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From Defect to Asset


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I'm sure many a potential career has been ruined by unexpected situations. An athlete might receive a crippling injury or diagnosis and so on. In the acting field, one would think a disfigurement might also end a career, but occasionally the alteration can be used to good advantage witness the career of British star Leslie Banks.

Having received a serious injury in World War I, that scarred and left paralysis to one side of his face, one might think he would not be able to go on. But Leslie Banks was able to channel his skills and utilize said injury to great advantage in his many film roles, particularly things like his portrayal of the dastardly Count Zaroff in "The Most Dangerous Game". When the camera goes in for close ups in said film, I am always struck by the unearthly expression on his seemingly divided face. It would take more than an injury like that to portray diabolical intent, but along with his superior talents as a thespian, he uses his injury and makes it become an asset.

I caught him last night in the 1935 film "Transatlantic Tunnel" and also could see that when the facial alteration was not employable as an asset, he nullifies it by how he moves and uses his instrument.

Name others in the entertainment field who have been able to overcome such possible tragedies to their greater and later advantage.

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Harold Russell lost both hands due to an accident while serving in WWII.  He played on this disability in his role in The Best Years of Our Lives and won an Oscar.  Not quite what you are looking for as he wasn't an actor to start, but a great example of overcoming adversity nonetheless. 

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Herbert Marshall lost a leg during WW1. He had a wooden leg in all the films we see him in.

Nanette Fabray was diagnosed with severe hearing loss while in her 20's. She had said she always thought that because she did so poorly in school she wasn't smart. She just couldn't hear. She excelled as a comedian and as an actress in musicals

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19 minutes ago, EugeniaH said:

Harold Russell lost both hands due to an accident while serving in WWII.  He played on this disability in his role in The Best Years of Our Lives and won an Oscar.  Not quite what you are looking for as he wasn't an actor to start, but a great example of overcoming adversity nonetheless. 

So nice to see you here, Eugenia. Good choice in Russell; I'd always hoped he was in more films, but I guess he had more important tasks to achieve. Thanks!

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5 minutes ago, lavenderblue19 said:

Herbert Marshall lost a leg during WW1. He had a wooden leg in all the films we see him in.

Nanette Fabray was diagnosed with severe hearing loss while in her 20's. She had said she always thought that because she did so poorly in school she wasn't smart. She just couldn't hear. She excelled as a comedian and as an actress in musicals

I remember reading that many years ago in the Katz book and would always watch as Marshall walks in a film, but it is very imperceptible.

Didn't Fabray also have a very serious accident which basically almost destroyed her nose and she had to have some metal plate put in? I think I saw her once on a talk show rebroadcast when she mentioned how it would kill her when it got cold as her nose would be freezing. You can see her original nose which was much different and not nearly as flat, in the Bette Davis and Errol Flynn picture about Elizabeth and Essex. I was not really aware of her hearing problem, Lavenderblue so thanks for that information.

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4 minutes ago, CaveGirl said:

So nice to see you here, Eugenia. Good choice in Russell; I'd always hoped he was in more films, but I guess he had more important tasks to achieve. Thanks!

Per Wikipedia, Russell also won an honorary Oscar (the same night) for inspiring hope in other veterans - the only time in history someone has been awarded twice for the same performance.  It was so interesting to read that, so I'm glad I have the chance to add it.  :) 

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