May 20, 2016
In my mind, I collect great performances as one would collect baseball cards. And, when I find one that’s valuable, I file it away in my mind, forever. Some of these performances have been forgotten, or they just never got their proper due. So, without further ado, I give you “The Twenty Greatest Underrated Male Performances”.
In no particular order…
- Steve McQueen “Baby the Rain Must Fall” (1965) Robert Mulligan. Drawing on his own troubled youth, McQueen brought a real resonance to this doomed character.
- Jeff Goldblum “The Fly” (1986) David Cronenberg. Finally, Goldblum’s mannerisms were used to good effect. Cronenberg also brought out a poignancy that is missing in most of his work.
- Jeff Bridges “Fearless” (1993) Peter Weir. Never one to shy away from playing unsympathetic characters, Bridges brought a fevered intensity to this troubled man.
- John Heard “Cutter’s Way” (1981) Ivan Passer. Modern day Ahab played with great humor and power by this underrated actor.
- Sterling Hayden “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950) John Huston. Hayden brings a ragged humanity to this tragic figure.
- Dustin Hoffman “Straight Time” (1978) Ulu Grosbard. Hoffman plays career criminal Max Dembo like a man who doesn’t know which way to turn. He lets us see into this man’s frightened heart.
- Jason Robards “A Thousand Clowns” (1965) Fred Coe. The other actors won the Tonys and the Oscars, so somehow this iconic performance was forgotten. It’s too bad, because it’s quite skillful.
- Donald Sutherland “MASH” (1970) Robert Altman. Sure, it made him a star, but most people don’t remember that he’s even in the movie. He was somehow overshadowed by all the surroundings, but it’s a supreme comic performance.
- Elliot Gould “The Long Goodbye” (1973) Robert Altman. Gould’s take on Marlowe was quite unique. He updated him but kept his essence.
- Alan Arkin “Yosserian” (1970) Mike Nichols. I know Arkin didn’t like his performance, but I think he embodied this character perfectly.
- Boris Karloff “The Body Snatcher” (1944) Robert Wise. What’s so compelling about Karloff’s performance is that he shows you why he’s become the man he is.
- Robert DeNiro “The King Of Comedy” (1983) Martin Scorsese. This ferocious clown was too disturbing for audiences back in 1983. Now, he seems almost reasonable in a sick way.
- Martin Sheen “Badlands” (1974) Terrence Malick. Sheen chillingly underplays Starkweather. He appears like a man whose mask of sanity is slowly coming apart.
- Marlon Brando “Reflections in a Golden Eye” (1968) John Huston. Brando boldly plays this closeted man with such intensity that he almost burns a hole in the screen.
- Gregory Peck “I Walk the Line” (1971) John Frankenheimer. Obsessive doesn’t begin to describe this lovesick southern sheriff. Peck brought a surprisingly intensity to his performance.
- Joseph Cotten “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943) Alfred Hitchcock. Charming, debonair, and ultimately deadly.
- Walter Matthau “Charlie Varrick” (1973) Don Siegal. Unusual role for Matthau brought out the darkest colors he ever exhibited as an actor.
- Gene Hackman “Scarecrow” (1973) Jerry Schatzberg. This guarded, tough-minded man was played gloriously by Hackman. What I’ve always admired about his work here is that he always includes the hope of the dreamer.
- Peter O’Toole “Brotherly Love” (1970) J. Lee Thompson. Only an actor of absolute grace could pull off this sad, and at times, morally questionable man.
- Humphrey Bogart “In a Lonely Place” (1952) Nicolas Ray. Produced by Bogart’s own company, this sublime performance haunts one, because of the sheer sadness this legendary actor brought to the role.