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Underrated?


BenHere
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What does it mean when an actor is called underrated? Does it mean the critics don't (or didn't) give them their due? Or that the fans don't recognize their talent? I think that when a performer isn't as well remembered by today's general public as others (ie William Powell vs John Wayne) some folks mistakenly say that he/she is underrated. Even if there's a solid consensus among the ones who pay attention that said actor is definitely among the greats. Which means they're not really underrated.

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Well in many cases I think you are right; i.e. the user (poster), is just saying "I really like them, but others don't appreciate them as much as do".

 

But the terms overrated or underrated can also be used to indicate what critics or groups (e.g., AFI) think or the number of awards or nominations they have have not received.

 

For example, I think the AFI underrated Olivia De Havilland since she is NOT in their top 25 list of actresses but other actresses with less talent (IMO) are listed.

 

Many (me for one) think Stanwyck was under appreciated since she never won an oscar etc....

 

 

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Believe me, I can use the terms when I'm discussing films. For example, it's not at all untrue that VERTIGO was underrated at the time of its release and I suppose someone could say that the reverse is true and that it's overrated now. The same might apply to RIO BRAVO or THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.

 

I just tend to shy away from saying something such as THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH was overrated. First, I doubt than anyone who voted it Best Picture had anything in mind but a career award for De Mille, as much as perhaps John Wayne's TRUE GRIT Oscar was awarded with similar thought.

 

None of it really means a lot to me anyway. I grew up on horror and sci-fi as well as westerns and crime films that rarely then received many plaudits. I learned not to rely on critics or public approval when it came to the films that I enjoyed. I still get more of a kick out of ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS than I do from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.

 

I'm not one who spends a lot of time on reviews although I do read a lot about film history. Not to dismiss anyone here or on any of the boards in which I participate, but I don't spend a lot of time weighing a film and coming up with a rating for it. I don't spend time making lists to determine if something should get a 80.5 or an 80.7 on the scale. I'd rather spend the time watching another film.

 

I do agree that Stanwyck wasn't properly appreciated by the Academy, but with a career that lasted as long as her's did, it's obvious that the public liked her. Cary Grant and Edward G. Robinson never won a competitive Oscar, but both are among the best in their craft.

 

What was the quote about John Wayne? "Nobody liked him except the public."

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What does it mean when an actor is called underrated? Does it mean the critics don't (or didn't) give them their due? Or that the fans don't recognize their talent? I think that when a performer isn't as well remembered by today's general public as others (ie William Powell vs John Wayne) some folks mistakenly say that he/she is underrated. Even if there's a solid consensus among the ones who pay attention that said actor is definitely among the greats. Which means they're not really underrated.

 

Good points. I think that "underrated" is often just used as a synonym for "largely forgotten by the public today" as opposed to "underappreciated by true film buffs". And it's all in the eyes of the beholder. My own favorite, Barbara Stanwyck, is relatively forgotten today compared to (say) Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor, but I can hardly imagine a film critic who's seen more than half a dozen of her films who would seriously rank her acting ability below those two. ( Whether or not critics or buffs *like* her more than Monroe or Taylor is another question altogether.)

 

Where I do see a gap is between the opinions of the AFI "legends" voters and the opinions of cultists, a description which I have to admit fits me. From where I sit, the AFI judges are mostly interested in what they see as "star" quality, and they tend to underrate actors who lack outsized personalities. These lists also----obviously----favor those actors who managed to live long lives, or very short lives with tragic deaths, and actors whose screen personae reflect the sort of broadly defined "character" that they identify with, for whatever reason. Perhaps this is why the AFI uses the term "legends" in their rankings of actors and actresses rather than a less subjective word. And perhaps this is why I suspect very few of us here pay much attention to the AFI in formulating our own opinions about actors.

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I see we have a similar POV on this topic; First one has to define who is doing the rating; e.g. fans, cultist (hardcore classic movie fans like us), critics, the AFI, etc... Second one has to determine what the criteria for judgement is.

 

AFI clearly isn't basing their list on star quality and a star's impact to film. Based on those criteria Monroe clearly warrants a high ranking. But if the criteria is more about acting performances, then someone like Olivia De Havilland should be in their top 25.

 

I do find it interesting that Drednm things Monroe is underrated. To me she is highly overrated by your average movie fans (e.g. ask someone under 50 to name 3 classic movie actresses and most will mention Monroe), by the AFI based on their criteria, and because she is an icon. No one has forgotten Monroe.

