Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1972: Robert Shaw in Young Winston

Robert Shaw did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying Lord Randolph Churchill in Young Winston.

Young Winston is a decent enough film depicting the early life of Winston Churchill.

Robert Shaw plays Winston's father Randolph Churchill which the film focuses on fairly closely in its first half, although not closely enough that I would consider him lead as the film still keeps a distance from him. Randolph though stands as the role model for Winston in terms of his political career. Shaw is the perfect man to play a man of such stature as Lord Churchill as Shaw has such a commanding presence even when he is not overly trying to. Shaw does not even say anything in his initial appearances yet Shaw still makes Randolph known simply through the strength projected through the way he conducts himself. Shaw exemplifies that English reserve so well, and basically establishes Randolph as almost a legend of sorts in just a few short moments. Although Randolph is clearly as a proper of a man as one can be he is not at all a man who just goes by the official sentiment as shown by his career in parliament as he always does what he believes is right not matter how detrimental it may be to his own career.

Robert Shaw in his early scenes acts in role which he excels in quite well, which is that of the incisive critic. This is seen as Randolph criticizes other men in parliament or even outside of it when they attempt to ridicule him due to Randolph having Jewish friends. Shaw is terrific in portraying the sly retorts of Randolph which are as biting as they should be. Shaw does this in an interesting way as he always keeps the reserve of the proper English gentlemen but in that reserve reveals the fairly vicious distaste Randolph has for fools. Randolph's views force him to take on many opponents even his own part and prime minister as he refuses to compromise. There is one scene where Randolph explains this route and there is such a powerful internal passion that Shaw is able to realize with such ease that it is rather remarkable. Shaw commands every one of his early scenes with such effortlessness as he should as Randolph needs to be a somewhat almost larger than life figure. Shaw meets this demand extremely making Randolph a politician for Winston to truly look up to.

Of course the film also presents the fairly cold and distant relationship Randolph has with his sons. There is one great moment when Randolph is being interviewed about various political issues but the reporter finishes the conversation by asking about Randolph's sons. Shaw is brilliant in portraying Randolph's reaction as he stops for a moment almost having to recall his sons. It is not that Shaw presents him as a father who is no aware of his sons though, as Randolph actually corrects the reporter that he has two sons not just one. What Shaw does so well though instead is convey the certain way Randolph views his role as a father which is that he almost is unable to comprehend the idea that his sons should even look up to him. Shaw does well to present as a cold fact of sorts from Randolph own upbringing perhaps, rather than a direct coldness from the man. It's a difficult dynamic to configure though Shaw manages it quite well. Randolph does eventually go closer to his son but this is only after Randolph attempts to influence the political system through his resignation which worked once before though probably will not this time.

When it is obvious that Randolph has failed this time Shaw is again excellent as he internalizes the pain so well in Randolph. He does not lose his reserve though he does lose the command, and Shaw realizes the defeat in Randolph in such an eloquent fashion. Eventually everything becomes worse when Randolph is diagnosed with a fatal and degenerative illness. In the proceeding scene Shaw is quite moving in portraying Randolph quietly falling apart both mentally and physically. Shaw reveals a greater intensity in him, not of a righteous passion though, but rather from a pained madness as he realizes the irrational way he lashes out at everyone. This actually causes a greater interaction with his son as he has random outbursts towards him, though after one he does try to talk to his son man to man for once. Shaw presents the distance of Randolph as he attempts to advise Winston though he very nicely does bring a certain undercurrent of warmth suggesting even with his pain and the social barriers that Randolph did care for his son. Over some time his illness only becomes worse as he becomes unable even to do his job as a politician. Shaw is very moving in his final scenes as he brings Randolph believably to this point as the former great orator is barely able to conduct himself in a simple speech. It's is sad fall that Shaw creates as he so well realized the strength of the man earlier that it is heartbreaking to see him lose it all in the end.


Louis Morgan said...


Hawkins, Holm, Hopkins, Magee, Woodward, Mills are all good but essentially cameos.

Ward - 2.5(Ward is both a little bland as Churchill but as well almost a little too enthusiastic as though he wants to make a bit statement with his first major role. He's not obviously bad or anything, in fact I kinda liked his Churchill manner in the very last act although I did not care for his narration imitation. He is very much overshadowed by Shaw and especially Bancroft though throughout)

Bancroft - 4.5(I would actually put her in lead as Lady Churchill never loses her importance even after Randolph dies. Bancroft does some grand work in offering a similar realization of the proper manner of her character that fits Shaw's work well though with a softer more compassionate side she realizes equally well. She has some great moments particularly her poignant reaction to hearing Randolph's diagnosis, or the way she brings her own reserved passion in the scenes where she cautions or encourages Winston)

luke higham said...

Louis: For the next review, your rating & thoughts on Sean Connery in The Offence.

Michael McCarthy said...

Come ooooooooon, Bannen!

luke higham said...

Michael McCarthy: Same here and 2nd place for Shaw as well, so that I'll be the first to win 4 consecutive predictions in a row.

RatedRStar said...

@Louis or Luke: I will give Game Of Thrones a chance, could either of you show me the pages in which Louis has rated/given thoughts on a fair amount of the performances?

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Use Ctrl > F > Keyword > Game Of Thrones and should help find what your looking for.

Anonymous said...

What are your ratings and thoughts on Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday and Barbara Bel Geddes in Panic in the Streets?

Louis Morgan said...

Holliday - 4(She get some undue hate due to who she defeated, and even though I do prefer those performances there is nothing wrong with her. Holliday is an endearing and enjoyable performer as she does the ditzy blonde thing rather well. The whole becoming smart is not exactly an extraordinary depiction of that but it's handle just fine for the sort of film it is. It's a wholly charming work though, and certainly entertaining)

Bel Geddes - (I barely remember her here and not really in a bad way just that she did not have much of a character to work with as I recall few scenes between Widmark and his wife even)