‘Murder Inc.’, a semi-low-budget New York production shot in 1960, would likely not even be a cinematic footnote today had it not been for the presence of the young, then-unknown Peter Falk playing vicious psychopathic gangster Abe Reles (a real guy–‘Kid Twist’ they called him, for some reason). Falk’s off-kilter manner, his strangely sociopathic stare (possibly enhanced by the one unmoving eye?) and highly unusual delivery gave him an edgy naturalism that elevated every scene he’s in far beyond what it might have been if Reles had been portrayed by Robert Evans (who later said he’d been offered the part and turned it down).( Robert Evans? Jesus.) When Falk/Reles is in the room you desperately want to not be in there with him…
Apparently Falk rewrote much of his own dialogue and was allowed a good deal of leeway by the director Stuart Rosenberg in crafting the character. The result–somewhat astoundingly–was that this B minus New York oddity of a movie wound up with an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. Shocked, Falk decided to campaign for the award itself. I’ll let Wikipedia handle the rest of this tale:
Falk unsuccessfully campaigned for the award. In a 1997 interview with writer Arthur Marx, Falk said that the idea of campaigning for the award was suggested by Sal Mineo, but that he did not take the idea seriously until it was suggested by Abe Lastfogel, head of the William Morris Agency. He hired a press agent “and what do you know – I got nominated.” Falk described what happened at the award ceremonies as follows:
“Now we’re in our seats; the press agent, Judd Bernard, is seated on my right. It’s my category and I heard a voice say ‘And the winner is Peter…I’m rising out of my seat… Ustinov.’ I’m heading back down. When I hit the seat, I turn to the press agent: ‘You’re fired.’ I didn’t want him charging me for another day.