Patrick McGoohan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Johnnie Cousin in All Night Long.
Patrick McGoohan plays Johnnie Cousin but for the purposes of the story he serves the role of Iago. Johnnie is an ambitious drummer and just like Iago he plans the downfall of his "friend" and fellow musician Aurelius Rex (Paul Harris), and Rex's wife as well as retiring Jazz singer Delia (Marti Stevens). The film gives a bit more of a motivation for Iago than Shakespeare settled on as it is obvious Cousin's plan is to make it so he gets Delia as a singer for the band he wants to start since she has decided to retire after getting married to Rex, and I'll admit I always preferred when Iago's malevolence is left a mystery with the performance being the main clue. That's not to say that Johnnie Cousin is too much a simplified version of Iago, certainly not through McGoohan's performance. McGoohan, just as he would later do in the other performance of his that I covered that being as Longshanks in Braveheart, rejects once again that very proper and dignified voice he has. Instead this time McGoohan takes upon a voice that might be best described as a bit jazzy in style, though this actually is an effective choice once again by McGoohan as his normal voice make make Johnnie's intentions a bit too obvious. The voice McGoohan gives him makes him seem more at home in the Jazz world depicted in All Night Long, even if his intentions as a man make him more fitting of the cutthroat world that Othello is usually set in.
His choice of accent also helps set up Johnnie Cousin, as old honest Johnnie for most of the people in the room that night, though it seems everyone should be trusted anyway as everyone seems pretty supportive of each other at the start, except for old Johnnie who has plans of his own. McGoohan is quite good in putting on the most obvious of Johnnie's faces, the one he shows to everyone except for his wife and for a brief moment Delia. McGoohan plays it kind of a sly snake though just slick enough that his act does not become too obvious to seem false. McGoohan brings upon this certain eagerness about Johnnie as though everything he says is only in the service of the person he's telling it to. This is pivotal in making sense of Johnnie's specific abilities in the film since his method technically would not work with a lesser performer. The method being that Johnnie basically tells the person a problem in their life in an semi indirect way, while at the same time encouraging them to do something rash in an equally indirect way. McGoohan keeps this indirectness so well through his performance as he makes it as though Johnnie always seems detached from the negativity as though he has only stumbled upon gossip that he's so genuinely concerned about, then there is this encouraging quality in his voice as though his suggestions to do wrong seem like the right thing to do.
Now this version though does give a specific reason for his manipulations unlike Iago where there are only allusions. Again this easily could have taken away something form Johnnie as a character if it were not once again for McGoohan's terrific performance. McGoohan actually cleverly does not allow for the limitation of Johnnie just wanting to get Delia as a singer, as McGoohan does not portray this as what is exactly driving him. Instead McGoohan is excellent by making Johnnie perhaps even more despicable by showing a different motivator beneath the surface, fitting for a man who is just a man of faces. McGoohan gives a more sadistic edge to Johnnie, though in quite the compelling understated way. There's just this slightest hint of pleasure in the man as he sees his poisonous words work their way into each of his victims heads, and McGoohan suggests that witnessing their suffering is what truly compels Johnnie throughout the night. One of my favorite scenes of McGoohan's performance is his drum solo, which McGoohan makes more than just a man playing an instrument. McGoohan is brilliant as he attaches the solo to basically be what he is doing in the night, playing each person as he plays the instrument. McGoohan shows Johnnie truly relishing in the moment as he takes such horrible delight in being a puppet master that only results in pain for everyone other than himself.
Although many elements from Othello are simplified and softened in the adaptation, though I did not mind softening of some elements as I found myself feeling particularly sorry for Johnnie(Iago)'s victims in this version, McGoohan does his best to avoid this with his rendition of the Iago of Jazz music. McGoohan does not make Johnnie just an ambitious man who going to trick someone into allowing his band to come to fruition. McGoohan instead creates a fascinating villain with Johnnie through just how hollow of a man he is, as though there really isn't much past the mask he puts on. After Johnnie's deceit is discovered there remains one final scene for Johnnie after everyone has rejected except for his meek wife (Betsy Blair). The scene involves Johnnie's wife still indicating her love for him, while he rejects this which very easily could have been played as though Johnnie is just bitter after having lost his own potential chance at stardom. McGoohan though takes a far more interesting approach as though in the moment Johnnie's not being just his worst self, but his only true self. McGoohan makes Johnnie a void as he states essentially a disbelief in love, as there is such a disconcering lack of humanity in his words. Yes there is a palatable hate that McGoohan conveys but he does not present it as though it comes from just having lost his chance, but rather because he won't be able to inflict any more damage to those people around him. McGoohan gives a performance which enhances the film through his portrait of Johnnie Cousin, not as a jealous wannabe grasping for fame, but rather as a husk of man whose only joy comes from the torment of others.