Lee J. Cobb did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mr. Bonaparte in Golden Boy.
Lee J. Cobb plays the father to William Holden's character, an Italian immigrant who obviously is suppose to be a middle aged man despite Cobb only being around 28 at the time the film was made. Cobb is helped by having sort of that Gene Hackman quality where he seemed to be the same age for an extended period of time, however Cobb erasing even the thought of miscasting extends to his performance as well. Cobb carries himself well in the role as he effectively coveys the age of the character in his slow somewhat labored movements. Cobb's rather remarkable in this regard in that he simply makes the age seem part of Mr. Bonaparte and ensures that excessive attention is not brought to this whole aspect of the character. This is notable in that it is just part of Cobb's performance that is taken as a given, and he completely succeeds in being far older than he was. It's quite an achievement that if one was not aware of Cobb's actual age one would not even need to give the casting a second thought. The challenges against Cobb continue though as he plays Mr. Bonaparte who again is an Italian Immigrant, and the character's lines are in somewhat broken English.
Again though Cobb excels in the role as he does not go about playing into possibly becoming a stereotype, as the part could have devolved into. Cobb never overplays the accent, and instead portrays it as something that would come naturally from the character. There's nothing forced about his delivery and Cobb really makes it work. There's an important ease Cobb brings to the part, and again he makes himself a more than appropriate fit for the role. Now the challenges only continue for Cobb really as Mr. Bonaparte has some pivotal moments in the film, but he technically speaking is a largely reactionary role. This turns out to be more than enough for Cobb. This can be in the less dramatic sense when it is a more casual moments with his son and daughter, and Cobb's reactions add so much to these scenes adding this essential history in the interactions. When they play the music in any scene the joy Cobb expresses is simply wonderful, showing the unquestionable love the man has for his family. The sense of family is largely created from Cobb who brings the right ease of familiarity bringing an innate warmth to these scenes, and makes him such a likable presence in the film.
Now Mr. Bonaparte is mostly there to act as the moral conscience to his son, the film even bothers to directly verbalize this at one point. Cobb's performance absolutely works in providing this in a particularly honest way. His interactions with William Holden always carry a genuine tenderness, as Cobb so effectively exudes just how much Mr. Bonaparte cares for his son's moral well being. Cobb's particularly good though with just how internalized he keeps these moments though as his disappointment with his son, is keenly felt yet Cobb keeps in such a quiet way. Cobb though within this unassuming personality so well realizes how Mr. Bonaparte stands out while being modest. The way Joe crumples over his father's scrutiny, which is never direct, yet Cobb makes it so incisive by making Mr. Bonaparte's sadness over his son's mistakes so palatable. Cobb's earns the moral outrage, yet never enforces it, as he just presents it so eloquently through a good man, who can't outright stop his son, yet still cannot ignore his actions. Cobb's face speaks so much in this portrayal, and is so moving throughout the film. This is really exceptional work from Cobb since there were so many ways he could have been tripped up by the character's age, his background, or the possibility that he could have come across as either sanctimonious or just repetitive. That is never the case as Cobb matches every challenge presented to giving a earnest portrait of a father who only wants what is truly best for his son.