Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Stars Versus Actors

I just read Peter Bogdanovich's Who The Hell's In It, a collection of pieces on various movie actors, sort of a sequel to his Who The Devil Made It, featuring interviews with directors.  It's not as consistent or insightful as the previous book, but it's worth a look.  Bogdanovich explores, somewhat, the thing about movie stars--the most famous generally aren't remembered simply because they're good actors, but because they seem believable and authentic from picture to picture.

John Wayne is sometimes considered a limited actor, but true or not, does it matter?--on screen, he has a presence that few can match. It took him some time to develop what became known to the public as "John Wayne," but once he did, he was able to deliver regularly (and deepen somewhat) and to this day remains in the public consciousness when actors considered far superior are forgotten.

The same for Cary Grant.  He created an indelible character that gave the audience what it wanted over and over.  He would sometimes do drama, sometimes comedy, but it was still Cary Grant.  Then there are certain stars who perhaps showed a little more range--say James Stewart or Henry Fonda--but they always had a core that showed up on screen.

Not that all stars are this way.  Brando experimented quite a lot--even though it turned out early in his career that the parts that stuck were the earthy character like Stanley Kowalski and Terry Malloy.

If you appreciate what a star is, rather than get caught up in "acting," it can give you a different view of films.  Maybe the best test case is Humphrey Bogart.  It took him a while to establish his screen character, but once he did, he still liked the challenge of non-"Bogart" roles.  And these roles are often celebrated: Fred C. Dobbs in Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, Charlie Allnut in The African Queen (for which he won his only Oscar), Queeg in The Caine Mutiny.  But these aren't the films that made Humphrey Bogart an icon.  It's the Bogart roles that really count--The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, To Have And Have Not, The Big Sleep and a bunch of lesser films where he played variations on what he'd created.  If he only made those films where he was an actor rather than Bogey, how much would we remember him?


Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Is that John Wayne with bleached blond hair? How contemporary.

2:22 PM, August 31, 2016  

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