When the Actor becomes a Persona

Having studied theater for years, and performing in many a play, I have always had a fascination with actors who become personas.  There are character actors who take on a thousand different roles in the course of the career and lead actors who weave in and out of hundreds of different characters, each one unique, each new and alive.  And then there are actors whose persona overwhelms and informs who they are beyond their acting.   Where their private life becomes their public life and each role they take is already half-understood by the audience before they even see it because the actor’s persona is so strong.

Persona pic 01

Now, here’s the tricky part:  This isn’t about an actor playing himself, a phrase I despise.  First off, go ahead, pick up a play (no improvising your lines, that’s easy), memorize the lines of a character, say Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire or Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, and then proceed to “play yourself.”  When people say an actor plays himself, they are lazily saying, even if they don’t know it, that the actor in question is so comfortable with who they are, and their delivery, that they have the amazing ability to make any written character fit them!  Cary Grant and John Wayne did it most famously (oddly enough, actresses rarely receive this accusation) and, trust me, it’s a hell of a talent to possess.

So it’s not about actors playing themselves, so to speak, it’s about when an actor becomes something bigger than the actor, bigger than the character.  It’s when the actor becomes a recognizable persona and the roles start reflecting who they are.

In the early days of films, movie stars were few and far between but by the teens and twenties, they started to pick up steam.  Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Dorothy and Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford, Theda Bara, Rudolph Valentino and others were big stars and many of them had famous personalities, too.  Fairbanks and Chaplin were known for specific characters.  Fairbanks, the swashbuckler and Chaplin, the tramp.  Their public personas grew as well, and this now approaches what I’m talking about.  Some actors, say, Paul Muni, were actors, period.  What was Muni’s private life like?  What was his temperament?  Oh, I’m sure we could look it up and find the answer but he never really developed a public persona.  Years later, other famous actor’s actors like Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Dustin Hoffman, also gave consistently good performances but didn’t really develop any kind of recognizable public persona.  Fairbanks and Chaplin did.  Add John Barrymore to the list, too.

Fairbanks, Chaplin and Barrymore became famous for who they were, personally, as well as being stars.      Hell, beyond Modern Times, Chaplin’s name in the press was associated with controversy, sex scandals and politics far more than movies.  Errol Flynn also comes to mind.

But back then, without paparazzi everywhere and television still not a viable gossip tool, personas were limited to fan magazines and the Style column of the local paper.  No, it wasn’t until the studios started to crumble and the actor became a free agent (free to wreak havoc?) that the persona actors really started to emerge.  Marlon Brando, Bette Davis, Jack Nicholson, Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Fonda all became personas as well as actors and the dividing line got fuzzy fast.

If this were a game of “which of these things is not like the other” you’d win by picking out Bette Davis’ name.  Yes, she was a studio actress for decades before the studios crumbled but no one bothered to tell Bette she couldn’t stand on her principles and she became as famous for being Bette Davis as for her acting talent.   She walked off sets (but returned because she was a professional) , demanded better conditions from studio bosses and generally didn’t take crap from anybody.  She was known for who she was long before the studios lost their grip.  By the seventies, Bette Davis was a well-known persona and when she made her last (and sadly, awful) film, Wicked Stepmother, she was cast not on the basis of her immensely formidable acting skills but her persona.

So when did it happen?  It’s an inexact science, to say the least, but I’d say All About Eve pretty much sealed the Bette Davis persona.  That’s the movie that for most people, whether true or not, seemed to about Bette Davis as much as Bette Davis playing a role.  It was when the movies acknowledged they were casting Davis based not just on what Davis would bring to the role but what moviegoers would bring, too, in the form of their expectations.  The expectation that you’d be seeing a little of the real Bette in there when you saw the movie.

Marlon Brando started after Davis but wasted little time becoming a persona himself.  For the first ten years or so he was a dedicated actor but by the early sixties, Brando was becoming known for being Brando much more than anything going on up on the screen.   His role as Fletcher Christian cemented the deal.  When Mutiny on the Bounty was released, people went to see Brando as the trouble-making mutineer because it seemed like he was mixing reality with fiction.  In a way, that phrase I despise, “he always plays himself,” actually does apply to the persona actors but not in the way people mean.  When people use that phrase, they mean the actor plays each role the same (even if that’s not true).   Like I said, Cary Grant made the characters fit him.  With the persona actors, the characters they play have personality traits very much in line with themselves.