 

But to many cultist (me for one), she was only average in her acting ability. i.e. she only had very good performances in a few of her films. By the time she did The Misfits she was really good, but sadly that was it for her.

 

 

 

 

 

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Well those 'in the know' have more knowledge about behind the scenes politics than I do but yea, there were lots of factors that influenced voting. How much money a studio would spend to promote a star or film for an oscar had an impact. Of course studio bosses like Jack Warner often didn't want his stars to get an oscar because then they would ask for more cash or demand better roles!

 

As already noted sometimes the winner is really winning for a prior performance (e.g. Bette Davis in Dangerous, Bogie in The African Queen?), or a lifetime of prior performances. This is why one should take these awards, rankings, etc.. with a gain of salt. They offer only one perspective but it can be fun to discuss them (like discussing sports in a sports bar!). But there isn't a need to view them as having some type of final say. Unlike sports where 'the best' has a clear measuring stick - winning the title.

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote} I think we're getting tied up in semantics.

Which was the point of my original post - are people misusing the term "underrated? To me, actors are underrated if they're not given credit for their talent or for the arc of an oustanding career. It has less to do with nominations and awards, and even less to do with folks who don't care for classic films in the first place not remembering who Walter Brennan is (for example).

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When you say 'people' whom do you mean? It appears to be classic movie fans based on your comments.

 

If that is the case, how does one measure how much credit an actor or actress is getting by classic movie fans?

 

For example, there is the CFU favorite stars list. Is number of views a measure? If so Karl Malden is #1 (but I think someone gamed the system). But review of the top stars have many of the standard ones AFI or other groups have ranked; Grant, Bogie, Davis Stanwyck, but then some choices I disagree with like Monroe and Flynn being #3 actress and actor. So number of views reflects mostly just a popularly contest OR the people in CFU don't represent classic movie fans????

 

So I still wonder how one determines how much credit someone is getting or not getting without some type of polling or data source, other than the comments we read here which represent a very limited number of people (but a group of people whose opinion I highly respect as it relates to classic movies)..

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Good one, and I'd have to agree. Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and fanaticism is subjective, you might not agree with me on an actor whom I might consider underrated.

 

Evelyn Brent is an example. I never heard of her, never saw her in a film, until TCM ran High Pressure. She was natural, believable, and I actually remembered her name today.

 

So to me, Evelyn Brent is underrated. Ditto on Marian Marsh.

 

 

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Well the number of views for Karl was below 100,000 or so and than all of a sudden it was over 4,000,000! Hey, I think Karl is one of the best non leading actors of the classic era but ahead of Grant and Bogie? Yea, I'm a cynic. I also tease women about Flynn being viewed so often. Something tells me it wasn't only about his acting chops but instead more of his eye candy appeal.

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Another bias that works against some actors is if they were typecast as horror actors. Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, Jr. and Vincent Price were never nominated for oscars because the academy considered them all B pics and rejected them out of hand. How amazing that Martin Landau won an oscar portraying Lugosi, yet Lugosi himself was light years away from critical recognition in his lifetime. If it wasn't for Forrest J. Ackerman, the founder of "Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazine, these names might have faded away completely. Truly "underrated" applies to these actors and those like them.

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*I also tease women about Flynn being viewed so often. Something tells me it wasn't only about his acting chops but instead more of his eye candy appeal*

 

And with that particular statement, James, I think you underestimate Flynn, since it implies that his popularity is primarily with the distaff side. I think that he is an actor that has always appealed to both sexes because of his athletic heroic screen image, as well as obvious sex appeal. I've always admired him and I have a number of male classic film fans who also rate him as one of their favourites.

 

For myself, I also think that his understated acting style also makes his screen heroics seem more credible than if he had had a more florid style of performing. Unlike some of the performances of actors who were far more highly regarded by critics in their time (ie. Paul Muni, John Barrymore), Flynn's performances don't date. I guess, to me, that makes Errol Flynn underrated as an actor since there has always been such an emphasis primarily placed upon his appearance (and off screen antics).

 

By the way, in referring to the "ham" of Muni or Barrymore, I also want to restate that I'm only thinking of some of their performances, particularly in the latter parts of their careers. I can also think of wonderful work done by both of them, as well.

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There aren't many actors who could recite a line such as...

 

"Up that rigging, you monkeys! Aloft! There's no chains to hold you now. Break out those sails and watch them fill with the wind that's carrying us all to freedom!"

 

...and not appear ridiculous.

