Rod Steiger did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Victor Ipolitovich Komarovsky in Doctor Zhivago.
Doctor Zhivago did receive a best supporting actor nomination, and deservedly so, for Tom Courtenay but Steiger could not get double nominated despite the film being well received by the academy. As I stated in Werner's review there seemed to be some prejudice against a leading man even being thought of as a supporting player, but perhaps also what kept Steiger from being recognized was the nature of Komarovsky. Although Courtenay's Pasha does not exactly end on a light note, he at least started as an optimistic man, Komarovsky though may be the most insidious character in the film. We first meet Komarovsky in the per-revolutionary Russia as a wealthy man who is working his ways on the daughter of his friend. The daughter being Lara (Julie Christie) who Komarovsky goes about seducing, and Steiger is almost the lead of the film in these scenes since Zhivago (Omar Sharif) is very much in the background.
Steiger is brilliant here as he is so effortlessly commanding the role of Komarovsky. Steiger is marvelous in his scene with Christie early on as he basically depicts each step of Komarovsky's method from start to finish. In his earliest scenes Steiger presents himself as a charming enough fellow, that of possible even mentor and father figure to Lara. Steiger though effectively undercuts this by always keeping that lust in Komarovsky's eyes as he slowly woos Lara to accept him. Steiger breaks this though, revealing true extent of his sleaze, as he forces himself upon Lara in a cab ride home. Steiger even plays this scene particularly brutally by showing absolutely no hesitation as Komarovsky does this. Of course even when this ends Steiger reverts partially back to an apparently sensible fellow as he presents Komarovsky once again having a vile warmth as he almost acts as though he was merely leaving a lesson for Lara, but this is not the end of Komarovsky's cruel game by any margin. This continues as Komarovsky even bothers to meet Lara's fiancee Pasha.
Komarovsky though is only continuing to use Lara though as he basically states that she lowered herself by giving in to him. Steiger is absolutely brutal in the scene, which Komarovsky claims is not rape, because Steiger keeps his performance so viciously calms as if the whole thing has all been part of his malicious plan to use Lara then basically throw her away. What stands out most though is Steiger does not just play Komarovsky as just an evil manipulator, even though he is that. Steiger though is most effective perhaps when showing the humanity in Komarovsky along with his disgusting behavior. Steiger is particularly good in the scene where he rushes to find help for Lara's mother who has attempted suicide. Steiger suggests the guilt is still palatable in the man, Steiger presents it not as something that will make him change his ways exactly, but that he's still a man and will feel such things. He's equally great in the scene where Lara takes her revenge by shooting Komarovsky, and Steiger's reaction is perfection. It is less fear, but more of realization that perhaps he did go too far in his manipulations of Lara.
One of the most important aspects of his character is that Komarovsky never seems to lose his status despite all the changes going on around him. The reason being that Komarovsky tries to always play all sides in order to keep people as friends even though he is never their friend. This is well shown in the scene immediately after the shooting where he is treated by Zhivago. Steiger is very charming and even makes himself most likable as he talks with Zhivago and even speaks of Zhivago's father. Steiger is quite persuasive in making Komarovsky a man that's easy to like when you are aware of very little about him, and he pulls this trick off pivotal to the character flawlessly. Komarovsky disappears for some time after this point but he does appear late in the film to visit Lara and Zhivago about their impeding doom due to the powers that be after the revolution. The humanity that Steiger did give to Komarovsky earlier in the film is very important here because it would be quite difficult to understand his reasoning here as he has not much to gain, especially since he does intend to help Zhivago as well.
Steiger is outstanding in these scenes as well because there is a sense of regret within his demeanor yet still that same treacherous glint in his eyes as though maybe there is yet one more game he is playing. Steiger's best moments within in these is when he tells Zhivago the truth of his situation as there is such passionate nihilism Steiger brings in his delivery. Steiger is particularly effective against the more uplifting work of Sharif, as Sharif presents a man trying to look for the best, Steiger unrepentantly shows a man who is aware of the worst. Komarovsky is a rather complex character to begin with but that in no way means that Steiger had an easy here. Steiger is pivotal in giving Komarovsky the strong presence that he needs making it so you never forget him even when he has a more than an hour long absence from the film. Steiger does this and more as he matches the depth of the character with an equally deep portrayal. Steiger is striking in his depiction of the reprehensible fiend that Komarovsky was. Steiger importantly shows that Komarovsky understands that about himself, but also makes it absolutely convincing why Komarovsky would never pay for his crimes with his memorable portrait of duplicitous ingenuity.