Monday, 30 March 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1969: Ernest Borgnine in The Wild Bunch

Ernest Borgnine did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dutch Engstrom in The Wild Bunch.

Ernest Borgnine plays Dutch Engstrom who is the second in command of the wild bunch and the right hand man of William Holden's Pike bishop. Borgnine's performance here is an interesting one in that he really does not have a lot of lines in the film even though he does have a considerable amount of screen time since he's rarely not in a scene with Holden's leading performance, and does even have a few moments without Holden. Borgnine has a challenge as these sort of roles often can be limit the actor by the nature of the role, but that never feels like the case for Ernest Borgnine's performance. He always has a strong presence in any scene in which he appears even when he might not even have more than a few words to say, sometimes no words to say. It's a particularly remarkable achievement by Borgnine since there is nothing obvious about why he stands out, he certainly does not try to showboat here through a lot of over the top reactions, yet he makes an impact in every scene in which he appears for even a moment. It's quite something and worth examining just what makes this performance work.

Borgnine work here is supporting in the most traditional of senses in that what makes his performance so well is the way he supports William Holden's lead performance. This is can be sensed in his earliest scene where he rides into town to rob a bank alongside the rest of the bunch. Borgnine brings that understated determination and is particularly good in portraying the process of the robbery through simply through some slight facial indicators during the heist. After the heist there is one particularly strong moment for Borgnine, even though it is only short one, where Pike asks if they should bury one of their dead members to which two of there members suggest they should. Dutch disagrees though as Borgnine delivers intensely Dutch sarcastic remarks about suggesting hymns for the funeral which get the men to decide again. Although Borgnine certainly does that well what makes it so notable though are the glances he trades with Holden. Borgnine brilliantly realizes Dutch's role as he supports Pike. It's not just Dutch shutting down their idea, it's also Pike allowing himself to look more democratic even though he's completely in line with Dutch who acts as the harsh truth.

Borgnine and Holden both establish this certain connection that Pike and Dutch have incredibly well. Borgnine and Holden are marvelous together as they make you really feel the history the two have had with one another. They capture the certain wavelength between the two so beautifully as they are able to show how each man is able to say a whole lot to one another just through a slight gesture. There is also of course a more verbal moment in this regard which is when they speak to one another at the fireside after finding out that there latest heist only brought them a bag of washers. There is a certain sadness about this as both actors reflect the losses along the way as well as the fact that they are no longer the age they once were, and that society itself is changing around them. In addition though there is striking undercurrent of warmth that Borgnine brings in his interactions as he is so honestly supportive in these scenes as Dutch is a man who will have Pike's back no matter what comes. There friendship is not something that the film exactly constantly dwells on yet both actors are absolutely convincing in creating the powerful camaraderie between the two men.

The one scene where there is an antagonism between the two comes up when Pike defends the technically traitorous former member Thornton (Robert Ryan), but Dutch has no such sympathies for the man. Again the two are exceptional as they both passionately realize how the codes technically are almost the same though how they differ leave the one major disagreement between the two of them. Where Pike is clearly held back by past mistakes, Borgnine is terrific in showing that Dutch is not burdened by this therefore he can't make an exception for Thornton in his mind. Borgnine's work here is outstanding because he does not waste a second of his screen time, especially since he really can't given the technically limits of his part. There are so many slight reactions though that add so much such as when he has to go from a false callousness to a genuine concern when Dutch is forced to give up a member of the bunch who made a mistake, or just his perfect chuckle near the end of the film when it seems like they might make it out of a tense situation. My favorite single moment is his last line which is just yelling out "Pike" one last time. The anguish that Borgnine brings is incredibly moving as he calls back to their friendship in the final moments. This is great work by Borgnine as he makes something special out a role, that in lesser hands, could have been nothing. 


Michael McCarthy said...

I'd much sooner buy win or Borgnine for this than for From Here to Eternity.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

RatedRStar (if you're around): Have you seen Liu Ye in Dark Matter, he was very good actually, any more of his filmography you could recommend?

luke higham said...

About time we had a 5 in supporting, feels like an age to me, since Hauer's review.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Comments section's a bit dead. Looks like it's time for some retroactive castings.

The Big Lebowski (1950s)
The Dude: Lee Marvin
Walter: Ernest Borgnine
Donnie: Elisha Cook Jr

Fury (1960s)
Wardaddy: Burt Lancaster
Bible: Eli Wallach
Norman: Robert Redford

Louis Morgan said...

Barton Fink (1940's):

Danny Kaye - Barton Fink
Laird Cregar - Charlie Meadows
Eugene Pallette - Jack Lipnick
Jean Arthur - Audrey
Walter Huston - W.P. Mayhew

No Country For Old Men (1950's):

Clark Gable - Sheriff Ed Tom Bell
Yul Brynner - Anton Chigurh
William Holden - Llewelyn Moss
Patricia Neal - Carla Jean Moss
Kirk Douglas - Carson Wells

Borgnine would have been an amazing Walter and yes I think Cook would have to be the retroactive choice for almost all Steve Buscemi roles.

luke higham said...

GDSAO: Castings
Lord Of The Rings & Hobbit (Early 1970s)
Bilbo - Ian Holm
Frodo - Jeremy Irons
Gandalf - Alec Guinness
Saruman - John Gielgud
Aragorn - John Hurt
Legolas - Tom Courtenay
Gimli - Peter Ustinov

Star Wars Prequels (2010s)
Anakin: Ben Foster
Padme: Carey Mulligan
Obi-Wan: Ewan McGregor
Palpatine: Ian McDiarmid

No disrespect to Christopher Lee, but fuck Dooku & Grievous, the main villain is Darth Maul and in my world, he's played by Christian Bale.

