Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Twitter Twatter: You're An Acter. Act.

"You will be a creative soldier, once you get all this "thinking" knocked out of you. "

Recently on wowOwow, the query was posed, "Is it fair for us to hold actors up as role models?" Well. Let's see. Just in this past week, Lindsay Lohan has begged to be taken seriously as an actor, and Madonna has lectured her daughter to be true to herself, while if what is true about Madonna lately is that she is running around with a man much younger than herself and has asked her assistant to go to Malawi to pick a new baby; an appropriate baby that would "fit in." Sorta a "I hope it matches the drapes kinda thing." Role model for what, I query.

I just finished a biography about Marlon Brando, Somebody: the Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando by Stefan Kanfer. Brando would have done better focusing on his craft, rather than belittling his talent (being an actor is like being a butcher,) while demanding justice for (fill in the blank.) The Native-American? He sent one up to make his acceptance speech for his Oscar win in The Godfather. Full buckskin regalia, too. Only it turned out she wasn't really what she said she was. Same with Wife Number One: Anna Kashfi, given to wearing sari's and nose rings (even at their wedding,) only it turned out she was really Joan O'Callaghan. Didn't he check under the carpet? Weren't the freckles a give away? "Freckle? I thought that was a bindi spot."

"Washington is no place for a good actor. The competition from bad actors is too great." ~~ Fred Allen

I have to relay one moment from the book. In the film The Young Lions, where Brando plays an overly blonde Nazi, he fought with the director (Edward Dmytyrk,) and at one point in the script he wanted to have his character, Christian Diestl, make a speech about racial inequality in America and the Scottsboro boys. When he also suggested that Christian (in his death scene) wind up twisted in barbed wire and arms extended like a wounded Christ, co-star Montgomery Clift said, "If Marlon's allowed to do that, I'll walk off the picture." Brando didn’t. Instead he died in a muddy pool of water, and lay there so long, technicians came running up to make sure he wasn't truly dead. Now that's acting. Playing a Nazi with a British accent? Uh.....not so good.

"Remind me to tell you about the time I looked into the heart of an artichoke."

Not that we can't learn life lessons from the movies. To quote from the most quotable movie of all time; George Sanders as Addison DeWitt in All About Eve (speaking of the Marilyn Monroe character as an "actress,") "Miss Casswell is an actress, a graduate of the Copacabana School of Dramatic Art."

That pretty well sums it up. Learn your lines. Learn your fellow actor's lines, while you're at it. Show up on time. Do your work. Go home. I think Robert Mitchum said that.

"I kept the same suit for six years and the same dialogue. They just changed the title of the picture and the leading lady. "

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spencer Tracy, darling. I once wanted to use Eve's acceptance speech in a brief speech I had to give, but I didn't want to make an ironic reference.

An Easter reference: "Why do they all look like scared rabbits?"

This post made my day, Cube! Never mouse -- rat maybe


11:01 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Kathy: Of course I wrote this for you, a woman who...well...knows the entire script of The Women by heart, as well as Eve and on and on. Mildred Pierce is on? I'm there.

Yes, Spencer Tracy was another one who held to the same "Show up. Know your lines," school of acting. Judi Dench, too. I've always thought if I were an actor, that's what I would want for myself. To be responsible, competent, no glamour; just a little workhorse.

Last year, when Vanessa Redgrave was doing the play based on Joan Didion's book, "The Year of Magical Thinking," (and boy don't think that isn't hitting to the bone for Vanessa right now,) she was interviewed and she said, "People expect me to arrive and leave the theatre in a limousine, and it's all glamorous and star studded," and the truth is, I take a taxi or walk to the theatre, I do the play, I take off my makeup, I go home and prepare for the next day." (Not that Vanessa hasn't been politicially mouthy in her past,) but since I've read her quoted as saying she knows she was wrong and her children suffered for what she did. So kuddos for her wising up. Glad you enjoyed it, Kathy.

11:37 AM  
Blogger WDCD/DRFS/aka Sue said...

Ahhh Brando. I loved him and hated him at different moments in his career. He was an actor and I think he loved the drama of his life so to speak. As for today's crop...Lohan has talent that she is squandering to be a drama queen. If she just WORKED perhaps she could get through those 12 steps and live up to what's inside her. But what do I know? I'm addicted to food and can't get that monkey off my back...

8:03 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Sue: Brando had a massive eating disorder, which I didn't go into with this piece, but it started when he was fairly young. Years of psychoanalysis convinced him it stemmed from his childhood of neglect on the part of both parents, coupled with an abusive father and an alcoholic mother. When he made the movie I am talking about, The Young Lions, he would binge eat all day on the set, then run around, trying to burn it off, so he could continue to fit into his uniform--sometimes with success, sometimes not.

His demons won out in the end. He also, during his heaviest periods, took to doing quirky things like dressing in grandmotherly clothing and eye makeup.

When Brando made Apocalypse Now, he had gained so much weight, Coppola didn't think he could use him as the soldierly Kurtz. It was Brando's idea to shave his head and be filmed in heavy shadow, which Coppola felt was a stroke of genius; turning the cult powered and mad Kurtz into a voice.

I'm sitting here typing this thinking, "Why do I know these things and what good is any of it doing in my life." I'd be far better off knowing JAVA, not Sumatra.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Reminds me of why I dislike watching the Oscars - having to sit through speeches like Sean Penn's where the actor turns political activist.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Jessica: Agreed and congratulations on the birth of baby Jack. I've been following your writing for some time. I am so thrilled for your newfound happiness in being a wife and mother....and artistic creator.

5:57 PM  

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