Persona pic 02

Elizabeth Taylor went from child actress to full-fledged persona in just a few short years.  In her first real adult roles, like Giant and Raintree County, she was a well-known actress playing a part.  By Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, fans were beginning to the see the real Taylor and the Taylor characters intersect and by Cleopatra, that lady was one of the biggest personas of all time.  Everyone knew they weren’t going to see a dramatization of Antony and Cleopatra’s love affair, they were going to see Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s personas battle it out (Burton might make this list, too, but he seems more of a persona in connection with Liz than one on his own).

Jane Fonda came next and, like Liz, was initially just a well-groomed actress playing her parts.  Then she got involved in anti-war activism with the war in Vietnam and her persona became intertwined with her roles, though not at first.  When she won her Oscar for Klute, the audience gave her a mixture of cheers and boos thanks to her activism but by the mid-seventies she began to consciously choose roles based on playing off that persona, roles like The China Syndrome.   A year before, when she was cast as the Vietnam war wife in Coming Home, her casting alone made a statement as powerful as her performance.  That’s when you know an actor has become a persona: When the act of casting them becomes half the message.  Like Davis in All About Eve, like Brando in Mutiny on the Bounty, like Taylor in Cleopatra, like Jack Nicholson in…

Jack Nicholson.  He might be our last great persona.  But where did it start?  He’d been in so many movies, and for so long, before finally breaking into the big time with Easy Rider that it’s difficult to say.  The fact is, he went from unknown to well known persona in record time, because after only four years of fame, The Last Detail was already playing off of what the audience knew about Jack Nicholson.   He followed that up with Chinatown, a masterpiece of cinema and perhaps Nicholson’s best, and most complex, performance.  But the very next year, in 1975, Nicholson got the all-time persona role: R.P. McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Again, it was clear that by casting Nicholson, producer Michael Douglas was already making the case for that year’s Best Actor. His casting alone was a sweeping gesture.  Jack the man would be right up there on the screen with R.P. McMurpy, or so the audience imagined.   And the persona roles kept coming (The Shining, Terms of Endearment, The Witches of Eastwick, Batman), with Nicholson’s persona role period lasting longer than most actors entire careers.

Who are the great persona actors now, the ones whose casting in a movie makes a statement more powerful than the movie itself?  The ones who give the audience a wink and let them know they’re glimpsing a bit of the real person up there as well?  It’s a fine line between gimmicky casting and really playing off of who the actor is.  For one thing, it requires the actor be extremely talented, not just possessing of a bad boy/girl image.  Those are a dime a dozen.  No, it’s quite a different thing to have actors inhabiting roles by letting the roles inhabit them, and letting the audience in on it, often times before the movie’s even made.

44 Responses When the Actor becomes a Persona
Posted By John Armstrong : April 17, 2013 9:27 am

There’s another side to “an actor playing himself”. Almost every time I watch James Franco — and particularly in Howl — I’m struck by the sense that I’m watching him rather than the character. I don’t see Allen Ginsberg; I see James-Franco-playing-Allen-Ginsberg.

That is, it’s not that he has the ability to make any written character fit him; he has the “ability” to substitute himself for any written character.

Posted By John Armstrong : April 17, 2013 9:27 am

There’s another side to “an actor playing himself”. Almost every time I watch James Franco — and particularly in Howl — I’m struck by the sense that I’m watching him rather than the character. I don’t see Allen Ginsberg; I see James-Franco-playing-Allen-Ginsberg.

That is, it’s not that he has the ability to make any written character fit him; he has the “ability” to substitute himself for any written character.

Posted By Andrew : April 17, 2013 11:32 am

Adam Sandler comes to mind. He has that mad cap comedy persona/character thing in most of his movies that personally I can’t stand. (Admittedly he can turn it off when he wants to, like in Punch Drunk Love.) I was watching Reign Over Me and my wife walked in, saw Adam Sandler, and gave me a look. I explained that this wasn’t an “Adam Sandler movie” just a movie that he was in and she decided that was OK, maybe.

