SableGamine

Actors Whose Images/Personas Have Not Aged Well

226 posts in this topic

    We all know that there are some actors and actresses whose screen personas, regardless of who or what they play, stands the test of time.  Forty, fifty, or even eighty years later, the impression that they have left on the screen still remains fresh and accessible to generations of audiences.  

     Then....there are the others.  Those who remain distant and inaccessible to modern audiences (who are admittedly fickle), and whose work is either forgotten or outright rejected.  Here is the space for us to talk about those performers who just don't seem to "click" anymore, even with lovers of classic films like ourselves.  It may be because of the roles they played.  Maybe it's because of the "look" that they projected.  Maybe it's because something in their offscreen lives (their actions, politics, or general character) permeated their screen image.  Or maybe it's just a feeling that one gets when watching them that makes one uncomfortable, or less than impressed.  Let's talk about some of these actors, and come up with some reasons as to why they just haven't made it.  Feel free to express and defend your opinions, and as always, let's keep it respectful and above the belt (but y'all already know that.)

   One point of clarification:  I'm not talking solely about underrated actors.  Rather, I'm referring to people who may have been wildly popular during their day, but have not maintained their popularity in the present.

 

 

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One of the first people who came to my mind when I thought of this topic was Leslie Howard.  There's just something about his screen image that I personally don't like; he always came off as rather effete and sanctimonious.  What makes this ironic is that he was aware of this image and often expressed resentment about it, especially since it was so far removed from his activities in real life.  I also wonder whether it has something to do with the shifting ideas of what constituted a handsome leading man.  Each decade of the 20th century had a specific "look" in mind for the actors and actresses of that period (think about the dress shapes of the 1950s, or the hairstyles of the 1920s.)  While I think Leslie Howard fit the idea of a '30s leading man very well, perhaps his entrenchment in that decade may have contributed to the difficulty of accessing/identifying with that persona in later decades.  

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Just as another point of clarification; I'm not necessarily knocking the acting skills of these performers (although there are some who are fair game.)  I'm just saying that the implementation of their acting skills may not have translated in the best way.

 

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    We all know that there are some actors and actresses whose screen personas, regardless of who or what they play, stands the test of time.  Forty, fifty, or even eighty years later, the impression that they have left on the screen still remains fresh and accessible to generations of audiences.  

     Then....there are the others.  Those who remain distant and inaccessible to modern audiences (who are admittedly fickle), and whose work is either forgotten or outright rejected.  Here is the space for us to talk about those performers who just don't seem to "click" anymore, even with lovers of classic films like ourselves.  It may be because of the roles they played.  Maybe it's because of the "look" that they projected.  Maybe it's because something in their offscreen lives (their actions, politics, or general character) permeated their screen image.  Or maybe it's just a feeling that one gets when watching them that makes one uncomfortable, or less than impressed.  Let's talk about some of these actors, and come up with some reasons as to why they just haven't made it.  Feel free to express and defend your opinions, and as always, let's keep it respectful and above the belt (but y'all already know that.)

   One point of clarification:  I'm not talking solely about underrated actors.  Rather, I'm referring to people who may have been wildly popular during their day, but have not maintained their popularity in the present.

Lew Ayres, Helen Hayes, Marie Dressler are three I can think of. Also Janet Gaynor, Paul Muni, and Fredric March come to mind. 

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Interesting choices.  Please feel free to elaborate on why they haven't aged well.

 

Mostly, it's Hollywood telling many (silently) Don't call us, we'll call you.

 

 It's sad having Hollywood to throw them a bone like having Elizabeth Taylor to appear in "The Flintstones", not exactly a glittering way to end a career. I guess someone called her a dinosaur and... never mind.

 

7149_view.jpg

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Lew Ayres, Helen Hayes, Marie Dressler are three I can think of. Also Janet Gaynor, Paul Muni, and Fredric March come to mind. 

