Fredric March did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying Loren Phineas Shaw in Executive Suite.
Executive Suite follows the several vice presidents of the company dealing with the calamity. The two strongest figures shown in the film are William Holden's McDonald "Don" Wallin against March's Shaw. Now March's performance is essential to the film in more ways than you may initially expect. Now on one hand this is simply an engaging performance, as March tends to be when he dials it back a bit playing to his strengths as a performer. That is what March does here as he carries his very distinct and assured presence to the role of Shaw. March brings that confidence to the role to create Shaw as a powerful figure in the company. March is innately compelling here as he offers such an efficiency in his performance, so rarely wasting time on the wrong emotions which is quite fitting to his character. This is part of March's performance which is always very much on point and straight forward in a remarkable way. In that there is nothing dull in this as March in particular makes the technical dialogue involving the company not only effortless in his delivery yet always comprehensible. When in the early scenes of the film Shaw figures out what happens and takes immediate action, March brings an incisiveness not only in words but also through his very assured physical body language as he carefully breaks down the reasoning behind his actions.
Now this is where March's performance though goes beyond in terms of how it amplifies the film. There are elements to the film that could have made it potentially into a more hamfisted morality play particularly in the role of Shaw. March's work is what avoids this problem. It would easy to imagine Shaw being made into an overt villain, but March wisely avoids this and in turn avoids simplifying the drama. March importantly always plays the role as a man who believes he is doing the right thing throughout the film. Again in that early scene where he establishes basically his authority, where technically Shaw is just assuring that the company will not collapse, March presents a confidant man yet not an egotistical one as he could have been here. There is a sense of righteousness but not a sanctimonious self-righteousness. March brings what is a genuine passion within his words that reflect the will of a man who is looking beyond himself even as he does take steps to try to secure his position as president. When he's making his moves within the story Shaw moves with precision but again March plays these scenes by emphasizing how Shaw working towards his goal. When he negotiates even with the less savory men of the company, March delivers his lines in a direct fashion again reinforcing that this is not a game to Shaw, but something he feels must be done.
The plot comes to a head with the final voting to determine who will be the next president and what their exact vision for the company is. Shaw offers his vision which is essentially to keep things as they are but in doing so ensuring the greatest dividends to their stockholders. In this explanation March gives it all the sincerity and certainty of a seasoned and intelligent businessman. There is no purposeful stubbornness in March's approach but a very direct earnestness behind the explanation. Now this is a low key earnestness to be sure, but March uses that so well to give his view that paints Shaw as a reasonable man who wants what he believes to be best for the company. Even as the first vote does not exactly go his way March is very good in revealing a bit more emotion in Shaw. March even in this stays true to his approach and plays this emotion most strongly as a quiet frustration that they are making things more difficult for the company. I particularly like his scene with Louis Calhern's more amoral board member, where March just presents such a genuine disbelief that the fool would sabotage his own desires by voting against him. March portrays no real anger, but rather reinforces the nature of Shaw by only being confused by the man's actions. When Holden's Don presents his view with a stirring speech, March earns the acceptance in Shaw due to his reactions not being of a man being defeated but rather taking in the idea and seeing that they could work towards the success of the company. March's performance here keeps the film from becoming too black and white by providing a real opposition to what becomes the final message. He never allows Shaw to be a straw man by not only delivering his view as a reasonable alternative but also creating three dimensional character who is merely doing what he believes is the right.