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Great Hams


misswonderly3
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Unlike a lot of people here, I actively like so-called hammy acting. I enjoy it, it's fun. Most of the time, I think I'd even rather see someone over-acting than under-acting. Although that depends on the movie and the role, of course.

(There are lots of "under-stated" actors I like, too. I am not denigrating that kind of acting whatsoever.)

 

A few "over -the-top" actors who serve up their jambon with verve and pineapple:

 

Rod Steiger, John Barrymore, Vincent Price.

 

Anyone else out there a fan of ham?

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Hams and big butts, that's the legacy of the threads I've inspired. (Oh well, better than to never leave one's mark at all)

 

Steiger. Sigh.

 

 

I bring him up a lot and I always bring up the same points, so you'll forgive me if I abridge a touch, but:

 

 

1. His post-Oscar resume- 30 years' worth- is pretty awful, loaded with some pretty awful movies and some pretty awful performances in them (yes, it's cruel to reference The Specialist and Modern Vampires when he was doing them to make the mortgage payments, but there's something to be said for doing whatever job one has to the best of one's abilities.)

 

 

His final years made the last screen appearances of Bela Lugosi seem tinged with a quiet, reserved dignity.

 

 

2. *Every time* some actor talks about working with Steiger, *they say the exact same thing*: "it was like a lesson in acting." I have come to think that this is, in fact, code for "he taught me how to pick particle board splinters and dry wall out of my teeth he chewed the GD scenery so bad."

 

 

3. This is Steiger in The Big Knife :

 

 

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It is *an awful movie* and the ne plus ultra of ham acting. I have not seen The Pawnbroker, which people who love Steiger always reference. That's fine, if it's ever on, I'll give it a shot- but when it comes to The Big Knife, it is hard to see that film and not come away with whatever tolerance one has for Steiger's theatrics sorely, sooooorely tested.

 

 

there's more, but it's like beating a dead horse. Vincent Price and John Barrymore were- to a large extent- "in" on the joke about their being hams and they worked with it. Not Steiger. He's too busy trying to be the only thing about the movie you'll remember- which is often true- but in the sense of "all I remember about that thing is that Steiger is in it and he hams it up something just awful."

 

 

In the end, it's free county.

(I guess you could say going completely overboard is better than severly underplaying a role- but then, you've probably never seen The Big Knife if you say that.)

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on May 29, 2013 11:35 AM

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on May 29, 2013 11:36 AM

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Addison, I suspect that you don't like musicals. So maybe the example I'm about to give won't "connect" with you...But I love the film *Oklahoma !*, and I really enjoy Rod Steiger's character, Judd, in it. The way he plays Judd, anyway. Now I wouldn't want to encounter Judd on a dark lonely road, I don't like him as a person, but, like most bad guys in movies, he makes the film more, shall we say, "inn-teresting" with his dark, creepy, brooding ways. And if he "overdoes" it, so be it.

I also think he has an inn-teresting ( :| ) face. He's not handsome, or even sexy (as we all know, the two are not necessarily one and the same at all), but he has a good strong memorable face. I also like his Southern accent. I don't know if it's real or put on, but I enjoy hearing him speak.

 

Now, having said all that, I must confess I have not seen him in anything much after *In the Heat of the Night*, which, going by his filmography, was only about half-way through his career.

 

 

Female hams, anyone?

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> {quote:title=MaxvonMayerling wrote: }{quote}I would add Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Kirk Douglas and Jack Nicholson to the list!

Right, and look at how much fun all four of those guys are. And look at how Lorre and Greenstreet traded different kinds of "hamminess" between them- they were in quite a few movies together. A veritable porcine feast !

Kirk, too - look at him in *The Bad and the Beautiful* (amongst many others.)

 

Now admit it, folks, these guys are all fun to watch, the screen comes alive when any of them appear; what would we do without them?

 

As for female ham, I've always felt Joan Crawford gave this tasty dish a good run for its money. And she too, is fun to watch when she gets going.

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> {quote:title=misswonderly wrote:}{quote}

> > {quote:title=MaxvonMayerling wrote: }{quote}I would add Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Kirk Douglas and Jack Nicholson to the list!

> Right, and look at how much fun all four of those guys are. And look at how Lorre and Greenstreet traded different kinds of "hamminess" between them- they were in quite a few movies together. A veritable porcine feast !

> Kirk, too - look at him in *The Bad and the Beautiful* (amongst many others.)

>

> Now admit it, folks, these guys are all fun to watch, the screen comes alive when any of them appear; what would we do without them?

>

> As for female ham, I've always felt Joan Crawford gave this tasty dish a good run for its money. And she too, is fun to watch when she gets going.

Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and Marilyn Monroe were hammy in a feminine sense. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis certainly became quite over-the-top hammy in their later careers!

