Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Movie star quality

As an afterthought to Norm's current poll - nudge Lisa, get on with your own - I chased his recent post to Sheila O'Malley's recent comment on the topic. Doing so I found this little discussion, which I thought would at least echo what I know my good friend Helen Lisette thinks:
For example: I love Russell Crowe, and I think when he's good?? Nobody can touch him. If you disagree, then I have to believe that you haven't seen Romper Stomper. BUT: he doesn't have that thing with the camera that, say, Gary Cooper does. He's always good, he's always committed to his work, and he is quite often very powerful and very moving. The only time I would say he comes close to that kind of movie-star-magic is in LA Confidential. Now THAT is the performance of a "movie star". It sizzles with charisma, with what is NOT said, it smolders with unexpressed feeling ... I think that might be the most vulnerable Crowe has ever been with us - and interestingly enough, he was playing a big tough-guy. That was the thing with those actors in the 30s and 40s ... they played tough-guys, but not HARD guys. They were tough because life threw you for a loop and there were things in life that needed protecting, but they also fell in love with the dame. They weren't HARD, or immune. It's a hugely attractive mix, and we've almost lost that dynamic completely in movies today. That's why Crowe's performance in LA Confidential made an entire nation of movie-going women turn into puddles on the floor. It was a throwback, yes ... but not in a kitschy way, not even in a nostalgic way. He WAS that guy.
Well, can't say as I disagree too much, though I know Rusty isn't everyone's cup of tea. But as Sheila notes, when he's on song, he's breathtaking. Maybe LAC was just such a film - heck, does anyone hit a wrong note there before that dreadfully twee final sequence? - but I also thought his performance in The Insider also deserved some note too.

Anyway, since we have to take Movie Star Quality as our touchstone here are my thoughts. I could easily have substituted many on this list from suggestions elsewhere, but I have to go with first instincts and I'm going on MSQ. So that's not necessarily acting per se, and I have to admit I'm also repressing my personal favourites (the Scottish contingent who I do rate as excellent actors, but who maybe as yet are simply not recognised sufficiently as being stars: an issue I am nigh single-handedly campaigning to rectify!)

Anyway: the list

Ingrid Bergman - makes the screen weep
Julie Christie - being Audrey Hepburn always felt unattainable, but Julie Christie brought an extraordinary ordinariness to her portrayals
Audrey Hepburn - sheer fragile gorgeousness
Katherine Hepburn - presence, grace and fiercesome strength of character

Marlon Brando - powerful and expressive
Humphrey Bogart - rough and emotional
Cary Grant - elegance, charm: and in one of my favourite movies, North by Northwest
Jack Lemmon - more truthfully an everyman than James Stewart
Kevin Spacey - sadly more bad movies in his oeuvre than there should be, but on form he sweeps the screen clean, especially with sly humour and sharp dead-pan wickedness
Denzel Washington - passionate and humane (except when he's being utterly bad)

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