Lew Ayres- great actor and geuine pretty boy type- but physique standards have changed, and people generally are not keen on seeing his films, which are of mixed bag quality. They have trouble relating to his talent in his performance based on the characters they play. 

 

Helen Hayes- The First Lady of the American Stage who was barely in film. Nowadays, people don't value the stage as they used to in her time, moreso they value film, so it is hard to respect and explore someone who dallied and did not commit. 

 

Marie Dressler- people, outside of a the classic film lover, don't know who she is, let alone her films. She is just an award winner whom, based on looks, is a question to many people. She was also a Depression-era star and her films, though diverse and versatile, mostly appealed to Depression audiences. There has been a huge culture change since then, both film industry and country.

 

Janet Gaynor- first Best Actress Oscar winner, outside of the classic film lover, not much interest in silent films pre-The Artist. 

 

Paul Muni- The 30s Robert De Niro. Robert De Niro is still among us doing the exact same thing he did regarding bringing to reality historical figures and serious in the approach to doing so. I read an article about Leonardo DiCaprio falling into a Paul Muni track of sorts with the biopics he does lately, but the author had to explain who Muni was. 

 

Fredric March- similar to Paul Muni, plus the added difference of being a classically trained actor when everyone usually does film .

 

This is the best I could do. I personally don't feel this way, just observations I've made. 

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Very interesting premise for a thread topic, SG. I like it.

 

First, I would guess the reason Leslie Howard might now seem, well, "anachronistic", might be his penchant for playing the "vacillating intellectual", as it seems in today's world, that sort of persona isn't considered as "attractive" as it perhaps might have been decades ago. Just a guess, of course.

 

I think I'll add another Brit here...Ronald Colman, though for a slightly different reason...the idea that perfect diction employed by actors of that era, now days almost seems an "affectation" and less natural somehow.

 

(...don't get me wrong here however, as I STILL enjoy watching both Leslie AND Ronald in many a movie they're in) 

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I would also like to have "hepclassic" elaborate on why he/she picked those stars to be considered

in this thread. They don't fit the definition that "SableGamine" described for this thread.

So please tell us in detail "hepclassic" why you picked these stars.

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Mostly, it's Hollywood telling many (silently) Don't call us, we'll call you.

 

 It's sad having Hollywood to throw them a bone like having Elizabeth Taylor to appear in "The Flintstones", not exactly a way to end a career. I guess someone called her a dinosaur and... never mind.

 

7149_view.jpg

And then when the higher-ups DO call them in, it's usually for another typecast role, which doesn't help matters. And at least Eluzabeth Taylor was a gorgeous "dinosaur"; she looked better than both the female leads in that film. I'm just saying.

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Lew Ayres- great actor and geuine pretty boy type- but physique standards have changed, and people generally are not keen on seeing his films, which are of mixed bag quality. They have trouble relating to his talent in his performance based on the characters they play. 

 

Helen Hayes- The First Lady of the American Stage who was barely in film. Nowadays, people don't value the stage as they used to in her time, moreso they value film, so it is hard to respect and explore someone who dallied and did not commit. 

 

Marie Dressler- people, outside of a the classic film lover, don't know who she is, let alone her films. She is just an award winner whom, based on looks, is a question to many people. She was also a Depression-era star and her films, though diverse and versatile, mostly appealed to Depression audiences. There has been a huge culture change since then, both film industry and country.

 

Janet Gaynor- first Best Actress Oscar winner, outside of the classic film lover, not much interest in silent films pre-The Artist. 

 

Paul Muni- The 30s Robert De Niro. Robert De Niro is still among us doing the exact same thing he did regarding bringing to reality historical figures and serious in the approach to doing so. I read an article about Leonardo DiCaprio falling into a Paul Muni track of sorts with the biopics he does lately, but the author had to explain who Muni was. 

 

Fredric March- similar to Paul Muni, plus the added difference of being a classically trained actor when everyone usually does film .

 

This is the best I could do. I personally don't feel this way, just observations I've made.

