I’m not as young as I look, girl, I’m old school

A couple of recent discussions, and some recent online reading, have led me to think about the following.

I can’t think of any female stars in Hollywood today who can pull off what Lauren Bacall did effortlessly: play older than her actual age. The demand, for years, has been for twenty-somethings who can play teenagers and thirty-somethings who can play college girls. But Bacall could hold her own as a romantic lead against a man old enough to be her father.

Who today has that gravity? Ellen Page, maybe, but (as was pointed out to me recently) she’s been pigeonholed into low-presence roles. Anyone else?

Also: I was reading an article online about Burt Lancaster and a similar thought occurred to me. In two of my favorite classic movies, From Here to Eternity and Gunfight at the OK Corral, Lancaster does something that I can’t vision a male action star doing today. He lifts a woman by the waist and lowers her to the ground – in the former from a rocky outcropping, in the latter from the saddle of a horse. I’m sure there are action stars today with the raw lifting capacity to pull that off, but I can’t picture anyone doing it as gracefully.

The closest I can see to that type is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He’s got the muscle, the fluidity of movement and the boyish charisma. However I can’t see The Rock taking on roles as challenging as Lancaster’s, like a Nazi judge being tried by a military tribunal, or a gay hairdresser (not played for laughs) (which role he lost to William Hurt), or an anti-Vietnam movie at the height of the Vietnam conflict (which he took a pay cut to finance). Lancaster wasn’t just good hair and teeth, don’t forget – he had acting chops, too.

I know, I know – kvetching about how great the movies of yesteryear were never goes out of style. But don’t blame me for wanting more out of Hollywood.

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8 Responses

  1. That said, I’d spend ten bucks to see The Rock in a remake of Judgment at Nuremburg.

  2. From Here to Eternity is still in my Netflix queue. I may have bump it up a few positions. I absolutely loved Judgment at Nuremberg and am still impressed with his performance there as the Nazi judge. Plus, it was a bit weird to see William Shatner in that movie in a fairly subdued role.

    He’s definitely a class act and, you’re right, I cannot imagine any current stars filling those big shoes of his. Then again, I don’t think Hollywood’s ever replaced actresses like Ingrid Bergman or Katherine Hepburn.

  3. Russell Crowe.

  4. Tom – “Judge. Jury. Executioner.”

    Mark – It’s worth the bump.

    Herb – I don’t know why, but Russell Crowe’s always struck me as really short.

  5. Hugh Jackman. The images released thus far from “Australia” seal the deal for me.

  6. (I’ve seen Russell Crowe — he ain’t short.)

    What about Eric Bana?

  7. As for young women with gravity, I’ll recommend Natalie Portman. She hasn’t been in many roles that’s required it – there aren’t that many out there – but her turn in The Professional was excellent. She’s played against older guys often, like in V for Vendetta. And when it was her versus Anakin Skywalker, she seemed a billion years more mature than he did.

    On the subject of Burt Lancaster: he is built like the state of Texas (narrow at the bottom, huge at the top except for a small, squarish head) due to his upbringing in the circus. I’m not sure there’s anyone else out there who’s had a life of hard work followed by a life of acting. Maybe one of the martial artists / actors? I think that’s why the Rock comes to mind – he was physical for a living. He didn’t work with a personal trainer to carefully maximize muscle tone for a role.

  8. Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman both seem short but are not. Christian Bale, while he’s one of those dudes who only gets buff for roles, gets pretty damn buff.

    The new James Bond guy could probably carry women around. Hell, Clark Gable did it. Actresses just aren’t that heavy.

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