Thursday, 23 July 2020

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1966: Will Geer & Murray Hamilton in Seconds

Will Geer and Murray Hamilton did not receive Oscar nominations for portraying the Old Man and Charlie Evans respectively in Seconds.

I will first say spoilers, and recommend one just sees seconds which is a terrific underrated film. Another film that some how was derided upon release and so many times one can only wonder, what were the critics at the time thinking? One of the great aspects of the film is the ensemble cast filled with memorable character actors. One of the most memorable being Will Geer who typically played kindly down home types, and that appears to be what he might be playing here when the first appears in the film. This as he suddenly appears as our protagonist is going through the procedure to be "reborn" by a mysterious company, that takes aging men and gives them a new body and a new lease on life, supposedly. Geer's initial appearance is talking through the man about his current life. Geer is brilliant in this scene this as he presents himself just as a kindly old man. Upon initial view one might be foolish enough to take him as that. This as Geer speaks with a sweet sprightly way, an endearing smile, and eyes filled with interest for this man he speaks to...when the man is looking at him. You would be foolish enough to believe as Geer tells the man his life currently is basically meaningless, but he delivers it with the most sunny of dispositions. Geer does two things with this in one he makes it entirely convincing that the man would accept being "reborn" and losing his entire life for it, but also the more you pay attention the more quietly unnerving he is. This as he speaks with that wisdom of a country doctor, but basically he is pushing a pessimistic if not nihilistic view regarding the man's existence. I love though in that Geer wields that kindly presence as the Old man's tool to push the man to take his service as though it's a gift, when it may be anything but. This reflected though in the less the man looks at him, the more nefarious the old man's smiles seem, and the less any real warmth one may sense in him.

Murray Hamilton is a character actor I think we should all just take a second to admire a bit. This as you see him pop up in any classic film the man delivers. Whether that be his gambler in The Hustler, Death in his Twilight Zone episode, or his most remembered role as the morally questionable mayor in Jaws, among others. Hamilton is a proper character actor in that he delivers every time to the point one wonders what he could do with a more substantial role. Well this isn't that, his screentime is limited, but it does allow him to explore a bit more of his range. Now that screentime is limited to the point that for his early appearances are in voice only, as he repeatedly calls our protagonist trying to get him to take up the opportunity of being reborn. Hamilton's voice work is great however as he speaks with in part this sort of lurid salesman enthusiasm in part as he tries to convince the man. There is more though just in his voice, an underlying desperation about it as though he is harried to get him to accept the offer. What the desperation from is of course unsaid at first, but Hamilton's voice speaks a man within some constraint. This is only all the more evident later on when he tries to call to encourage the man a bit more, again Hamilton speaks in an evasive yet anxiety filled way. Hamilton speaking as trying to sell the man the idea while also obviously being under an inordinate amount of stress in the "sale". We actually see Hamilton, unknowing that he is the character of Charlie Evans who calls the man over the phone claiming to be his old friend, relatively early on in the film. This as the man stumbles into a room, in the offices of the rebirth company, where many men just seem to be sitting around. This including Hamilton who looks upon his old friend suggesting that he knows this man, though subtly as not to give himself away in those small glances of his.

Now the man's life being reborn isn't particularly successful which takes him back to the company, awaiting a "second" chance at rebirth. In this first he awaits this meeting in that room we earlier saw Charlie, and here we have what is Hamilton's highlighted scene of the film. It's Hamilton's one big scene, and to be sure he does not waste. This right from even the way he identifies his old friend in the moment as his expression is just brimming with this excitement as though he hasn't seen a familiar or friendly face in some time, or at least as familiar as it can get it in his strange circumstances. Hamilton instantly grants the sense of familiarity, and I love everything about his manner that grants the sense of an attempt to really create a sudden camaraderie with his old friend. Hamilton offers even this small moment a lot of depth, making more to Charlie than just being simply there. Hamilton though continues in this creating Charlie as entirely his own man with his own experience. This when asked how long he's been waiting for a second chance at being reborn, with his strained smile against his delivery of "awhile" paints a painful picture of a man seemingly in a hopeless endeavor. Hamilton is most moving though by presenting this sort innate optimism in his portrayal of Charlie, right to explaining why he sponsored his friend for this treatment. This explaining it with scattered unease how he hoped his friend might have had a better chance. When the man explains the waste, Hamilton's reaction says so much as his whole face is tight as though the man is trying to fix himself on some hopeful thought as though he's fighting of a painful depression the whole time. When suddenly Charlie is chosen for his "second chance" Hamilton is absolutely heartbreaking in the sheer jubilation he portrays. This not just happiness, but rather on the edge of a breakdown over the relief as though he has been waiting for it for an eternity. The combination of the bittersweet quality of Hamilton's work creating his own remarkable portrait of man hopelessly awaiting what he believes will be his personal redemption. It is brief work, but it is brilliant work, as Hamilton doesn't waste a second of his onscreen or even off-screen time to not only make the needed impact on the story, but also realize Charlie's story as well. Speaking of not wasting a second of screentime though we have the return of Geer as the Old Man at the end of the film. Initially Geer comes in again with that seeming sincerity as he states his hope the man could've made a go of his rebirth. When he continues to speak though Geer loses sort of the false sentiment and just starts speaking about the way his organization has been going. Geer is downright terrifying as he speaks of profit sharing as it relates to basically of disposing of men. Geer having such an ease in every word of man so comfortable with his truly horrible endeavor. This right as he basically is sentencing a man to death, and Geer inflicts this cold darkness as he speaks to moving his dream forward. I love what basically his final moment, where he reassures the man, just as he's about to be hauled off to be killed, with one more false smile that Geer brilliantly deflects as he loses it to just a cold dismissive glance as he orders his men to carry the man off to his death. Geer's performance crafting a man horrifying and unusual devil. This as a man who with so much ease tempts a man and with that same ease condemns. Both of these performances is fantastic, that take very limited roles in terms of their screentime, and making a lasting impression that makes Seconds all the more memorable of an experience.


