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ACTING! vs. modern acting


KidChaplin
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When I say ACTING!, I reference the over the top actor character of Jon Lovitz on SNL. I was wondering what your impressions are of how acting has evolved. How actors were more over the top or animated in the classic years compared to today. I'm not saying some actors of today dont overact, but I refer to the common over animated acting of the classic years to today's. 

Being in the silent movies, you had to really get yourself across with your face and body, but what is your opinion of why actors continued to be so active and animated in the classic years?

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Some examples might have helped since IMHO not all "classic" film actors  were "over actors".  Plus there's times such method might be suggested for some particular character the actor/actress is portraying.  But an old (and favorite) story comes to mind about acting practices........

During the making of MARATHON MAN ('76) a scene was coming up in which Dustin Hoffman's character was supposed to have gone without sleep, or even bathing for 12 of more hours.  Hoffman showed up for the shoot after actually going without sleep and showering for a few days, so dedicated was he to the "method".  Amused by this, co-star Laurence Olivier asked him;  "My dear boy, why not just try ACTING?"  ;) 

Sepiatone

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I think this is one of the reasons some young people are put off by older films. Being B&W or silent is their first reason (or excuse), but the acting plays a role (pun intended). After Brando and the whole Actor’s Studio movement changed the craft, some older film acting looks almost campy in comparison.

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One theory is that back-in-the-day the actors had to generate the "action" instead of CGI and other film making techniques.   

Another theory is that in the early days of talking pictures,   there were a lot more stage plays that were made into films  (way higher percentage then today, by far),  and stage acting is often more animated due to the first theory I raised;   simple sets and where the actors generate more of the "action".      Plus many of the actors came right from Broadway to make the film or had seen the play on Broadway (as well as the director),  and there was carry-over of the stage type of acting into the film.

But my POV here is that it is mostly a myth that actors were more over the top back-then they they are now:  Yes, the first decades or so of taking picture did feature actor who got their start in silent films and some of them did tend to "overact" but by the late 30s,  and into the 40s this was less and less common and actors that started with talking pictures didn't tend to do that.      Another reason would be the directors - they took more control.

When we look back at films (or music),  most people tend to remember the more animated film performances,  and have seen specific scenes that have been played as clips multiple times.       Thus these folks tend to believe these clips represent an actors overall body of work.    E.g.  Bette Davis;     Typically when someone tells me she is way-over-the-top I ask what films they have  seen;    Typically they mention Baby Jane,  and not,  say,  The Corn is Green.       Or they reference the Of Human Bondage "I wash my mouth scene". 

Yes,  Bette is animated in this scene but that doesn't represent her acting in the entire film and especially her entire career.   

 

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Hopefully, I worded my point clearly. I didnt want to give the impression of misrepresenting animated acting to acting a scene that had to be emotional or intense. What I am referring to is something like the way a man would grab a woman by both shoulders and slam her into him, the eyes are darting all about, the woman looking like she is melting with love and scared to death at the same time. He slams his mouth into hers. Their faces smashed together. That kind of acting. I know there are scenes like that in modern day, but scenes like I described seemed more commonplace than now. 

One genre that clearly shows a massive difference is westerns. The difference in westerns acting from then to now is like night and day. 

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11 minutes ago, KidChaplin said:

Hopefully, I worded my point clearly. I didnt want to give the impression of misrepresenting animated acting to acting a scene that had to be emotional or intense. What I am referring to is something like the way a man would grab a woman by both shoulders and slam her into him, the eyes are darting all about, the woman looking like she is melting with love and scared to death at the same time. He slams his mouth into hers. Their faces smashed together. That kind of acting. I know there are scenes like that in modern day, but scenes like I described seemed more commonplace than now. 

One genre that clearly shows a massive difference is westerns. The difference in westerns acting from then to now is like night and day. 

Well if one is discussing love scenes one major reason would be that back-in-the-day,  due to the Code,  all they could do to  suggest on-fire sexual desire was things like "grab a woman by both shoulders and slam her into him, the eyes are darting all about, the woman looking like she is melting with love and scared to death at the same time",  etc.  Even the length of a kiss was closely monitored by the censors. 

Hey,  maybe I'm just over defending back-in-the-day filmmaking,  acting,  direction,,,  because 95% of the films I have seen over the last 30 years are from the 30s - 60s (e.g.  I have only seen recently made films when flying to Europe,  since I haven't been to a non-revival theater in decades).     So I can't really compare the eras.     

 

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I rather like the screen acting of old (pre-Method), and I don't often find it over the top, I find it rather natural, even if the people seem bigger than life.

Then you have those middle periods (from the 50s to I'd say the 90s, maybe early 00s) where it was more empasized to be invested in the character and more low-key, to still have a strong personality though. It lead to plenty of chameleon -like performers.

Nowadays though, i feel that some younger actors and actresses are a bit too low-key. I really can't get too excited about many of the ones born past the late 70s. Only a few have that real spark about them....

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While Im Sure this is a Subjective Point Here ..

 

  I,ve Personally Found that.. ...overall; the Quality and Calibre of Acting Has Taken a Tumble And a Nose-Dive As Time Has Gone On..

 

 

Many Many times.. ... scenes.. ..a character(s)... .. .....and/or a director seems too..

...contrived.,. wooden... ..and / or forced.. .by and large ...

. ... ..

(EASILY, My FAVOURITE Performers Working Today Are Robin Wright,. Naomi Watts,. Noomi Rapace,. Rooney Mara,. Mads Micchelson (sp),. Vincent Casel,. William Defoe,. .. and Jaoquin Phoenix (* sp),.,.

 

 

 

 

And Increasingly Robert Pattinson, for me,.

