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The Greatest Performance on Film


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I think Peter Lorre in "M" is the obvious answer. Also Bob Hoskins in "Mona Lisa" really affected me. Before I saw it, I only knew him as a character actor in American movies and I was amazed at how deep he was in Mona Lisa and Long Good Friday.

 

I also need more time to think about it.

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Wow. Good question, and not one I think I can easily answer.

 

But for an early performance that affected me and helped to shape the rabid animal lover that I am, I'd have to say Willis O'Brien's creation of King Kong. The empathy drawn to that creature, which still stands today, was and is amazing.

 

As to greatest performances by a human, hmmmm. Burgess Meredith in Of Mice and Men, Cary Grant in anything, Marlon Brando in Godfather, Olivier and Oberon in Wuthering Heights. Not show stopping performances for everyone, perhaps, but ones that affected me.

 

It is probably a personal choice after all, right?

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I've said this before, maybe even on these boards, but I think Al Pacino in Godfather 1 & 2 is the greatest performances on film ever, in my opinion. I've watched a lot of movies but I think he shows a great range in the role of Michael Corleone.

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I hve two that are my favorite Gregory Peck in "To Kill

a Mockingbird" no one else on earth could've played that

role Gregory Peck was Atticus Finch!...

Also Spencer Tracy in "Guess who's coming to Dinner"

his final scenes are a triumph to say the least....

while Kate looks on tearfully knowing its his last hurrah and not because it was in the script....

that's only my opinon not based on any actual fact. lolite.

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It's difficult to choose, but I think Vivien Leigh in "A Streetcar Named Desire" is probably my choice for greatest performance ever. I know that Jessica Tandy originated the role on Broadway, but I can't really imagine any other Blanche Dubois than Leigh.

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Interestingly I was thinking of Vivien Leigh but for the 1940 film WATERLOO BRIDGE, which I recently re-watched recently. But now that you mention A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, I agree that performance ranks at the very top.

 

Unlike The New York Times I will not disclose any spoilers, but Hilary Swank's performance in MILLION DOLLAR BEAUTY is the best I have seen by an actress in years.

 

Finally, I usually choose very dramatic performances for this category, but I also think Fred Astaire's performance in THE BANDWAGON is just brilliant, I am really looking forward to the upcoming DVD set.

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What you read about Garbo in '37's "Camille" (M-G-M)

is virtually printed in most books about motion picture history!

You may have read>"The M-G-M Story?" I cannot personally disagree though. However, her performance in '33's "Queen Christina," is also up there-(her most legendary final!)

I also easily agree with *Vivien Leigh-(1913-667) in both *"GWTW" & especially "A Streetcar"-(most say it's was the worst thing for her to do, in playing that role though. It let too-many demons out)

There is Falconetti in "Passion of Joan of Arc" (1928-French/Silent) For some reason the ACADEMY totally ignored it & her?

& of course *Streep in & as "Sophie's Choice"(1982)

What all-time list of greatest performances could possibly be compiled without: Charles Chaplin-(1889-1977)

It's a close-vote as well between> "City Lights" (1931) & '36's "Modern Times"

*Lord 0livier in "Richard 111" (1956)-(another of his 10 noms. I'm not a Shakespeare fan, but 1 must respect his brilliance!)

& of course my #1 Idol/Hero: *Spencer Tracy in "Inherit the Wind" (1960)-(close call, performance-wise, with '58's epic all by himself work in "0ld Man & the Sea"

 

Oter all-time performances by actors & actresses:

*De Niro as Jake LaMotta in "Raging Bull" &

*0rson as Charles Foster Kane in you know what!?

 

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The definition of "greatest" is so subjective (not to mention perplexing). Personally, while I love all the big, unforgettable performances by the greatest legends in film, it's often the lesser-known stars that stand out best for me. I guess this is because the classic stars had roles tailored for their own personalities, which I'd already become so comfortable with, while the lesser-known actors could sometimes overwhelm me with a surprising rawness and "newness." Someone here has already mentioned Bob Hoskins in Mona Lisa, which is indeed a true gem of a performance. If I really wanted to sit down and remind myself of how moving acting can be, I'd probably watch Maria Falconetti in Passion of Joan of Arc, James Murray in The Crowd, Lon Chaney in He Who Gets Slapped and Conrad Veidt in a Chaney-like turn in The Man Who Laughs.

 

When speaking of star performances, I feel that anything Chaney or Garbo did in the silent era reached an emotional depth rarely matched since then. I admire Jimmy Stewart tremendously for It's a Wonderful Life, in taking a story and character that seemed so silly on paper, and turning George Bailey into a man so believable and so beloved. Director Frank Capra was quite demanding of actors with his extreme close-ups, and he expected Stewart to tell the whole story through his face (which, to me, is the true measure of the acting elite). In the modern era, if I wished to view the fine art of film acting, I'd probably choose Russell Crowe in The Insider and A Beautiful Mind, Anthony Hopkins in The Remains of the Day, and at least several of Meryl Streep's performances. And Johnny Depp, IMO, doesn't receive enough recognition for the unique personality traits he brings to each and every one of his roles. Depp doesn't need the pretentious Oscar to validate his immense creativity.

