Good Enough to Be the Best

         When considering what a good actor means to me, I look at certain qualities. I look for three particular qualities in an actor that include; voice and body expression, character persistence throughout movies, and evolution of the actor to become the desired character in the film. Throughout this semester I have witnessed many different actors in films. By reading the books before seeing the motion I pictured, I was skeptical of the actors, by prejudging. I wanted the actors to be just like their counterparts in the books.

         When I think of a certain actor that did not act to my standards, I think of Montgomery Clift, who played Morris Townsend in William Wyler's 1949 The Heiress. Now, while I was reading Henry James's 1880 Washington Square, I envisioned Morris as a cocky and smart-mouth jerk. Clift disappointed me completely with his acting. I was not convinced that he was the same Morris that Henry James wrote about. He seemed like an actor that had the ability, but he did not show it. He lacked the "Snake in the Grass" attitude I was looking for. One scene I recall, takes place when Morris and Aunt Lavinia (Miriam Hopkins) are in Dr. Sloper's (Ralph Richardson) office, with Morris smoking and drinking. I wanted Morris to be more conniving and plotting against Sloper. I figured that the true jerk would have taken more advantage of Dr. Sloper. He also lacked in persistence of his character.

         In the musical My Fair Lady, filmed in 1964 By George Cukor and based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, I feel Rex Harrison was another actor that did not fill his character. This is not due to the fact of lousy acting, but over-acting. Harrison seemed too tense and unsure of himself for me to believe he was the Henry Higgins in Pygmalion. I got the feeling that he overly exerted his facial expressions and voice projections. I realize that it was and is a musical production and actors are suppose to bring in the musical aspects. I believe that it is a film first, and with that the actor should act accordingly to give the true expression of the character. The band wagon would say that Rex Harrison is deserving of his nomination for best actor from the Academy Awards. I, on the other hand, proclaim that he did not earn this honor on his portrayal of Henry Higgins; he put out too much in his performance and took away his true intentions of acting.

         When thinking of a actor who portrayed hisr character better than the above actors, I envisioned in the book, I think of Marlon Brando. Brando played Stanley in the 1951 motion picture A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan and based on Tennessee Williams' 1947 play. Brando by far showed me what an actor was supposed to do in a film. I remember in the Elia Kazan's documentary that he said that he left to Brando "go with it." To learn that this was truly the actor and not the director astonished me. I got more and more into Brando's character as the story went on. I thought he was the total package that Stanley was supposed to be.

         In conclusion I am glad that we read and watched A Streetcar Named Desire last in the semester. I am glad of this because I would have compared all the previous actors to Brando. I feel that Brando did what it took to transform into his character. I would rather an actor act to the character assigned, than steal the show and be the "star" of the film. Brando is now installed in my mind as a great actor for these reasons.

Preston Bradley

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