Montgomery Clift received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Ralph "Steve" Stevenson in The Search.
Maybe I spoke to soon when I said Lew Ayres' character was the nicest ever to be nominated, because boy oh boy Steve the army engineer played by Clift is pretty darn nice as well. Clift actually does not appear until about thirty minutes into the film, and when he shows up all he wants to do is help the runaway and troubled Karel as much as he can. It is rather interesting to see Clift in an entirely nice guy sort of role not being troubled by his past, or his future prospects, as in his other nominated performances. Clift instead here plays a pretty at ease with himself sort of guy, who only really wants to be a good guy.
Steve's only real struggle in the film is to first convince that he is honestly trying to help Karel, and than to try to ensure that Karel is able to have a good life later on. Clift actually is quite good as the entirely decent guy, he plays him as just an entirely average guy in the situation. Clift portrays the part in a nice enough fashion, he does not make him boring despite the fact the character is rather simple in terms of his action. Clift never portrays Steve in a one dimensional fashion, rather he is just honestly portraying Steve in a realistic fashion all the way through which works well for the film.
The most important part of his performance though is his chemistry with Karel. It at first is a bit of struggle, and Clift is good in showing how Steve honestly wants Karel to understand he is not trying to hurt him. They slowly develop a friendly relationship, that is quite warm and honestly portrayed by Clift. Clift has some really nice, scenes with Ivan Jandl, they are movingly and effectively portrayed by Clift, because Clift always shows how earnestly and passionately that Steve really just wants to help the boy, there is not a false moment in all of Clift's performance. Clift's entire performance works because of that reason, sure it is not a complicated characterization by any means but it is an effective one.