 

   Though Not Initially ... .

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4 hours ago, spauldingd said:

I think this is one of the reasons some young people are put off by older films. Being B&W or silent is their first reason (or excuse), but the acting plays a role (pun intended). After Brando and the whole Actor’s Studio movement changed the craft, some older film acting looks almost campy in comparison.

Sorry, but every time I hear this thought expressed about method acting changing the whole craft of film acting and so often how method actors weren't as "broad" in their performances as their predecessors, I think of two performances done by two of what many people say were two of the earliest actors to make a big slash in the film industry by use of "The Method". 

These two...

 tenor.gif?itemid=3309593

giphy.gif

Uh-huh, suuuure. There's nothin' "broad" goin' on HERE, huh! ;)

(...point being, some of the greatest film acting existed back when Spencer Tracy, Fredric March and Bogart were plying their craft, AND even after the two pictured above with their "method" had come on the scene)

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2 hours ago, CinemaInternational said:

I rather like the screen acting of old (pre-Method), and I don't often find it over the top, I find it rather natural, even if the people seem bigger than life.

Then you have those middle periods (from the 50s to I'd say the 90s, maybe early 00s) where it was more empasized to be invested in the character and more low-key, to still have a strong personality though. It lead to plenty of chameleon -like performers.

Nowadays though, i feel that some younger actors and actresses are a bit too low-key. I really can't get too excited about many of the ones born past the late 70s. Only a few have that real spark about them....

Still can find a handful whom can actually act.

Micheal Shannon in "Man of Steel"

 

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3 hours ago, Dargo said:

Sorry, but every time I hear this thought expressed about method acting changing the whole craft of film acting and so often how method actors weren't as "broad" in their performances as their predecessors, I think of two performances done by two of what many people say were two of the earliest actors to make a big slash in the film industry by use of "The Method". 

These two...

 tenor.gif?itemid=3309593

giphy.gif

Uh-huh, suuuure. There's nothin' "broad" goin' on HERE, huh! ;)

(...point being, some of the greatest film acting existed back when Spencer Tracy, Fredric March and Bogart were plying their craft, AND even after the two pictured above with their "method" had come on the scene)

I was going to post a similar sentiment.  Some of their performances go way over the top.  Perhaps I've never known someone IRL that was so dramatic, but their choices seem out of kilter to me.  The only one of Dean's performances I cared for (not that there are a lot to sample, unfortunately) was in Giant.

I give actors in the 30s and early 40s some breaks, as they were still learning what worked and what didn't work on screen, with sound, during that time.  The old style from silent pictures didn't work in that medium, and stage acting tends to be broader by nature since you have to play to the balcony, so that style can come across as too big on film.  

There was a TCM interstitial a few years back on Katharine Hepburn, narrated by Anthony Hopkins, and he quoted Kate from their filming The Lion In Winter.  His quote on the video is a bit different from this one, which I copied from IMDb, but it had the same spirit (though this one comes off as more arrogant than his quote in the video):

Don't act. Leave that to me; I act all over the place. You don't need to act. You've got a good face, you've got a good voice, you've got a big body. Watch Spencer Tracy, watch the real American actors that never act, they just do it. Just show up and speak the lines.  

Hopkins later regarded this as the best acting advice he had ever been given.

Of course, Spencer Tracy was the model of understatement in most of his roles, and he was famous for stealing scenes without saying word.  His performances, to me, are some of the most natural looking acting on screen, especially from the "Golden Era.," though he had a few clinkers over the years as well.

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3 hours ago, Dargo said:

(...point being, some of the greatest film acting existed back when Spencer Tracy, Fredric March and Bogart were plying their craft, AND even after the two pictured above with their "method" had come on the scene)

I always like watching Frederic March and Jim Backus using their actor improvisation to try and take the scene back from Dean's sudden on-set method-histrionics.  A good professional actor has to know how to keep the show going, despite last-minute emergencies.

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In the most recent biography of Marlon Brando that I read, the author's stated position is that Brando was NOT Method, and every critic or reviewer from the past 60 years who cited Brando as Method gets a nudge-nudge-wink-wink we're in the Insiders Club here knowing smirk from the author as if to say to his readers, "Boy, wasn't this guy REALLY stupid? Consider yourself fortunate, Dear Reader, that you and I aren't nearly as stupid as this person who just called Brando Method!"

If there's any truth to this, I have no idea which performances are pre-, during and post-Method. There's intense emotionality in all eras of movie acting. I only know when I personally find the acting legit or phony. And while I find both Brando and Dean pretty legit, I find an actor like Victor Mature pretty phony. Hope that's helpful. 

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15 hours ago, EricJ said:

I always like watching Frederic March and Jim Backus using their actor improvisation to try and take the scene back from Dean's sudden on-set method-histrionics.  A good professional actor has to know how to keep the show going, despite last-minute emergencies.

Huh?

I wasn't aware that Frederic March was in ANY of Dean's three flicks.

And in response to Dargo's mention of Spencer Tracy up there.  I thought it was believed that Tracy didn't "act", but reacted instead.  

Sepiatone

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4 hours ago, Sepiatone said:

Huh?

I wasn't aware that Frederic March was in ANY of Dean's three flicks.

Oops, sorry--I always confuse March with Raymond Massey, who had to deal with James Dean's sudden Wiseau-esque "You're tearing me APART!" in East of Eden.

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4 hours ago, EricJ said:

Oops, sorry--I always confuse March with Raymond Massey, who had to deal with James Dean's sudden Wiseau-esque "You're tearing me APART!" in East of Eden.

That is my favorite part of the movie.  That and Sal Mineo on top of the ferris wheel.

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