Luke Higham said...

So looking forward to Hudson and Randolph.

Bryan L. said...

Is it just me or does Will Geer here remind anyone of Christopher Lloyd?

Luke Higham said...

He kinda reminds me of one of my primary (elementary) school teachers, only a tad younger.

Anonymous said...

Louis, thoughts on the cinematography for Seconds?

houndtang said...

I like that the head of the corporation is an 'Old Man' - gives a hint that the rebirth process isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Louis Morgan said...


James Wong Howe's cinematography with John Frakenheimer's direction seems a match made in heaven, this as you have one of the best prestige black and white cinematographers of the period, with Frankenheimer, whose visual directing was always remarkable (for his black and white films anyways). It seems both pushed each other as their work together here is brilliant. This in you have some extraordinary realized stylistic shots that are fantastic in just how disorienting they are, without just being nonsense. This though along with just the noir style, that is also so atmospheric in naturalistic way. It finds such a great balance in creating mood, but also that tangible sense of place. This with extremely dynamic lighting, though never overdone, and just incredible camerawork. I especially love the voyeuristic work in the opening scenes of the film.


That's another great touch.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Two terrific performances. Hamilton's scene, thinking back on it, I couldn't help but feel some unease on his character's part, as if he knew what was going to happen to Tony in the end.

Louis: Your rating and thoughts on the rest of the cast of this film?

Calvin Law said...

Houndtang: Good spot.

Louis: your thoughts on these two modern day casts for Seconds, directed by The Coen Brothers and Asghar Farhadi?

Arthur: Gene Jones
Tony: Channing Tatum
Nora: Sarah Polley
Old Man: Christopher Lloyd
Charlie: Garret Dillahunt

Arthur: Babak Karimi
Tony: Shahab Hosseini
Nora: Golshifteh Farahani
Old Man: Farid Sajadhosseini
Charlie: Peyman Moaadi

Bryan L. said...

Calvin: I was actually thinking of Kyle Chandler for Tony, but I could see Tatum pulling it off as well.

Calvin Law said...

Bryan: Chandler would be perfect.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Okay, I know I was always bigger on this performance than anyone else on the blog, but has anyone softened on Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln? I just rewatched it and am renewing my initial stance from 2012 on him giving a great performance and now I think he’s safely my Supporting win.

Tim said...

In Misery, the role of Paul Sheldon was offered to a lot of Actors, all of which turned it down. Of course, James Caan turned out to be perfect, but of the alternatives, which ones do you all think could have been as great?

Jack Nicholson: definitely

Warren Beatty: I'm not really a fan of him, and i really do not know how that would have turned out

Robert De Niro: probably would have worked

Michael Douglas: Same as De Niro

Richard Dreyfuss: hard to tell, but a small glimpse of him as an author in Stand by Me tells me he would have mastered at least some aspects of the character

Harrison Ford: i have never seen him play a character that suffers so much, but he would probably play the later scenes well, where Paul is determined to stop Annie

Morgan Freeman: he looked as if he was 60 even back then

Mel Gibson: would have nailed it

Gene Hackman: same as Ford

Dustin Hoffman: now that's an alternative i want to see

William Hurt: probably would have been good, I#ve never seen him slumming it

Kevin Kline: would either have worked perfectly or not at all

Al Pacino: not a performer for reactive performances

Robert Redford: that just seems wrong, i can't tell why

Denzel Washington: same as Pacino, probably would have gone too broad

Bruce Willis: I have not seen the Broadway version, but i assume he is actually pretty ideal for the role

At least that is how i see thinks

Calvin Law said...

Nicholson: nope, can’t see it at all.

Beatty: hard no

De Niro: would’ve been good at the very least, could’ve been great.

Dreyfuss: would’ve been perfect though not better than Caan.

Ford: could work but wouldn’t be my first choice.

Freeman: nope, just not the right presence.

Gibson: wouldn’t strike me as the right sort so probably not, but could work

Hackman: agreed

Hoffman: perfect especially considering Marathon Man

Hurt: perfection.

