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Actually, an Oscar is the best revenge. Gene Hackman, Star of the Month


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Although it may not have been as full of interest on a personal level as other Stars of the Month, Gene Hackman's life could be viewed as the quintessential Hollywood backstage story.  Coming from a broken home and absent father (which nobody, Hackman included, makes anything of), and after a stint in the Marines, he knocked about the country as a radio announcer.  Determining to put that to good use, he enrolled in the Pasadena Playhouse, where he met another aspiring actor you may have heard something about:  Dustin Hoffman.  His time there was wildly successful (from the story's perspective), as he and Mr. Hoffman were voted the least likely to succeed.  Since they were already in California, they had no alternative but to go east to New York to seek their fortunes.  While there, they joined up with yet another actor you may also in your ramblings have got wind of:  Robert Duvall.  Yet more success, as they worked any number of appropriately menial and demeaning jobs, while they chased bits and pieces of acting, and caught some worthwhile instructing from people keenly perceptive about their inherent talent, or maybe just out of pity for their miserable condition.  The nadir for Mr. Hackman must have come when, working as a Howard Johnson doorman, a Pasadena instructor happened by and crowed over how he still amounted to nothing.  But he persevered, and eventually the gods relented, granting him a role in a play along with Sandy Dennis.  He must have had something by then, because it led to his first substantial movie role in Lilith (1964).  When it came time to cast the part of Clyde Barrow's brother in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Warren Beatty remembered him, and Bob's-your-uncle.  That was his first Oscar nomination.

 

Since then, oh, Best Actor Oscar, Best Supporting Actor Oscar, four Golden Globe awards, two BAFTA awards--if you need to take care of anything, go ahead, the list goes on for a while. . . .so, story complete, he went out there a kid, and came back a star.  And that instructor?  Well he is gnashing his teeth and tasting bitter gall, not even having the consolation of telling himself that he may be a movie star, but he still can't act.

 

What appeals to me in Gene Hackman is a naturalness to his performance.  This is understandable, considering his inspiration for acting was Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), and his instruction was in the method.  Remarkably, I haven't seen many of his movies, but they include his best performances.  And I'm not talking only about The French Connection (1971).  He gave a great performance in I Never Sang For My Father (1970), where he plays a man longing to move ahead with his life, yet tangled up with family matters revolving around the disposition of his aging father, played by Melvin Douglas.  It's a terrific example of the contrast of different acting traditions, one I've watched only once, because it's such a downer.  But that's the kind of stuff you got in the 70s.  I think my favorite role of his was in Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974), where he plays a tightly wound man coming unraveled.  One of the best things about that is his realization of the irony that his efforts to cut himself off from society and remain anonymous were just a rationalization to cover his inability to form connections with people--and that those efforts were pitifully inadequate, anyway.

 

I'm going to make an effort to watch more of his movies, even if it means I have to force myself to watch Lilith (1964), and The Gypsy Moths (1969).

 

Gene Hackman, Star of the Month, Fridays in September.

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Although it may not have been as full of interest on a personal level as other Stars of the Month, Gene Hackman's life could be viewed as the quintessential Hollywood backstage story.  Coming from a broken home and absent father (which nobody, Hackman included, makes anything of), and after a stint in the Marines, he knocked about the country as a radio announcer.  Determining to put that to good use, he enrolled in the Pasadena Playhouse, where he met another aspiring actor you may have heard something about:  Dustin Hoffman.  His time there was wildly successful (from the story's perspective), as he and Mr. Hoffman were voted the least likely to succeed.  Since they were already in California, they had no alternative but to go east to New York to seek their fortunes.  While there, they joined up with yet another actor you may also in your ramblings have got wind of:  Robert Duvall.  Yet more success, as they worked any number of appropriately menial and demeaning jobs, while they chased bits and pieces of acting, and caught some worthwhile instructing from people keenly perceptive about their inherent talent, or maybe just out of pity for their miserable condition.  The nadir for Mr. Hackman must have come when, working as a Howard Johnson doorman, a Pasadena instructor happened by and crowed over how he still amounted to nothing.  But he persevered, and eventually the gods relented, granting him a role in a play along with Sandy Dennis.  He must have had something by then, because it led to his first substantial movie role in Lilith (1964).  When it came time to cast the part of Clyde Barrow's brother in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Warren Beatty remembered him, and Bob's-your-uncle.  That was his first Oscar nomination.

 

Since then, oh, Best Actor Oscar, Best Supporting Actor Oscar, four Golden Globe awards, two BAFTA awards--if you need to take care of anything, go ahead, the list goes on for a while. . . .so, story complete, he went out there a kid, and came back a star.  And that instructor?  Well he is gnashing his teeth and tasting bitter gall, not even having the consolation of telling himself that he may be a movie star, but he still can't act.

 

What appeals to me in Gene Hackman is a naturalness to his performance.  This is understandable, considering his inspiration for acting was Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), and his instruction was in the method.  Remarkably, I haven't seen many of his movies, but they include his best performances.  And I'm not talking only about The French Connection (1971).  He gave a great performance in I Never Sang For My Father (1970), where he plays a man longing to move ahead with his life, yet tangled up with family matters revolving around the disposition of his aging father, played by Melvin Douglas.  It's a terrific example of the contrast of different acting traditions, one I've watched only once, because it's such a downer.  But that's the kind of stuff you got in the 70s.  I think my favorite role of his was in Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974), where he plays a tightly wound man coming unraveled.  One of the best things about that is his realization of the irony that his efforts to cut himself off from society and remain anonymous were just a rationalization to cover his inability to form connections with people--and that those efforts were pitifully inadequate, anyway.