 

I agree with Marie Dressler and Helen Hayes big time, and I do agree that a lot of it has to do with changing tastes and expectations as time passes on. I once read that Fredric March (whom is one of my all-time favorite actors and whom I find extremely attractive) was considered the consummate "gentleman's' actor", whom they could always rely on to bring a sense of class to a production. He's an interesting one in that he got his feet wet in nearly every genre.

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Very interesting premise for a thread topic, SG. I like it.

 

First, I would guess the reason Leslie Howard might now seem, well, "anachronistic", might be his penchant for playing the "vacillating intellectual", as it seems in today's world, that sort of persona isn't considered as "attractive" as it perhaps might have been decades ago. Just a guess, of course.

 

I think I'll add another Brit here...Ronald Colman, though for a slightly different reason...the idea that perfect diction employed by actors of that era, now days almost seems an "affectation" and less natural somehow.

 

(...don't get me wrong here however, as I STILL enjoy watching both Leslie AND Ronald in many a movie they're in)

 

I agree about the situational attractiveness regarding Leslie Howard, and I definitely allow for the fact that the sexy of eighty years ago is to the sexy of today. As for Ronald Colman, I think that his perfect diction did have a lot to do with it, especially as method acting came into vogue ( I'm not knocking method acting by any means, though). Also, he does tend to come off as a little stiff in many of his roles.

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I could see Marie Dressler being popular on TV now, maybe as the mother in a sitcom. The Dressler phenomenon isn't all that dated, it's that her audience moved.

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Leslie Howard (big time), Paul Henreid, John Gilbert, George Brent, Herbert Marshall, Joe E. Brown, Kay Francis, Margaret Lindsay, Norma Shearer (in her later stages), Paul Muni (also big time), Gregory Peck (too bland and "decent"), Franchot Tone, Clifton Webb.

 

Many of these are actors or actresses I personally like, but they all seem of another age entirely, either for the excessively mannered persona (Howard, Brent, Marshall, Webb) or their completely dated screen characters (Gilbert, Brown).  Whereas others who may seem dated on the surface (Harlow, Warren William, Clara Bow) have the sort of inner twinkle that make them seem forever young and fresh.  I'd put Marie Dressler in this latter category, since her rumpled look and wrinkled puss is wholly beside the point. 

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Hugh Grant, Jude Law, et al are just updated versions of the Howard-Colman type. There will always be a sizable percentage of the female audience that gets turned on by the Englishman (see Downton Abbey message boards)

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I just thought of another one from the 30s; Kay Francis. She's one of those actors whom people don't initially recognize until they see her face, and then say, "Oh! Yes, I remember her...sort of." She basically played the same role in every film, and was content to just waltz around in those opulent dresses and faint her way through unrealistic plots; she actually loved it. I understand Bette Davis' frustration at her popularity, especially when she (Davis) was the better actress, one who didn't mind looking frumpy to get into a role. Also, no matter what Jay Francis did in the movies, even when her character was clearly in the wrong, the films were tailored to make it seem as if she were right.

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Hugh Grant, Jude Law, et al are just updated versions of the Howard-Colman type. There will always be a sizable percentage of the female audience that gets turned on by the Englishman (see Downton Abbey message boards)

Colman and Howard never did it for me. Give me Stewart Granger!

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I have trouble seeing Clifton Webb in leading film roles today. But Mr Belvedere was a hit sitcom relatively recently, so who know how he'd do in TV...

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Leslie Howard (big time), Paul Henreid, John Gilbert, George Brent, Herbert Marshall, Joe E. Brown, Kay Francis, Margaret Lindsay, Norma Shearer (in her later stages), Paul Muni (also big time), Gregory Peck (too bland and "decent"), Franchot Tone, Clifton Webb.