I just reread the post and realized I was putting Adam Sandler with Bette Davis and Marlon Brando. But Greg did ask for modern examples and since marketing has taken over most movies, I think that is just a sign of the times. I think it used to be “make me a movie that people will like” but now it is more “here is what people like, make me a movie”.

Posted By Andrew : April 17, 2013 11:32 am

Adam Sandler comes to mind. He has that mad cap comedy persona/character thing in most of his movies that personally I can’t stand. (Admittedly he can turn it off when he wants to, like in Punch Drunk Love.) I was watching Reign Over Me and my wife walked in, saw Adam Sandler, and gave me a look. I explained that this wasn’t an “Adam Sandler movie” just a movie that he was in and she decided that was OK, maybe.

I just reread the post and realized I was putting Adam Sandler with Bette Davis and Marlon Brando. But Greg did ask for modern examples and since marketing has taken over most movies, I think that is just a sign of the times. I think it used to be “make me a movie that people will like” but now it is more “here is what people like, make me a movie”.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 17, 2013 1:53 pm

I have not seen Howl. Something about Franco’s style works as a kind of sleeping pill for me. He’s certainly a good actor, he just doesn’t have the kind of charisma that makes me want to seek out his movies. As such, I can see your point, that when you watch him, you’re seeing him make the character James Franco.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 17, 2013 1:53 pm

I have not seen Howl. Something about Franco’s style works as a kind of sleeping pill for me. He’s certainly a good actor, he just doesn’t have the kind of charisma that makes me want to seek out his movies. As such, I can see your point, that when you watch him, you’re seeing him make the character James Franco.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 17, 2013 1:57 pm

Adam Sandler, like I just wrote for James Franco, makes me not want to see his films. The difference is, with Franco it’s a mere charisma thing. I have nothing against him personally. With Sandler, it’s a real distaste for his persona so, as you say, maybe there’s something to that. I certainly think that Paul Thomas Anderson, a fan of Sandler’s, was making a statement by putting Sandler’s persona to use in Punch Drunk Love, thus working against expectations for what a Sandler movie is.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 17, 2013 1:57 pm

Adam Sandler, like I just wrote for James Franco, makes me not want to see his films. The difference is, with Franco it’s a mere charisma thing. I have nothing against him personally. With Sandler, it’s a real distaste for his persona so, as you say, maybe there’s something to that. I certainly think that Paul Thomas Anderson, a fan of Sandler’s, was making a statement by putting Sandler’s persona to use in Punch Drunk Love, thus working against expectations for what a Sandler movie is.

Posted By Emgee : April 17, 2013 4:11 pm

Why does the name “John Barrymore” immediately come to mind, at least with me?
Very early in his career the actor and his roles became almost inseparable. Few people could watch his movies without thinking about his turbulent personal life. So i’d say he fits the bill.

Posted By Emgee : April 17, 2013 4:11 pm

Why does the name “John Barrymore” immediately come to mind, at least with me?
Very early in his career the actor and his roles became almost inseparable. Few people could watch his movies without thinking about his turbulent personal life. So i’d say he fits the bill.

Posted By John Mundt, Esq. : April 17, 2013 4:39 pm

This is something that has always interested me, too. I have a question, though; do comic actors count? Your exclusion of comedians (except Chaplin) seems to put classic film stars like Mae West, W.C. Fields, Buster Keaton, etc., into a different category. If Adam Sandler meets this criteria, surely Jerry Lewis does as well. I think you could, for the sake of your argument, remove comedians from the “list,” or else everyone from he Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges to Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill might fit the bill. I also assume that people with otherwise already established personas (Frank Sinatra comes to mind…oh, and Elvis Presley, I suppose) are off the list, if only to examine the motion picture persona development phenomenon more purely. That would probably extend to exclude actors who established their personalities through television, like William Shatner or Will Ferrell. That all having been said, I think that there are actually quite a few “persona” actors working today. I’d put George Clooney, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Vince Vaughn, and maybe even Jackie Chan, amongst those actors who bring very well established personas to their work (although, in Jackie’s case, mostly because of genre work). And what about some of the older actors, like Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood, and the like? In fact, you could pretty much add the entire main cast of the “The Expendables” franchise. Given a few more years, and a few better roles, one might also include Drew Barrymore, Jack Black, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Aniston, and both Luke and Owen Wilson to those who “play themselves,” as people sometimes call it. If anything, it seems like the number of disappears-into-the-role actors has dwindled to a tiny minority, with all others being “persona” actors with varying levels of success.

