He was bad. Well, bad doesn't properly convey what's on screen. Grotesque would be the better word for it. And I'm not just referring to the blackface, which in and of itself is gross. I mean, look at it:
But it's somehow made worse by Olivier's decision to consistently ham his role up. If he was a understated Othello, then the shoe polish makeup, "exotic" clothing, and bare feet would only be in terrible taste. However, by shouting, swooning, and raising his hands as if he were launching into the repetoire of Al Jolson:
his performance goes beyond a fatal case of values dissonance, and into a sickening minstrel show. There is no sign of the subtly and dignity he afforded Henry V, Hamlet and Richard III.This is the ultimate white representation of the Black Man as Savage Inhuman Brute, in all its disgusting inherent racism.
But all this didn't stop Olivier from getting his last Oscar nomination for this....thing. Go fucking figure.