Becoming the Role

         Some movies are made better by an actor or actress who will become their character and be able to more convincingly portray their character. These actors and actresses are able to convince the audience that the story is actually happening to them. They are able to not be themselves but to put themselves in the position of their character. This helps to make a movie a great movie. Two actors that we watched during this semester seemed to portray their characters better than other actors. The two actors were Laurence Olivier (Wuthering Heights) and Marlon Brando (A Streetcar Named Desire).

         Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler in 1939, was an excellent movie. The storyline was written originally by Emily Brontë in 1847 and the screenplay by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht in 1938. This story was a wonderful novel to read so in the 30s, Samuel Goldwyn decided to produce a movie about it. There is not so much action or pizzazz in this movie--it relies on the brooding, evil Heathcliff to create a hate in your heart towards him. This is where Laurence Olivier was able to shine. He used the looks that he was naturally given, the dark, tall handsome figure, to perfect this part. He was used to theatre and therefore seemed to be yelling more than necessary, but that really suited Heathcliff in the movie and therefore made the movie better. He was able to become the character that Heathcliff was--the mean, unloving man who wanted revenge on those who had wronged him, namely Cathy (Merle Oberon). Laurence Olivier though was not usually accustomed to playing these vengeful, dark characters. He was playing a completely different role from what he had in the past and future. He would soon play roles like Hamlet, Othello, and Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice, directed in 1940 by Robert Z. Leonard. These are in sharp contrast to Heathcliff's character. Thus, it takes a great actor to portray Heathcliff and do such a great job when he had never played such a role before.

         A Streetcar Named Desire, written in 1947 by Tennessee Williams, is another favorite from this semester. It was wonderfully written in a way that gave the reader's imagination a playground to play upon. The author's interpretation is not clearly stated and therefore it is up to the reader to decided different things about the characters. One of the standout characters in this 1951 movie, directed by Elia Kazan, is Stanley, played by Marlon Brando. He is a very rough character--beating up his wife, Stella (Kim Hunter), raping his sister-in-law, Blanche (Vivien Leigh), and drinking causing him to become quite violent. He was a seemingly careless individual who only cared about himself. Marlon Brando was a kind of character who could portray an "I don't care what you think about me" type role. He mastered this in A Streetcar Named Desire. He was able to go from a seemingly calm mood to an explosive temperament in which he would do something that later he would regret like throwing a radio out of the window or hitting his wife. He was able to play other characters also like Terry Malloy in Elia Kazan's 1954 On the Waterfront and Marc Antony in Julius Caesar, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1953. He had great range to be able to act these different parts and play them convincingly.

         Laurence Olivier is considered by many to be the greatest actor of all time. Many others consider him to the best actor of the twentieth century. "He could speak William Shakespeare's lines as naturally as if he were "actually thinking them," said English playwright Charles C. Bennett about Olivier. It is no wonder that Olivier was able to pull off such a horrific role such as Heathcliff when he was such a great actor. The awards and accomplishments show the greatness of this actor. Marlon Brando is also considered to be one of the greatest actors of all time. He was such a versatile actor and was so convincing in his roles that the public supported his movies. American actors are still being compared to him using the "Brando ruler." People still want to watch such movies as Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, and Apocalypse Now!, directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1979.

Ben Hocker

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