Still, it’s hard to place Jack Black in the same category as Cary Grant without wincing at least a little.

Posted By John Mundt, Esq. : April 17, 2013 4:39 pm

This is something that has always interested me, too. I have a question, though; do comic actors count? Your exclusion of comedians (except Chaplin) seems to put classic film stars like Mae West, W.C. Fields, Buster Keaton, etc., into a different category. If Adam Sandler meets this criteria, surely Jerry Lewis does as well. I think you could, for the sake of your argument, remove comedians from the “list,” or else everyone from he Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges to Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill might fit the bill. I also assume that people with otherwise already established personas (Frank Sinatra comes to mind…oh, and Elvis Presley, I suppose) are off the list, if only to examine the motion picture persona development phenomenon more purely. That would probably extend to exclude actors who established their personalities through television, like William Shatner or Will Ferrell. That all having been said, I think that there are actually quite a few “persona” actors working today. I’d put George Clooney, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Vince Vaughn, and maybe even Jackie Chan, amongst those actors who bring very well established personas to their work (although, in Jackie’s case, mostly because of genre work). And what about some of the older actors, like Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood, and the like? In fact, you could pretty much add the entire main cast of the “The Expendables” franchise. Given a few more years, and a few better roles, one might also include Drew Barrymore, Jack Black, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Aniston, and both Luke and Owen Wilson to those who “play themselves,” as people sometimes call it. If anything, it seems like the number of disappears-into-the-role actors has dwindled to a tiny minority, with all others being “persona” actors with varying levels of success.

Still, it’s hard to place Jack Black in the same category as Cary Grant without wincing at least a little.

Posted By AL : April 17, 2013 5:08 pm

What I’ve never been able to stand are those big stars who become ludicrous, annoying CARICATURES of themselves. Some that come to mind are Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Bill Cosby, Jack Nicholson, et al… “Screen Personalities” are different: Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, James Mason, and my personal favorite Barbara Stanwyck. I think Bela Lugosi falls somewhere in-between…AL

Posted By AL : April 17, 2013 5:08 pm

What I’ve never been able to stand are those big stars who become ludicrous, annoying CARICATURES of themselves. Some that come to mind are Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Bill Cosby, Jack Nicholson, et al… “Screen Personalities” are different: Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, James Mason, and my personal favorite Barbara Stanwyck. I think Bela Lugosi falls somewhere in-between…AL

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 17, 2013 7:55 pm

emgee, not only that, but when Errol Flynn was cast as Barrymore, his persona played into it more than the movie itself. It was about Barrymore and Flynn.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 17, 2013 7:55 pm

emgee, not only that, but when Errol Flynn was cast as Barrymore, his persona played into it more than the movie itself. It was about Barrymore and Flynn.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 17, 2013 8:02 pm

John, I think everyone will have their own set of rules for this one. Very broadly, I’m just talking about when an actor’s personal life is a clear statement on their casting. Jane Fonda’s Vietnam activism clearly was an important factor in her casting in Coming Home. Brando’s difficulties with directors informed his role as Fletcher Christian, and so on. Most other actors, from Cary Grant to Jack Black, give the audience an expectation from their onscreen personas but nothing much in their personal life informs the film.

Chaplin was a controversial figure in his personal life. Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Laurel and Hardy were not.