 

Many of these are actors or actresses I personally like, but they all seem of another age entirely, either for the excessively mannered persona (Howard, Brent, Marshall, Webb) or their completely dated screen characters (Gilbert, Brown).  Whereas others who may seem dated on the surface (Harlow, Warren William, Clara Bow) have the sort of inner twinkle that make them seem forever young and fresh.  I'd put Marie Dressler in this latter category, since her rumpled look and wrinkled puss is wholly beside the point.

 

I've heard people refer to Gregory Peck as being "wooden" in his performances, but I wonder how much of that was due to the roles themselves, and what was required of him, rather than his overall acting skills. Herbert Marshall's dated persona may have something to do with the fact that he often came off as ineffectual. He rarely had a happy marriage or personal life onscreen. George Brent fell into the Ralph Bellamy trap somewhat.

I agree with Warren William's ability to transcend. There's always room for a rakish/wolffish character wanting the most out of life, something that I'm sure many people can de itch with in the modern day. There's also his reputation as a ladies' man that speaks to a segment of the fellas in the audience.

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I've heard people refer to Gregory Peck as being "wooden" in his performances, but I wonder how much of that was due to the roles themselves, and what was required of him, rather than his overall acting skills.

 

It had probably more to do with the requirements of his roles than any innate defect he had as an actor, since there were a few cases where he strayed from his usual persona and played the parts quite well.  But Peck's exaggerated stolidity makes him seem like a creature of a long forgotten yesteryear.  Of all the well known actors of the post-WW2 generation, perhaps only Doris Day (whom I inexplicably forgot to mention before) seems as impossible to imagine as a believable character type today, although I suppose Day could reprise herself as a self-parody to fairly good effect. But her middle aged virginal "type" as a romantic lead pretty much dropped off the cliff the moment she retired.

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I would also like to have "hepclassic" elaborate on why he/she picked those stars to be considered

in this thread. They don't fit the definition that "SableGamine" described for this thread.

So please tell us in detail "hepclassic" why you picked these stars.

You can call me by my screenname, hepclassic, or hep, as some like to call me. No need for quotes. 

 

The premise of the thread rests in the title, screen stars whose image/persona has not aged well, and in the elaboration, she mentioned stars whom people do not know today based on popularity and notice. Those five were the ones off the top of my head. Personally, I do like all the stars I've mentioned in my list, but I am also aware that people of today might not know them as easily if they did not already had an interest to dig to find them. 

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I agree with Marie Dressler and Helen Hayes big time, and I do agree that a lot of it has to do with changing tastes and expectations as time passes on. I once read that Fredric March (whom is one of my all-time favorite actors and whom I find extremely attractive) was considered the consummate "gentleman's' actor", whom they could always rely on to bring a sense of class to a production. He's an interesting one in that he got his feet wet in nearly every genre.

When Fredric March did "What's My Line?" in the mid-fifties, the panel could not guess him easily, and could not remember what he was famous for. It was a bad indication on the pop culture end that contributed to the obscurity the general public might not know too easily about, even though March continued making films until the mid-1970s. 

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When Fredric March did "What's My Line?" in the mid-fifties, the panel could not guess him easily, and could not remember what he was famous for. It was a bad indication on the pop culture end that contributed to the obscurity the general public might not know too easily about, even though March continued making films until the mid-1970s. 

 

That's so hard to believe. But I suppose things were so different in an era in which there were only three major television networks --and none of them were showing movies in prime time. And remember, there was no definitive book on the Academy Awards and Oscar winners until Robert Osborne did his first history in 1965. Just imagine how March would be greeted if he was alive today and made an appearance at a TCM Classic Film Festival.

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When Fredric March did "What's My Line?" in the mid-fifties, the panel could not guess him easily, and could not remember what he was famous for. It was a bad indication on the pop culture end that contributed to the obscurity the general public might not know too easily about, even though March continued making films until the mid-1970s. 

 

Yeah, and not only THAT hep, but one of the freakin' stagehands even spelled Fredric's name wrong on his nameplate!!! LOL

 

(...I remember this from seein' it a few years back while being hooked on those GSN reruns of this program) 

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