Unless you have lived your entire life in a remote cave you have seen movies. Probably lots of movies and movie stars o over the years. Inevitably those stars are associated some particular role they played in a film whether they like it or not. Some definitely would have preferred not to have been remembered for some role and have that role define their acting ability and their persona but that is the way things are. Just like some of us get defined by our family for a particular incident or event that occurred perhaps years ago but it lives on in family lore. The following is not even an attempt to be a “top ten” list of stars or roles but merely a listing of some famous stars and their roles that became their identifying role when you think of them. It is not in any order, timewise or otherwise. But offered for your consideration and amusement.
1. Katherine Hepburn was certainly one of the big stars of all time; however, you really can’t come up with a particular role that jumps out at you, that became her signature role. The closest one would probably be her portrayal of the missionary in African Queen. She played with some of the biggest names in Hollywood but never had that defining role.
2. While we are on Hepburns let’s continue with Audrey. One of the all time chick flicks of course is Breakfast At Tiffany’s and her Holly Golightly will always be her role. A close second for her would have been Eliza in My Fair Lady. You might disagree but Holly had that sparkle and certainly more than an ounce of devilishness.
3. Clark Gable is an easy one. He had many great roles and performances over the years. It Happened One Night will remain a classic for good reason, not the least of which was his removing his shirt on-screen which at the time was considering exceedingly scandalous. But there is not doubt that Rhett Butler is the role he is best remembered for and telling Scarlett he didn’t give a “damn” which again was a scandal of that age. Gone With The Wind may be old but it still shows and that is the Clark the ladies love to remember.
4. The Duke, John Wayne made a bunch of movies and is surely remembered for his many military roles over the years and those dozens of westerns he made. Hondo was a particularly good western. But he will best be recalled for Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. It was as good flick but my personal favorite for the Duke is a true gem but lesser known film–The Quiet Man. So well done and a family film for all and with those classic and timeless comedic touches.
5. Anthony Hopkins is one of the great actors to be in film. He had many wonderful roles but for good or ill he will always be associated with The Silence of the Lambs and his role as Hannibal Lector. I am sure he would rather be recalled for other roles but that is the way it is. They will be re-running Silence for you grandchildren as a scary spooky film. I liked best his role as the British major in A Bridge Too Far.
6. Spencer Tracy was one of the greats but probably will be remembered by most for his portrayal of Clarence Darrow in Inherit The Wind. That is a shame because the movie as is so often the case with those “based” on true stories so terribly distorted the truth of those events as to such truth unrecognizable. But it was great drama, no doubt. Personally I like his role in Bad Day At Black Rock.
7. Marilyn Monroe was not a good actress but any measure but she was certainly famous as a movie star. Without question the role that comes to mind is her Honey in Some Like It Hot. She did what she did best which was to look sexy as can be and enough comedic timing to work well with Lemmon and Curtis.
8. James Cagney is another who made many films and was very talented. Many forget that he was quite the song and dance man and only remember his tough guy roles. Take another look at Yankee Doodle Dandy sometime and you’ll see he was only a notch behind Gene Kelly or Donald O’Connor. But his role that will live on is that role as the Captain in Mr Roberts. He meshed perfectly with Fonda, Douglas and Lemmon and gave the movie its punch. And he allowed him one more time to be the tough guy with an excuse and almost a soft heart because of his background. A great flick by any measure.
9. There was no bigger star during the ’60’s than Steve McQueen. He made lots of action adventure films but he’ll best be recalled for his role in the Great Escape as the daring doing and relentless American attempting again and again to escape from the Stalag. Personally I thought Papillon was his best role but the movie is such a downer most won’t warm to it but it is terrific and an example of human determination to survive.
10. George C. Scott is an easy one. He made many films and had even had a successful career on TV which most forget portraying a social worker in New York during the ’50’s. But of all his great roles there is no question that we’ll all think of him as Patton. In hindsight how could they have considered anyone else for that part? He became Patton during that movie and we believed we were seeing Patton come to life.
That is it for now. Yes, yes, I know there are so many stars not mentioned. That is Ok. You can ponder some of your favorite stars and roles and we’ll continue another time.
“Half of directing is casting the right actors.” John Huston. http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com