Think of it this way. Say someone decided to make a fictional movie in 1930 about a popular comedian who was ruined by a sex scandal. He was beloved but the sex scandal made him look like a lecherous scumbag. He’s innocent and has to deal with a ruined career and a public image he cannot shake. Now, imagine they cast Fatty Arbuckle to play the lead. That’s making a statement! That’s taking Arbuckle’s persona, onscreen and off, and taking his personal life, and casting him in the movie to inform the story at least half of the way before the audience even sees it. That’s what I’m talking about.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 17, 2013 8:02 pm

John, I think everyone will have their own set of rules for this one. Very broadly, I’m just talking about when an actor’s personal life is a clear statement on their casting. Jane Fonda’s Vietnam activism clearly was an important factor in her casting in Coming Home. Brando’s difficulties with directors informed his role as Fletcher Christian, and so on. Most other actors, from Cary Grant to Jack Black, give the audience an expectation from their onscreen personas but nothing much in their personal life informs the film.

Chaplin was a controversial figure in his personal life. Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Laurel and Hardy were not.

Think of it this way. Say someone decided to make a fictional movie in 1930 about a popular comedian who was ruined by a sex scandal. He was beloved but the sex scandal made him look like a lecherous scumbag. He’s innocent and has to deal with a ruined career and a public image he cannot shake. Now, imagine they cast Fatty Arbuckle to play the lead. That’s making a statement! That’s taking Arbuckle’s persona, onscreen and off, and taking his personal life, and casting him in the movie to inform the story at least half of the way before the audience even sees it. That’s what I’m talking about.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 17, 2013 8:07 pm

AL, I adore Barbara Stanwyck. I have a few movies of hers that I’d like to discuss here sometime, I just never get around to it. She never fell back on any crutches as an actress. Truly one of the best.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 17, 2013 8:07 pm

AL, I adore Barbara Stanwyck. I have a few movies of hers that I’d like to discuss here sometime, I just never get around to it. She never fell back on any crutches as an actress. Truly one of the best.

Posted By Gene : April 17, 2013 9:17 pm

Another great piece. I have been both fascinated and annoyed at this phenomena. I generally follow directors and writers v. actors but there are some exceptions. Bette Davis would be one. She spilled off the screen like a tidal wave with her persona. I can rarely fault a performance in spite of her bigger than life self. On the other hand, Katherine Hepburn I run hot and cold with. I love her in many early films (Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story) and later on with Suddenly, Last Summer and The Lion in Winter. Unfortunately I felt her characterization in The Glass Menagerie was swept away by persona. Speaking of Persona, I feel that Liv Ulmann could fit into this category as well. She seems to always be the same person regardless of character. Even the great Max von Sydow could be mentioned here. Though I digress from the subject a little here I was always puzzled at his performance as Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told. It was as if he had forgotten he was not in a Bergman film, or perhaps he was developing the brooding, melancholic persona that seems to weave through his oeuvre.

Posted By Gene : April 17, 2013 9:17 pm

Another great piece. I have been both fascinated and annoyed at this phenomena. I generally follow directors and writers v. actors but there are some exceptions. Bette Davis would be one. She spilled off the screen like a tidal wave with her persona. I can rarely fault a performance in spite of her bigger than life self. On the other hand, Katherine Hepburn I run hot and cold with. I love her in many early films (Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story) and later on with Suddenly, Last Summer and The Lion in Winter. Unfortunately I felt her characterization in The Glass Menagerie was swept away by persona. Speaking of Persona, I feel that Liv Ulmann could fit into this category as well. She seems to always be the same person regardless of character. Even the great Max von Sydow could be mentioned here. Though I digress from the subject a little here I was always puzzled at his performance as Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told. It was as if he had forgotten he was not in a Bergman film, or perhaps he was developing the brooding, melancholic persona that seems to weave through his oeuvre.

Posted By Doug : April 18, 2013 2:03 am

The two Toms-Hanks and Cruise surely qualify, as they are such heavy hitters in Hollywood that can they tailor movies, (in Cruise’s case, franchises) to fit their personas.
I wouldn’t say it quite like Al above:”big stars who become ludicrous, annoying CARICATURES of themselves” but I was thinking along the same lines. Some do succumb to self-caricature, I think because their profession is a very shallow one, and they as people had never developed much beyond appearance.
Example: not a star, but Rose Marie from the old Dick Van Dyke show kept her bow and hairstyle the rest of his life-her signature look became all that she had to offer; if she had changed her hair, she would have been unrecognizable.
One star who never fell into self caricature: Paul Newman.
A working actor who never quit working. You would never find him dressing as Butch Cassidy or Reggie Dunlop for conventions.