RatedRStar said...

Danny Kaye? Louis lol =D why Danny Kaye.

@GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar: I have seen him in Dark Matter, um of course my winning request was Liu Ye in Lan Yu, which managed to get 12 Hong Kong Award nominations and lose all of them so I would recommend him in that lol, Curse Of the Golden Flower is another great performance as a completely weak sad sap, City Of Life and Death is also a great Ye performance.

RatedRStar said...

Lan Yu once held the record for most unsuccessful Hong Kong film award nominations with 12, until The Bullet Vanishes, which starred Lau Ching Wan and Nicholas Tse and recieved 13 unsuccessful nominations was completely destroyed by Cold War which was the big winner that year.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Have you seen any recent releases.

RatedRStar said...

My bad, The Bullet Vanishes recieved 12 unsuccessful nominations as well as Lan Yu.

@Luke: Not any new releases just yet, only older films.

Louis Morgan said...

RatedRStar: Well he's got the look needed and for some reason I think he might have had it in him.

luke higham said...

Louis: What are your top ten overall years for Male Lead & Supporting so far.

Louis Morgan said...



1. 2014
2. 2006
3. 2013
4. 1973
5. 1971
6. 2004
7. 1981
8. 2009
9. 1975
10. 1967


1. 1965
2. 1987
3. 1991
4. 1975
5. 1993
6. 1946
7. 1986
8. 1964
9. 1963
10. 1998

Anonymous said...

Louis what are your ratings and thoughts on Goldie Hawn and Ingrid Bergman in Cactus Flower? Also, I'd like to know your ratings and thoughts on Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun, Rosalind Russell and Peggy Cass in Auntie Mame, Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner in Imitation of Life, Viven Merchant and Shelley Winters in Alfie and Sondra Locke in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter?

JackiBoyz said...

@Luke: Have you seen any new films lately and if so what are your thoughts?

@Louis, @RatedRStar, @Luke and anyone else who wishes to answer: From what you have seen from Hong Kong cinema who would be the most overrated, underrated, best and worst actor you have seen.

Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts and ratings on Jeanne Moreau and Monica Vitti in La notte?

Anonymous said...

Mines are

Overrated - Tony Leung Ka Fai
Underrated - Takeshi Kaneshiro
Best - Tony Leung Chiu Wai
Worst - Chapman To

luke higham said...

Jackiboyz: Since, I don't particularly like going at length with my thoughts, I'm just going to keep it short.

Ex Machina - (Excellent Sci-Fi with Great Performances from Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Issac and a 5 star performance from Alicia Vikander).

Kingsman - (A blast from start to finish with hilarious turns from Colin Firth and especially Samuel L. Jackson).

Shaun The Sheep Movie - (The film is quite low-key with zero dialogue, but it's packed full of the charm that Aardman's known for).

Cinderella - (The best of Disney's Live Action re-imaginings so far with really good work from Cate Blanchett and a likeable protagonist played by Lily James).

JackiBoyz said...

Oh I forgot about my own !!!.

Overrated - Ronald Cheng or Anthony Wong
Underrated - Alex Fong or Chang Chen
Best - Tony Leung Chiu Wai or Leslie Cheung
Worst - Daniel Wu or Chapman To

luke higham said...

Everyone: What are your 2012 Lead suggestions for the bonus rounds.
Mads Mikkelsen - The Hunt
Mads Mikkelsen - A Royal Affair
Tom Courtenay - Quartet
Toby Jones - Berberian Sound Studio
Charlie Creed-Miles - Wild Bill
Sacha Baron Cohen - The Dictator

Louis Morgan said...

Hawn - 3.5(She pretty one note though I enjoyed her well enough, although I did not love her, as he portrayed air headed nature of her character)

Bergman - 3(I found her charming enough here but she's not especially funny considering the film is suppose to be a comedy)

Taylor - 3.5(She's appropriately alluring to be sure and she has some great chemistry with Clift. Her role is purposefully thin as she's essentially a goal for Clift's character and I do think she is overshadowed by Winters's heartbreaking turn)

Russell - 3.5(Russell is fairly charming anyways and she makes herself an endearing presence particularly in the first half of the film. Once she finds success though I just felt she became a bit on autopilot and just her whole character became less enjoyable)

Cass - 2.5(Did not find her all that funny or even particularly memorable)

Merchant - 3(I feel she might play it just a bit too passive for her own good to the point that she doesn't make much of an impact on her own terms. She's certainly not bad but she really leaves everything a bit too much to Caine)

Winters - 3.5(Essentially the opposite of Merchant. She only has three scenes I think but Winters always know how to make a impact with this film being no different. She's properly vivacious so to speak and is particularly good in the scene where she bluntly gives Alfie a taste of his own medicine)

Locke - 4(She gives a very sweet and earnest performance here, in a film that I probably she give another watch. Anyway though I felt her work was just a nice genuine piece of work. Appropriately unassuming and rather moving)

Moreau - 4(I essentially felt the same about her as I did about him. She's good in portraying the daze of her character, but I just never quite felt it was anything that palatable. Good most definitely but just never became great for me)

Vitti - 3(Fine but I did not think there was anything special to be found)

Louis Morgan said...


For Lord of the Rings you forgot:

Boromir - Terence Stamp
Faramir - Malcolm McDowell
Theoden - Robert Shaw
Denethor - Paul Scofield
Wormtongue - Joel Grey
Gollum - Anthony Hopkins

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

No, Gollum would be a puppet voiced by Frank Oz.

Louis Morgan said...

I actually think Gollum would work with makeup since he's supposed to be basically a decayed hobbit. Although many a puppets would have been needed for that version.