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Orson-Lever I agree with you that "Greatest" has to be an entirely personal viewpoint. Vivien Leigh, without question, garners my ultimate Number One vote for her Scarlett O'Hara portrayal. This was a once-in-a-lifetime role and she was the magical choice to play it. Bette Davis portrayed three roles that were beyond extraordinary: as Stanley Timberlake in "In This Our Life," as Fanny Skeffington in "Mr. Skeffington" and as Rosa Moline in the much maligned classic, "Beyond the Forest." Each of these three performances were bigger than life and only volcanic Bette could pull them off.

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Pattypancake..you are correct in saying only Bette Davis could pull off a performance like Rosa Moline in "Beyond the Forest."It was truly bigger than life and Bette was amazing. I wonder why TCM did not include this Oscar nominated film in it's 31 Days of Oscar.

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twtpark, you're soooo right about Bette delivering an incredible performance as the frustrated, Madame Bovary housewife who murders and slinks around in "Beyond the Forest," a movie that truly deserves the accolade of "bigger than life!" Maybe you've noticed it, too, but TCM NEVER shows "Beyond the Forest." Or, if they have, it's in those horrible wee hours when most of us are in the land of nod.When I saw "Beyond the Forest" on the big screen in one of NYC's once abundant revival houses, the packed theater stood up and screamed and applauded for nearly fifteen minutes--because the mighty Bette was there in person to answer questions about her career! She What a never-to-be-repeated experience for us all. She admitted that the reason she's always knocked this l949 classic is that she was totally miserable with both Warner Brothers and her poor husband.

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Obviously, this question is insane and unanswerable as posed, but some of my FAVORITE performances include:

Humphrey Bogart, The Petrified Forest

Samuel L. Jackson, Jungle Fever

Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man

Andy Griffith, A Face in the Crowd

John Hurt in just about anything

Steve Buscemi in just about anything

Anything John Goodman does for the Coen Bros.

 

Unfortunately actresses are used hired to be iconic, and seldom get to present the kind of realism that stands out in my eyes, so I'm having a harder time coming up with any standout actress performances.

 

Well:

Gloria Swanson, Sunset Boulevard

Shelley Winters, A Patch of Blue, Lolita

Liz Taylor, Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf

Thora Birch, Ghost World

Judy Davis in just about anything

 

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One other performance that comes to mind is Peter Sellers in Being There. I thought of this, due to the fact that the Academy is seeing fit to award a mimic (Jamie Foxx) Best Actor this year, and Sellers was certainly among the best mimics in film history. But Sellers took mimicry far deeper, inhabiting his characters so deeply and so amusingly, he'd make you forget just how truly bizarre most of them were. As Chance the gardener, Sellers had to be a convincing man-child who's oblivious to almost everything except gardening and TV, yet whose face conveys intelligence, strength and profundity to the impressionable outside world. As always, Sellers was way ahead of his time, with the Academy waiting many years to award far shallower versions of a simpleton (Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump) and mimicry (Foxx in Ray). Just personal opinions, of course.

 

As for the frequent mentions of Bette Davis, how do you single out just one performance, for a body of work so huge, so impressive, and so varied? I would probably say the same about Barbara Stanwyk. Too difficult to narrow it down to one (or anywhere close to that).

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When I first saw this thread go up, my first thought was that this is a hopelessly impossible question to answer because there are dozen upon dozens of "Great" performances rendered by actors/actresses through the years...so I didn't reply. I have continued, however, to follow along with this tread, and have enjoyed reading what our members identify as their "Favorite" performances.

 

As "Favorites" go, mine tend to blow with the wind over time, but one that came to mind today, at least, was Patty Duke's performance in "The Miracle Worker". That dining room scene, shared with Anne Bancroft, is (in my mind) one of the most brilliant scenes ever filmed in one take, but it's not the only one in which Miss Duke shined throughout the movie.

 

As soon as I can stop playing "eenie-meenie-miney-moe" concerning so many of my favorite male performances, I'll be back. ;)

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Bette Davis as Margo Channing, in All about Eve.

 

which is a VERY painful decision, considering

1) how many incredible performances she gave (this being quite late considering)

2) well...all the other actors and actresses.

3) how many Im forgetting.

 

 

for actresses I might have said Katharine Hepburn in The philadelphia story, as it did resurrect her career, and you cant help but gasp when you see her go!

"south bend...it sounds like dancing, doesnt it"

but maybe I will have the self-confidence to stick to my decision. If i were to watch the movie, Im sure I could.

 

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