Posted By Doug : April 18, 2013 2:03 am

The two Toms-Hanks and Cruise surely qualify, as they are such heavy hitters in Hollywood that can they tailor movies, (in Cruise’s case, franchises) to fit their personas.
I wouldn’t say it quite like Al above:”big stars who become ludicrous, annoying CARICATURES of themselves” but I was thinking along the same lines. Some do succumb to self-caricature, I think because their profession is a very shallow one, and they as people had never developed much beyond appearance.
Example: not a star, but Rose Marie from the old Dick Van Dyke show kept her bow and hairstyle the rest of his life-her signature look became all that she had to offer; if she had changed her hair, she would have been unrecognizable.
One star who never fell into self caricature: Paul Newman.
A working actor who never quit working. You would never find him dressing as Butch Cassidy or Reggie Dunlop for conventions.

Posted By robbushblog : April 18, 2013 10:28 am

Maybe Clark Gable would fir the persona type. After It Happened One Night he played many characters recognizable as being “Gable-like”. So much so, that popular opinion was that he should play Rhett Butler because he WAS Rhett Butler, despite Margaret Mitchell’s view that he was not right for the part.

And I wonder what era Jimmy Stewart AL thinks was a caricature. Was it the early Capra and fumbling, “Aw, shucks”-type roles, the 50′s Anthony Mann, tough guy with troubled past roles or the older, mature actor roles?

Posted By robbushblog : April 18, 2013 10:28 am

Maybe Clark Gable would fir the persona type. After It Happened One Night he played many characters recognizable as being “Gable-like”. So much so, that popular opinion was that he should play Rhett Butler because he WAS Rhett Butler, despite Margaret Mitchell’s view that he was not right for the part.

And I wonder what era Jimmy Stewart AL thinks was a caricature. Was it the early Capra and fumbling, “Aw, shucks”-type roles, the 50′s Anthony Mann, tough guy with troubled past roles or the older, mature actor roles?

Posted By robbushblog : April 18, 2013 10:33 am

I remember thinking how perfect it was that Robert Downey Jr., a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, was cast as Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man, another alcoholic. I think RDJ fits the persona model after now playing Tony Stark four times and playing Sherlock Holmes in those crappy Guy Ritchie movies.

Posted By robbushblog : April 18, 2013 10:33 am

I remember thinking how perfect it was that Robert Downey Jr., a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, was cast as Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man, another alcoholic. I think RDJ fits the persona model after now playing Tony Stark four times and playing Sherlock Holmes in those crappy Guy Ritchie movies.

Posted By jennifromrollamo : April 18, 2013 11:23 am

An actor I thought of playing that persona was Rex Harrison. Not a negative one, either. In his earlier roles, he was playing the characters, but in his later roles, it was Rex Harrison, tailoring a role to fit him. Especially the Broadway role of Professor Higgins that landed him the film role in My Fair Lady-he told Lerner and Loew that he wasn’t a singer when the play was being cast and they told him to “talk” the songs, which he did quite successfully. He came to my mind because I just finished viewing Unfaithfully Yours, the comedy directed by Preston Sturges that Harrison stars in. I liked it, but according to Robert Osborne’s comments afterwards, the picture bombed at the box office due to a sex scandal in Harrison’s life that became quite public. That factoid goes along with your recounting of Fatty Arbuckle and his woes. Fortunately, for Harrison, his career was able to recover, but it took some time, and now UY is considered a classic.