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By the way, in referring to the "ham" of Muni or Barrymore, I also want to restate that I'm only thinking of some of their performances, particularly in the latter parts of their careers. I can also think of wonderful work done by both of them, as well.

 

Muni is an actor who had a great reputation at the time, but of all of the movies of his I've seen (about a dozen), the only ones that really stand out are I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang, Bordertown, Hi Nellie! (a great comedy with Glenda Farrell) and to a limited extent, Scarface and The Last Angry Man . The biopics are wooden, some of his social dramas are overplayed, and in his first movie ( The Valiant , which just screened on TCM a few days ago) he sounded like a nearsighted man trying to read an eye chart. No human being that ever lived could possibly talk that slowly. I'm glad I began watching him in his pre-code years, because if I'd started with his later biopics I wouldn't have even bothered to look at any of his earlier films.

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That dialogue that you cited from Captain Blood, clore, is a perfect illustration of the kind of occasionally over-the-top, ripe line than Errol Flynn could deliver with total conviction, not a trace of self consciousness, immeasurably helping the audience to buy his larger-than-life screen heroics. It's particularly impressive in this case because Flynn had had so little acting experience when he made this film. Critics throughout his career, however, didn't seem to think that it had much to do with talent.

 

If you look at Flynn's four major swashbuckler performances during his prime years, the '30s and '40s, there are even subtle variations to be found in those characterizations. They are all identifiable with Flynn's screen image, of course, yet the differences are there. He's best remembered for his ebullient, extroverted performance as Robin Hood, of course, laughing, reckless, impulsive, defiant of authority. In contrast to that look at that earlier rebellious performance when he played Captian Blood, only this time there's a lot of bitterness and resentment in the role. It can be seen as a darker performance, with bitterness and vengeance on his mind. There's not a lot of laughter in the soul of Peter Blood.

 

Flynn continued to be a convincing leader of men as Geoffrey Thorpe in The Sea Hawk, a film designed to carry on in the tradition of both Captain Blood and Robin Hood. Yet his performance is more subtle and understated than before, a chivalrous gentleman, his courtly wooing of the leading lady reminiscent of Fairbanks' courtship scenes during the silents. Finally, there is Flynn's world weary, cynical performance as Don Juan, far and away the most jaded of his four major swashbuckling performances, a reflection of the actor himself by this stage in his life, which becomes absorbed into the characterization, as well. Among other things, unlike the three previous swashbucklers, Don Juan allowed Flynn to demonstrate his ability with more clever dialogue than he had previously been allowed, not to mention his delicious participation in subtle, tongue-in-cheek humour, far removed from the broad schooboy antics of Robin Hood getting dumped into the stream by Little John.

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Watch Flynn in Gentleman Jim, especially the scene with Ward Bond as John L. Sullivan as he hands him his boxing award, or the farewell scene with Olivia deHavilland in They Died with Their Boots on. Also, he's excellent in Dawn Patrol. All three are very fine performances.

 

 

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It's particularly impressive in this case because Flynn had had so little acting experience when he made this film. Critics throughout his career, however, didn't seem to think that it had much to do with talent.

 

I watched CAPTAIN BLOOD when it last aired while suffering a bout of insomnia. Thus, it was late at night and there were no distractions. I've seen it several times before, but it did serve to confirm my thought that he was really one of the most under-appreciated actors of his generation. As you noted, it did strike me that this was a real baptism by fire for the young man, a major production that weighed heavily on the shoulders of a relative newcomer.

 

 

There he was, thrown up there on the screen with people such as Atwill and Rathbone who both had decades of experience but there he was, perhaps riding more on charisma than proven talent, but nevertheless, holding the screen, indeed commanding it in a part that would have intimidated many others.

 

 

It's a shame that when cast against type, that audiences of the day did not respond to the likes of GREEN LIGHT, FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK or CRY WOLF. There was a real actor there, someone who must have wanted to be accepted for something more than what the public allowed. I think that one of his best performances came in THAT FORSYTE WOMAN, where he wasn't the charmer and didn't perform any derring-do with a sword or a rifle at his side.

 

 

How different his life could have been, how much else he was capable of were the critics, the studio and the public more open minded. In Flynn's case it was a curse, even if he himself hadn't hastened his own short life by trying to live up to off screen what the public saw on screen.

 

We didn't really get to see him mature as a performer. The potential was there based on THE SUN ALSO RISES and TOO MUCH, TOO SOON. In Flynn's case, it was too little, too long, he didn't get the acknowledgement he deserved until he was too far gone.

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