 

I'm going to make an effort to watch more of his movies, even if it means I have to force myself to watch Lilith (1964), and The Gypsy Moths (1969).

 

Gene Hackman, Star of the Month, Fridays in September.

Gene Hackman and Gene Wilder are now front and center. Not only did they share the same first name, but I believe they were first noticed in the same film, BONNIE AND CLYDE.

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Gene Hackman and Gene Wilder are now front and center. Not only did they share the same first name, but I believe they were first noticed in the same film, BONNIE AND CLYDE.

 

It used to be that a pair of Genes meant Kelly & Nelson, or else denim.

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Gene Hackman was also Sherwood Schwartz's first choice for the role of Mike Brady in "The Brady Bunch." But Schwartz then decided against him and went with Robert Reed, because Reed was a bigger name.

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It took a few years, but former roommates Hackman and Hoffman finally appeared opposite each other as trial lawyers in the 2003 drama "Runaway Jury." The film was based on the best-selling 1996 novel by John Grisham.

 

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Gene Hackman was also Sherwood Schwartz's first choice for the role of Mike Brady in "The Brady Bunch." But Schwartz then decided against him and went with Robert Reed, because Reed was a bigger name.

That would have been a whole other show. Kind of like going with Don Rickles in a Beckett play instead of his favorite actor Jack MacGowran.

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Sandy Dennis became a critics' darling on Broadway in the hit comedy Any Wednesday, playing the mistress of a businessman. That was Gene Hackman's role. Hackman found her difficult to work with. 

 

Hackman almost worked with Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. He was cast as the father of Katharine Ross, but was replaced by Murray Hamilton.

 

Sepiatone is right that the general public was initially more taken by Michael J. Pollard, whose career went bust very quickly. Pollard would have fared better in the old studio system, where he  would likely have had the same kind of career as a character actor like John Qualen. Hackman, however, won one film critics' award as best supporting actor (National Society of Film Critics, I think), got an Oscar nomination, and got hired for a number of jobs. The French Connection even made him a leading man, which he really wasn't. When he stopped getting leading man roles, he quite naturally returned to being the outstanding character actor he always was.

 

Hackman had a really wonderful career, though he must have had doubts back in the Howard Johnson doorman phase.

 

Gene Hackman was the actor who impressed me most in Bonnie and Clyde when it first came out, not least because he looked, sounded, and acted convincingly Southern, which native Southerners know is not too common. I believe Hackman came from Missouri, parts of which are very much like the South.

 

I remember going to The Gypsy Moths when it came out because I wanted to see Gene Hackman and Scott Wilson, both of whom I liked in the film, which is neither a must-see or must-avoid to me. However, slayton, I have my own list of "can't make myself watch them" movies, so I do sympathize.

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Hackman almost worked with Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. He was cast as the father of Katharine Ross, but was replaced by Murray Hamilton.

 

 

Hackman was only 10 years older than Ross,  but I guess with make-up anything can be done.  

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Hackman almost worked with Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. He was cast as the father of Katharine Ross, but was replaced by Murray Hamilton.

 

 

It was a lucky break for Hackman, who later told The New York Times he probably was fired "because I hadn't committed to the character. I just wasn't showing them what could happen."

 

Warren Beatty found out that Hackman was available and offered him the breakthrough role of Clyde Barrow in "Bonnie and Clyde."

 

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Hackman and Faye Dunaway in "Bonnie and Clyde"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Does TCM have rights to many Gene Hackman movies? This past Friday Gene Hackman’s night of movies ended at 2am and this Friday it will end at 3:45am unlike other SOTM I’ve viewed where their night ended at 6am or in cases like Cary Grant SOTM in December 2014 and July’s Olivia de Havilland ended late the next morning.

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Does TCM have rights to many Gene Hackman movies? This past Friday Gene Hackman’s night of movies ended at 2am and this Friday it will end at 3:45am unlike other SOTM I’ve viewed where their night ended at 6am or in cases like Cary Grant SOTM in December 2014 and July’s Olivia de Havilland ended late the next morning.

 

Typically the more current (recent) a movie is the higher the cost to lease the film.   In addition TCM has difficulty leasing films from studios like Universal and 20th Century Fox for various reasons (e.g. Fox has their own networks).    

 

These could be some of the reasons but some SOTM tributes do end the 'day' around 4:00 am.

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Does TCM have rights to many Gene Hackman movies? This past Friday Gene Hackman’s night of movies ended at 2am and this Friday it will end at 3:45am unlike other SOTM I’ve viewed where their night ended at 6am or in cases like Cary Grant SOTM in December 2014 and July’s Olivia de Havilland ended late the next morning.

 

 

It may be a combination of his not having as extensive a filmography as studio-era stars, and his films probably being more expensive to rent, they being newer, and some of the best-known movies.

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Thanks. That explains it. Kind of unfortunate given he has movies from the 80s and early 90s that could air on TCM for Gene Hackman's SOTM.

 

Well I admit I was surprised (but glad just the same), that TCM even picked an actor for SOTM that didn't make many studio era movies (the era ending around 1968 IMO).

 

There are many other actors that got their start in the late 60s or early 70s that TCM hasn't honored as well as actors like Brando (who isn't one of my favorites but he was a major star of the 50s and 60s).

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