Posted By jennifromrollamo : April 18, 2013 11:23 am

An actor I thought of playing that persona was Rex Harrison. Not a negative one, either. In his earlier roles, he was playing the characters, but in his later roles, it was Rex Harrison, tailoring a role to fit him. Especially the Broadway role of Professor Higgins that landed him the film role in My Fair Lady-he told Lerner and Loew that he wasn’t a singer when the play was being cast and they told him to “talk” the songs, which he did quite successfully. He came to my mind because I just finished viewing Unfaithfully Yours, the comedy directed by Preston Sturges that Harrison stars in. I liked it, but according to Robert Osborne’s comments afterwards, the picture bombed at the box office due to a sex scandal in Harrison’s life that became quite public. That factoid goes along with your recounting of Fatty Arbuckle and his woes. Fortunately, for Harrison, his career was able to recover, but it took some time, and now UY is considered a classic.

Posted By AL : April 18, 2013 5:13 pm

Greg–I forgot to tell you something. Your work here is outstanding; I always perk up when I see your name. You are much appreciated and respected. Keep up the good work !

Posted By AL : April 18, 2013 5:13 pm

Greg–I forgot to tell you something. Your work here is outstanding; I always perk up when I see your name. You are much appreciated and respected. Keep up the good work !

Posted By AL : April 18, 2013 5:22 pm

Jennif–Whenever I want to fall on the floor laughing, I just watch UNFAITHFULLY YOURS. The funniest movie favorite of them all. As many times as I have treated myself to a viewing, those last 15 minutes never fail to destroy me. Preston Sturges lives! Whattaguy! (BTW: I never thought about the effect the Carole Landis suicide had on the success of the film. Interesting…)

Posted By AL : April 18, 2013 5:22 pm

Jennif–Whenever I want to fall on the floor laughing, I just watch UNFAITHFULLY YOURS. The funniest movie favorite of them all. As many times as I have treated myself to a viewing, those last 15 minutes never fail to destroy me. Preston Sturges lives! Whattaguy! (BTW: I never thought about the effect the Carole Landis suicide had on the success of the film. Interesting…)

Posted By jennifromrollamo : April 18, 2013 5:31 pm

AL-I recently watched UY again, and Harrison’s speech in that last 15 minutes was very funny, especially the part where he gets his wife’s hometown in Michigan wrong and she gently corrects him-I found that bit delightful, as my husband’s folks and relatives are all from or are still in Michigan. :)

Posted By jennifromrollamo : April 18, 2013 5:31 pm

AL-I recently watched UY again, and Harrison’s speech in that last 15 minutes was very funny, especially the part where he gets his wife’s hometown in Michigan wrong and she gently corrects him-I found that bit delightful, as my husband’s folks and relatives are all from or are still in Michigan. :)

Posted By AL : April 18, 2013 8:41 pm

Jenn–SIMPLICITA–”So simple it operates itself”

Posted By AL : April 18, 2013 8:41 pm

Jenn–SIMPLICITA–”So simple it operates itself”

Posted By jennifromrollamo : April 18, 2013 8:45 pm

AL-lol!

Posted By jennifromrollamo : April 18, 2013 8:45 pm

AL-lol!

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 21, 2013 10:48 am

Thanks, AL, I really appreciate such a high compliment.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : April 21, 2013 10:48 am

Thanks, AL, I really appreciate such a high compliment.

Posted By vp19 : April 23, 2013 8:30 am

When did William Powell become a persona? From “Interference” on, he had that distinctively urbane voice that registered him as unique. His Warners films with Kay Francis (“One Way Passage,” “Jewel Robbery”) cast him as an erudite rogue, sort of an upscale Clark Gable. But I think it’s apparent his first Nick Charles film sealed the deal; while Powell had previously played Philo Vance, the addition of Myrna Loy as his foil clinched things, helping lead the way to his 1936 output, arguably the best calendar year any actor has ever had.

Posted By vp19 : April 23, 2013 8:30 am

When did William Powell become a persona? From “Interference” on, he had that distinctively urbane voice that registered him as unique. His Warners films with Kay Francis (“One Way Passage,” “Jewel Robbery”) cast him as an erudite rogue, sort of an upscale Clark Gable. But I think it’s apparent his first Nick Charles film sealed the deal; while Powell had previously played Philo Vance, the addition of Myrna Loy as his foil clinched things, helping lead the way to his 1936 output, arguably the best calendar year any actor has ever had.

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