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A few good actors …

Today I’m referring Rusters to two items related to the world of cinema that I spotted in the media overnight.

JOAN CRAWFORD (1904-1977)

Firstly, a straightforward link to an article worthy of being read by as wide a readership as possible, written by Clarisse Loughrey on the subject of the career and influence of one of the all-time great Hollywood stars.

See here upon the website of – THE INDEPENDENT

 

JACK NICHOLSON IN A FEW GOOD MEN (1992)

Secondly, Marina Hyde is a regular quality contributor to The Guardian newspaper whose articles I always find stimulating. She has just posted an opinion piece upon the travails of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn over his attendance – and participation in, or not? – a ceremony in Tunisia in 2014 to commemorate 47 Palestinians killed in an Israeli air strike upon a PLO base in 1985 which allegedly also appeared to salute the nearby graves of Black September members who had taken part in the atrocity at the 1972 Olympics in Munich in which 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team and a German police officer were killed.

Here I am not commenting upon Mr Corbyn’s embarrassment or otherwise at the current media controversy – my line on the issue being that is it beyond both my Rust brief and pay grade – but simply drawing Rusters’ attention to Ms Hyde’s ‘connection’ between it and the famously tense court room scene in A Few Good Men in which Nicholson, playing Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, is goaded by young military attorney Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise) into a self-condemning witness box speech extemporising upon the theme “You can’t handle the truth!”

Reading Marina Hyde’s piece overnight, I took time out to avail myself of the four-minute video extract from that scene included with it.

Reflecting upon it afterwards, I was reminded of my experience of watching the movie in the cinema and (as it were) watching said scene ‘for real’.

It was regarded at the time – and indeed remains – a well-made and quality piece of work.

Tom Cruise, in my view an often underrated actor, puts in an outstanding performance as the cocky, maverick, young lawyer who meets the girl (Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway, played by Demi Moore) and, after a decidedly inauspicious series of starts, gradually ‘gets serious’ – both about the alleged ‘Code Red’ murder of an inadequate marine he’s been sent to investigate and also the girl.

The action builds ever so slowly to the court room confrontation between Kaffe and Jessup which, in other (porn film) circumstances, would have been described as the ‘money shot’, if not the ‘money scene’.

Here credit should be given to Aaron Sorkin, who both wrote the original play upon which the film was based and the movie script itself (with help from Hollywood screenwriter legend William Goldman).

No disrespect intended to Rob Reiner (who produced and directed the film) and his fellow producers David Brown and Andrew Scheinman, but they, Columbia Pictures and all the project’s backers must have been as smugly pleased as punch when the day dawned that they first appreciated that they’d managed to bring together not only script gold but a cast list of the moment to die for.

Which brings me to the performance of Jack Nicholson.

In recent times – in which heterosexual white actresses have been forced to pull out of movie projects under hails of social media and PC-obsessed storms of criticism because (in one case, Scarlett Johanseen) they were ‘not transgender enough’ and (in the other) ‘not Puerto Rican enough’ to play the role of transgender and Puerto Rican characters, and the heterosexual Jack Whitehall is currently getting huge amounts of stick for being cast as a gay character in a Disney movie – the world of acting has gone semi-crazy.

Whatever happened to the notion that the giveaway truth about this noble profession is in the very word (acting)?

I think I’m correct in asserting that when Lawrence Olivier starred in the 1976 movie Marathon Man with Dustin Hoffman, at one point he became a little irritated with the length and complications of Hoffman’s preparations for a specific scene.

After an hour or more of delay as Hoffman wound himself up, not least with tortuous anguish over his character’s motivations during the coming scene that involved not only the director but even the camera crew and floor manager, the aged and somewhat frail Olivier could finally take no more.

He leaned over to Hoffman and suggested helpfully the equivalent of “My dear boy, why don’t you try just acting it?”

There have been some great, great movie actors throughout history but in my opinion few who have ever been able to match Jack Nicholson – now aged 81 – for giving the impression not just that he is inhabiting his role – whatever that is in any particular film – but that he is not acting at all.

In short, when at his best, he is one of the few actors around who somehow manages to convince the onlooker that he has actually become the character he is playing.

See here for a link to the Marina Hyde article referred to, and indeed within it a link to the scene in A Few Good Men that I have been discussing, on the website of – THE GUARDIAN

About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts