Laurence Harvey did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Staff Sergeant Raymond Shaw in The Manchurian Candidate.
Laurence Harvey plays the central pawn to this plot Raymond Shaw, though Frank Sinatra's Captain Marco is also given ample time who begins to uncover the scheme due to a recurrent nightmare. Harvey's part here is a rather thankless role actually, but it is an interesting one to examine to see what exactly Harvey does within these certain limitations. The first challenge of the part is in the character of Raymond Shaw, who is suppose to be unlikable, which is very important to the plot since one of the things that tips Marco off that something is wrong is that the brainwashed army unit have all been forced to recite how great of a guy Shaw. Well Harvey certainly fulfills this need of the part as he plays much of the role in a very distant and almost viciously cold manner. He makes Raymond like a sharpened stone as he seems unwavering in his manner yet there is something most unpleasant in this determination. This is the right approach though not only to fulfill that plot point, but also Havery utilizes it to show where Raymond has come from. In his scenes with his horrible mother (Angela Lansbury) and his step father we see how Raymond would have become this way.
Harvey's very good in making such a considerable anti-chemistry of sorts in his scenes with his "parents". Harvey plays it as though Raymond is always on the attack with them as he is quite aware of how despicable they both are, and really he does not even know the half of it. Harvey makes Raymond at his most raw here as his searing anger is a constant in his interactions with them, and even when it is just his mother talking Harvey is very effective in the way that he shows that Raymond is pained by her very presence. Harvey makes this as almost a transference in his interactions with everyone else as at the very best he's a bit distant, and at the worst he still seems a bit hostile as though his upbringing has left him at a constant unease with everyone. The only relationship we see that is opposed to this is Raymond's romantic one with the daughter of one of his stepfather's staunchest opponents. This scenes are done in an almost an excessively simple way, which works as a contrast to the details of the main story, but Harvey uses them well. Harvey brings a sincere happiness in Raymond in these scenes, that almost has a certain timid quality to it as though Shaw not only is new to it, but almost does not quite know what to say when dealing with this new experience.
Now of course Raymond purpose in the film is being used as an agent for the communists to commit their plot, which is actually spearheaded by his own mother. These scenes may seem standard enough in portraying just the detached zombie who carries out orders. Harvey does handle them well by never making it seem corny but rather chilling in depicting the single minded yet blank manner of Raymond as he carries out the orders no matter how brutal they may be. Even when Raymond kills it is nothing but a straight forward act as though he is opening a door. This might seem like a minor detail but Harvey uses it brilliantly in his last scene of the film, which also the best scene of the film. As it seems Raymond is still programmed to carry out the assassination which will put his stepfather in power. Suddenly as Raymond is pulling the trigger though Harvey suddenly reveals something that had been lacking in all the other kills, an emotional fury in his eyes, as it becomes clear Raymond is of his own will as kills those who had always been using him instead. Harvey makes the final seconds of his performance surprisingly heartbreaking as he reveals Raymond finally in full control of himself though only to be in the horror that his mother has put him. There is a satisfaction that Harvey reveals at their deaths as well as relief, though also a terrible grief as Raymond is well aware of what his life has been. The moment is swift yet the power of it is palatable due to Harvey so successfully finding the cruelty behind the use of a man as simply a tool.