Richard Farnsworth did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Bill Miner in The Grey Fox.
In The Grey Fox we first meet Bill Miner, known as the gentleman bandit, as he is being released from a long prison sentence. In the opening of the film Miner is man out of time as he now finds himself in the 20th century. Richard Farnsworth is great in one of his earliest scenes where Miner speaks with a man who is telling Miner all about the new inventions and breakthroughs that have been created since his time in prison. Farnsworth is great by portraying the sense of detachment and confusion as Miner can't help but be taken aback by all the developments that have occurred while he was on the inside. Farnsworth ends the scene especially well with his dead pan delivery as Miner informs the man that his trade happens to be robbing stage coaches. Farnsworth is quite moving in portraying Miner as he reconnects with his sister and begins just to try to comprehend what this new world is like. Farnsworth suggests the lost time for Miner in simply the quiet way he just can't quite see how much the world has changed after prison, after all it would be almost impossible to find any stagecoaches even to rob.
Miner simply has to go off trying to make his way, as Farnsworth sadly shows the man unable to find any comfort in the opportunities that present themselves to him. When Miner tells his sister that he has no place in the jobs she found for him, Farnsworth manages to not make it sound like a selfish foolishness, but merely the honest sentiment of a who's just not made for this new world. Things change suddenly for Miner though when he watches a film "The Great Train Robbery". Farnsworth is terrific in the scene by portraying the excitement in Miner as he watches the film, that seems more than just being simply interested in the film. There is something extra as in his eyes there is a strong overpowering sense of nostalgia as he seems to remembering his own days as a robber, as well as seems to know what it is he should do next. Miner proceeds to buy a pistol, one proper size fitting for an old time outlaw, and his return to his old life begins. As Miner enters this life Farnsworth is outstanding as he begins to reveal some of the man Miner was in the past, and he makes the transition out of his confused state a natural one.
Miner is not your typical bandit really as can be seen simply in his nickname the Gentleman Bandit. Well if you want someone to have an absolutely effortless charm look no further than Richard Farnsworth. I said it in my reviews of his two Oscar nominated performances, but it's worth saying again Farnsworth has such delightful and unique presence. This is perfectly fitting in creating the particular style of man that Miner is as well though. Farnsworth carries himself with such a natural grace that he just simply becomes the image of the well mannered outlaw. Farnsworth realizes the style so beautifully and when we see Miner in action Farnsworth shows Miner a man in his element. Any hint of confusion is gone as Farnsworth shows, even in the way he simply moves, that armed robbery simply is what Miner is good at. When he speaks about it Farnsworth is great by again being so blunt in the way that Miner treats it more of as his job than some sort of lark or even a get rich quick scheme. As he speaks about specialization is key to professionalism in robbery, Farnsworth speaks the words as an expert craftsman.
Farnsworth is always believable in the role and makes what could seem as a form of madness seem completely logical to the man that Bill Miner is. Farnsworth is just incredibly endearing here in portraying Miner as a man who refuses to be anything other than he is. He's a remarkable character to follow through his time as a robber, but also in the scenes where he's just living his life. During this time he encounters a passionate feminist photographer Katherine (Jackie Burroughs) who he begins a relationship with. The romance is played by both actors in a very reserved fashion yet there is such genuine sweetness involved with it. Their scenes together are not technically about the big romantic moments, but there is just such an honesty in the quiet comforts the two express for one another. When the law begins closing in on Miner he is forced to leave her for a time although he promises to try to meet up with her, I was a bit taken aback by just how hard the scene hit me because Farnsworth as well as Burroughs realize the unassuming love the two people have for each other.
Now saying Richard Farnsworth is likable in a role is pretty much a given, but what about the Bandit side of the Gentleman Bandit. Well Farnsworth is surprisingly good in infusing a darker side to the character of Bill Miner, after all he is an armed robber. There's a relatively early scene where Miner beats down a man, who was attempting to rob him, that is brilliantly performed by Farnsworth as he shows that even though he is a genial man in nature, Miner is still quite capable of the violence you might expect from a man in such a profession. This is also important in the robbery scenes where Farnsworth does play Miner as professional above all in the way he handles the "transaction" there still is the needed intensity in his manner. Although it is clear that Miner would rather not kill anyone, and perhaps he hasn't, but Farnsworth is excellent in still keeping the threat quite palatable. I particularly love the scene where he tries to dupe the local authorities, as again Farnsworth does not hold back in portraying the criminal side of Miner. In the way his eyes follow the man invetigating him every step, and you see him trying to calculate a way out of his situation. This complexity in Miner is never lost in this facet of Farnsworth nor in any aspect of the character. This is a charming, moving, funny, and even sometimes imposing depiction of Bill Miner by Richard Farnsworth. Richard Farnsworth gives a great performance by being absolutely convincing as well consistently fascinating in his portrait of this most unusual man.