Kline: perfection as well.

Pacino: definitely could work but with right direction.

Redford: could be intriguing but could go all wrong

Washington: could be a fascinating choice

Willis: could work brilliantly actually

Louis Morgan said...


Jens - 3.5(Her performance is a proper sorta perfect, if technically imperfect, dream woman. In that even her vulnerabilities seem just perfectly attuned towards what a man like Arthur might want. This being multiple things at once to the point of being slightly illogical, which is obviously revealed in her brief but essential final reaction that is terrific in just how callous it is.)

Corey - 3.5(Also effective in portraying the sort of system of the organization in portraying every manner of his character as though he is indeed running any old company. In no matter what he is participating in there is a disturbing quality eventually, particularly on re-watch, by how straight forward he is.)

Dhiegh - 3.5(Terrific as just his brief scene of being this life coach specialist. This bringing the right kind of energy, and doing a great job of selling exposition though as this sort of method to create a new life.)

Reid - (Effectively creates the relationship with Randolph in their brief scenes together, and I like that she actually alludes that there is probably more to his life if he wasn't so caught up within himself. She's particularly effective in her final scene in portraying the sense of love for her old husband while also the somber recognition of the terrible state he slowly fell into.)

Addy - 3.5(A pretty limited role but I rather like the way he alluded to that his character might actually care about Arthur, even if to just some minor degree past his job.)

Also really liked every minor bit, from the guys who show Arthur the way to the company or the other "reborn" in the party scene.


Though a direct remake would be silly, I'd love a great director to honestly offer their own take on the general idea as I do think there's much to explore there. Farhadi and the cast would be a perfect opportunity there.

Great cast in both examples, Lloyd in particular could be perfect, particularly if he sort of began as Doc Brown then turned into Judge Doom by the end. Though random alternate for against type, wouldn't see it coming similar to Geer, Henry Winkler.

To Add:

Directed by Park Chan-Wook:

Tony: Lee Byung-hun
Arthur: Yeong-cheol Kim
Nora: Cho Yeo-jeong
Old Man: Hee-Bong Byun
Charlie: Song Kang-ho

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (Written by someone else):

Tony: Colin Farrell
Arthur: Stephen Rea
Nora: Rachel Weisz
Old Man: Tom Courtenay
Charlie: Paddy Considine


Nicholson: No, not 90's Nicholson anyways, maybe early 80's.
Beatty: Never
De Niro: Maybe, 50/50 honestly.
Douglas: A strong yes actually based on Wonder Boys.
Dreyfuss: Unwieldy but potentially a big yes or a big no.
Ford: Not ideal, but maybe.
Freeman: Would be miscast.
Gibson: I mean no one can do physical pain quite like him, so on that yes, even if really too young at the time.
Hackman: Yes, imagine Harry Caul in the situation.
Hoffman: Actually would have been ideally cast.
Hurt: Perfect.
Kline: If he connects, perfect.
Pacino: This period Pacino, no. Earlier maybe.
Redford: Probably not.
Washington: Like Gibson too young I feel at the time.
Willis: Also too young, but he did have the right gear for it as shown in 12 Monkeys.

Mitchell Murray said...

I didn't realize Sheldon was such a coveted role at the time, and I more or less concur with everyone's thoughts on the alternates.

Also, in response to Robert's comments about Jones in "Lincoln" - Ehh, I'm simply not that enthusiastic about his work. He's fine, but like his fellow nominee Alan Arkin, it's just too much of a standard, expected performance from Jones for me to have any great love for it. So by that reasoning, he's nowhere close to my 2012 supporting actor win. There's just too many portrayals I liked more than his in that category, be it his fellow nominees, his fellow "Lincoln" co-stars Strathairn and Spader, Bardem from "Skyfall" or the supporting players of "Django" and "Seven Psychopaths".

Bryan L. said...

Mitchell: If all of those actors turned it down, was it really “coveted”? :)

But seriously, I feel like they must’ve thought all of the praise for the film would’ve gone to whoever would be cast as Annie Wilkes, which is EXACTLY what ended up happening.

Mitchell Murray said...

Bryan: Maybe "coveted" is the wrong word, but it's still remarkable how many A-list stars were reached out too for the role.

Matt Mustin said...

Robert: I've always liked Jones in Lincoln. The small things that don't work regarding his character aren't his fault. For example, his last scene is overdone by Spielberg but he plays it well.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on this clip

Louis Morgan said...


Pacino and Pesci worse, De Niro better, again the blue eyes were a mistake.

Mitchell Murray said...

Anonymous: Honestly, I like what Scorsese did MUCH better. With the deep fake version, I just can't get past how the central part of the face is weirdly "illuminated" compared to the rest of the head. Also, the fact that we we're seeing digital versions of the current de Niro/Pacino/Pesci - as opposed to cut-and-paste snippets of them in their actual youth - made it less distracting overall, I think.

Matt Mustin said...

Deep fakes are scary and awful and I don't think we should be giving anyone who uses them the time of day.

Robert MacFarlane said...

What Matt said.