry Gabriel based on all that happens to him so quickly, and Bates has the most sympathetic role of the three.
Alan Bates is really quite good in the role as he doesn't try to make Gabriel that much of a character so to speak. Gabriel is the average Joe of the lot and Bates takes the right approach by giving a rather unassuming performance. Bates instead gives just a very honest performance in every sense of the word as he does not give Gabriel any usual tics or tendencies. He's just a normal guy who is trying to make the best of a bad situation. Bates's has a nice underlying charm about himself and he makes Gabriel a likable figure in the film. He's also very good in the scenes where his rejection is sorta rubbed in his face in one way or another. Bates is particularly believable because he does not really hide his feelings about it, he strikes the right balance as a reasonable man who would never continue to object to his treatment, yet still silently allows it to be known through his reactions to these moments.
Well I'm glad I named Terence Stamp as the man who should have played Barry Lyndon because Frank Troy isn't far off, it's a shame Stamp didn't have the box office clout. Stamp has the charisma of a great con man, who happens to be a soldier as well, when he goes about wooing Bathsheba. Stamp is extraordinary in how charming he is in the scene where he shows off his swordsmanship to her. Stamp simply is wonderful and there is not a moment where you doubt his ability to win her over in such a way. What especially stands out about Stamp's performance is the way that it contrasts from Bates. Bates does have a charm as Gabriel but it is in a very down to earth sorta a way. Stamp on the other hand makes Frank Troy appropriately larger than life to the point that Stamp makes unfortunately an inevitability that he would be able to win Bathsheba over Boldwood and Gabriel.
Troy, because he is known to be a man of ill repute, leads Boldwood to come back into the game as he tries to buy Troy off. Finch is quite good in this scene as he portrays Boldwood as a man who constantly tries to keep himself reserved no matter what the situation. Finch suggests though such rage just below that Boldwood is constantly holding in check keeping him in a state of distress. At the moment when he does briefly attack Troy Finch presents it as just a momentary lapse in control as he hurriedly tries to bring back that same reserve. Stamp is also great in this scene as he makes Troy such a scoundrel. What makes Stamp's performance so striking is that he's still extremely charismatic even when he's being so despicable. Stamp gives Troy that larger than life personality which manages to even expand to have a larger ability when comes to be so unusually cruel and egotistical.
Meanwhile you have Gabriel who just keeps working away at the farm, even after it technically becomes Troy's farm since he gets Bathesheba to marry him. Although Bates is often forced to be reactionary, since Gabriel does basically stop trying to get Bathesheba to reconsider him as a possible suitor, he still keeps Gabriel as a presence in the film. Bates is good by continuing to be the man without an pretense in the situation and always as the moral center of the situation. Where Finch portrays Boldwood as slowly bottling up his frustrations, and Stamp portrays Troy as obviously uncaring, Bates portrays Gabriel as that of the honest man who is honest with himself as well as the world. Bates does not show Gabriel openly hostile toward Bathesheba or Troy, but rather is quite good in exuding a certain wisdom of Gabriel as he instead non-verbally voices his disappointment.
Of course Troy is not without a heart actually and when his old lover turns up again we see this. Stamp is brilliant in these scenes because he finally does convey some regret in Troy for his previous actions yet he does still as a scoundrel would. Stamp makes his sadness over the fate of his true love completely genuine yet he uses it to bring an even greater brutality to his coldness as Troy makes it quite clear to Bathesheba that she means nothing to him. Troy dissapears, bringing back Boldwood to the fold once more as he tries to make Bathesheba his wife. Finch is very moving by keeping Boldwood so contained yet so effectively bringing those sudden bursts of happiness seep out whenever it seems Bathesheba will return his affections. At the same time she never does him right and continues to somewhat unintentionally toy with him. Finch does a fantastic job of realizing how Bathesheba's behavior just compounds his frustrations associated with her. This allows the moment where he finally bursts to be an inevitability.
Bates is terrific at being the constant of the film. He's not one note but rather always consistent in his portrayal of Gabriel who holds no secrets or vendettas. He allows the happy ending to work as it does, because frankly Bates earns it. Stamp is a great villain because you can't help but hate him, but at the same time he kinda forces you to love him too. Finch, as I stated before, does have the thankless role of three. Boldwood is a purposefully restrained character, but Finch does this exceptionally well. He always is restrained as he should be but still manages to always convey the inner turmoil of the man. Alan Bates, Peter Finch and Terence Stamp all give strong performances that
each realize well the specifics of their characters. I will grant that
Stamp stands out the most out of the three, but part of the reason for
that is Frank Troy needs to stand out the most. All three suit their
individual roles splendidly, and their work as a whole contributes greatly to the film's success.