George Sanders did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alexander 'Alex' Joyce in Journey to Italy.
George Sanders is best known for his purring villains, whether or not he is playing a literal feline, or at the very least he is an intellectual sort with a biting wit whether or not he's even a sympathetic sort. This performance is again in that vein yet what we see of him here is different from those earlier performances. In that Sanders here is playing a man in a more modest situation with his wife Katherine (Ingrid Bergman) as they travel abroad. Sanders in many ways gives the performance you'd expect from him in that he is his usual suave self particularly when Alex and Katherine are among others. He has that certain wit about him and is properly as Sanders should be. This takes on a different shade though when the two are alone together or alone separately. In that Sanders's has this certain misery within that behavior, his statements being particularly caustic, emphasized as such by Sanders's delivery which lacks that certain joy in the cynicism found in his most of his work. This performance Sanders presents more of such a man that you get to know both when he is "on" in front of the crowd and off when alone with his wife.
Sanders's style is effectively subverted in these moments as we see him essentially as Katherine does which is as the excessively cynical sort, and this is one of the most painful marks on their relationship. Their interactions are notable for their broken chemistry of sorts as they only seem to connect in minor instances of social interaction, or when they are being more directly critical of one another. They lack any real warmth, but what Sanders and Bergman do though is capture this specific sort of coldness. It is not of two people wholly without a history rather there is a familiarity in this but an unpleasant familiarity represented often in a mutual disinterest or an unease in recognizing the faults they see in one another. The film breaks them apart where we see each going off their own where perhaps Bergman is allowed to create a bit more insight into her character partially because she speaks to herself. Sanders does have a few scenes though where we see him pondering a potential affair with a local. These scenes do feel a touch limited at times, and perhaps there was an intentional vapidness in Sanders's work. They don't leave the same impact though in Bergman's similair scenes where we seem to come to understand Katherine more than we do Alex.
Eventually the two troubles come to a head in their final day in Italy. Again this is where Sanders shines along with Bergman for that matter as they so well capture this certain vicious sniping the each make towards one another as the final conflict builds in that day. They once more capture the mutual stress in these moments, and their delivery works as this sudden messy outpouring of frustrations against one another. They work so well in creating this dissolution though along with their sudden switching to basically appease their hosts as their tour continues. The two find the difficulty in their attempts to switch back to their proper social behavior while always conveying their ongoing fight is still weighing on their minds. This eventually leads to the two getting caught up in a religious procession where suddenly their relationship turns around. Although as written there appears to be something missing there, though perhaps that is the point in that both Bergman and Sanders don't quite make that easy in their performance. The reason being that even as they declare their renewed love of sorts there is something off and desperate in the moment that suggests perhaps it is not as happy of an ending as it might seem. Although there seem something missing in his scenes away from Bergman with her Sanders gives a compelling alternative view of his usual screen persona.