Anthony Quinn did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Zampanò the strongman in La Strada.
Anthony Quinn plays that performer, and typically to western actors in foreign films he is dubbed so we unfortunately are not granted Quinn's booming voice which sadly would've have been especially fitting to this character. Luckily though this is a very physical performance, and Quinn is a very physical actor. In terms of casting Quinn is a perfect fit for the role as the circus strong man, but also everything that Zampanò represents. Fellini evidently described the character as representing the earth and we can see essentially that sort of grit from Quinn in his opening frame. Any high flying ideals are non-existent in Quinn's portrayal from the outset as he takes on Gelsomina Quinn exudes the general disinterest in her setting up quite obviously that Zampanò is only taking her on as necessity rather than any real desire. Quinn's expression hold the right discontent with this woman who seems to be looking for more out of life. Quinn on the other hand paints a man who is very much part of the darker side of life, and though perhaps he is not truly content with this in that he isn't exactly happy, yet he seems to help create this state of mind.
Quinn's work most often provides a striking contrast to the purity of Masina's Gelsomina. Zampanò is anything but that with Quinn accentuating this harshness though not overplaying it. Quinn rather than emphasizing an active sadism towards her portrays Zampanò treating her mostly as some sort of nuisance that he has to put up with. That is not to say that Quinn's approach is not at all cruel, in fact there is a distinct cruelty within just how little regard Quinn expresses in Zampanò's treatment of her. When he hits her with a switch in order to properly play the drums for his act Quinn's whole manner is less of a man mistreating this woman, but rather almost like he's trying to get a dog to learn a trick. We are given a slightly different side to the strong man when he is performing as such, and Quinn's terrific in these scenes in presenting the showman if only a for the few minutes while the act is going on. Those moments arethe few times he doesn't seem tired with life, although just right after the act he returns to just as he was before. Quinn establishes only the slightest bit of joy in his whole being whenever he's finding in any direct satisfaction, such as with a different woman, or the monetary boon from performing his act.
Quinn for much of the film is this force of nature that seems unchanging as hardened earth. Quinn brings that quality to life without becoming too symbolic though as he does create a man in the amoral Zampanò. There is nuance in his work, something that comes solely from Quinn, in the scenes as Zampanò keeps retrieving Gelsomina despite his disregard for her. There are hints of just a bit of remorse in Quinn's eyes, yet he reflects this as only a hint that never overtakes him long enough to become a good man for even a moment. Eventually the two also meet another performer, the fool (Richard Basehart) who purposefully pesters Zampanò for an unknown reason. Now in these interactions Quinn is more direct in presenting Zampanò's viciousness yet even this is shown as instinctual more than anything. As when Zampanò takes things too far Quinn depiction of the attack is that of careless bullying than real hatred. That act leads Zampanò to finally abandon Gelosomina, and though Quinn was the secondary lead for most of the film he becomes the primary lead in the last few scenes. Quinn is excellent in these scenes as he takes just that hint of remorse he brought in the earlier moments with Masina, to naturally reveal a man finally facing his actions. Quinn is honestly heartbreaking in portraying this man essentially writhing in his past actions, so effectively depicting this palatable anguish as the man who no longer can get by simply by not feeling. This is a terrific performance by Anthony Quinn, as even though we don't hear his voice, he makes a considerable impact on the film realizing the simplicity of the man without making this a simplistic performance.