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Excellent thread topic, MissW. And, yes, I can enjoy some deliberately fruity or hammy performances.

 

There was the great Charles Laughton. Particularly in his later career, when the material was not quite so inspirational, or he found himself working as a pirate working with Abbott and Costello, his lip smacking performances were a sight to behold. Think of him as Captain Kidd in the film of that name or King Herod in Salome. Still fun to watch, but you just knew that the great man was slumming it a bit and it showed in his performance.

 

Then there's the following performance, Robert Newton as Long John Silver. Ouch! One of the most outragious eye rolling performances ever captured on celluloid. Yes, Newton is knowingly out of control when he does his piratical antics but, personally, a little bit of Newton (like five minutes) goes an awful long way for me.

 

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSkxZbQGh7mTS-RED5vNvK

 

Subtle this is not.

 

And I hope you don't mind if I include a piece of ham acting from an actor that was normally understated, that being Claude Rains when he played a nasty blaggard in Anthony Adverse. To this day I still can't get out of my mind the sight of Rains when he looked straight at the camera in one scene and indulged in one of the most over-the-top hysterical bursts of prolooooonged laughter that I've ever seen on film. Oh, please, Mr. Director, yell CUT!!, I thought, or, at least, bring us a fade out.

 

Finally, what conversation about thickly sliced ham would be complete without mention of Basil Rathbone with his over-the-top French accent as Captain Lavasseur in Captain Blood?

 

basil-rathbone.jpg

 

Yes, there seemed to be something about the freedom of playing a costumed piratical scoundrel that brought out ham in some actors. Maybe they're all the more enjoyable to watch because of it, too.

 

 

 

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> {quote:title=AddisonDeWitless wrote:}{quote}Hams and big butts, that's the legacy of the threads I've inspired. (Oh well, better than to never leave one's mark at all)

>

> Steiger. Sigh.

>

> I bring him up a lot and I always bring up the same points, so you'll forgive me if I abridge a touch, but:

>

>

> His final years made the last screen appearances of Bela Lugosi seem tinged with a quiet, reserved dignity.

>

>

> 2. *Every time* some actor talks about working with Steiger, *they say the exact same thing*: "it was like a lesson in acting." I have come to think that this is, in fact, code for "he taught me how to pick particle board splinters and dry wall out of my teeth he chewed the GD scenery so bad."

>

>

> 3. This is Steiger in The Big Knife :

>

>

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>

>

> It is *an awful movie* and the ne plus ultra of ham acting. I have not seen The Pawnbroker, which people who love Steiger always reference. That's fine, if it's ever on, I'll give it a shot- but when it comes to The Big Knife, it is hard to see that film and not come away with whatever tolerance one has for Steiger's theatrics sorely, sooooorely tested.

>

>

>

>

>

Hey, I loved The Big Knife, though more for Palance and Lupino than for Steiger. And the reason he "acts big" is that so many of his early roles (I haven't seen his later ones) were written that way. You could just as easily criticize St.Marlon on the same grounds.

 

Now if you really want to get into hamming, then Hugh Herbert could fill a pig farm all by himself. Or just about any of those over-the-top singers in nearly every Technicolor musical that TCM crams down our throats in endless repeats. But again, for the most part *that's the way those roles were written.* And if you've never run across any of those Steiger-type characters in real life, consider yourself lucky.

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Sometimes I like my ham with a little mayo. VIRGINIA MAYO, that is! Like how STEVE COCHRAN does those "shady" type guys in *The Best Years of Our Lives* and *White Heat* . Not "over the top" mind you, but hammy nonetheless.

 

 

Often, hams come from comedy. RED SKELTON and DANNY KAYE were hams, and I mean that in a GOOD way! So were CHARLEY CHASE and BOB HOPE. And Hope, God bless 'im, never denied it!

 

 

As to the ladies, I'd have to go along with Crawford and Davis. Man, the two of them in the same movie produced more ham than a PIG BREEDER could provide!

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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>James Dean always managed to throw some slices of ham onto each of his peformances, I think.

 

Well Dark, if you're gonna mention THAT fairly early adherent to Strasberg's school of thought about the art of acting, then what say we ALSO mention here the guy who's name FIRST comes to mind whenever that acting style is mentioned...yep, one Mr. Marlon Brando.

 

(...'cause I'm tellin' ya here, while SOME folks, no, make that a LOT o' folks think he's the end-all AND be-all of acting, THAT dude could REALLY chew the ol' scenery sometimes, ya know!!!)

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Yep, that's why I said "sometimes". ;)

 

There are indeed some roles of his that I feel he perfectly plays and that he doesn't overact or present too intensely for how I feel the character would respond in a scene.

 

(...and has been said many times by many people, it's just a shame that Mr.Dean died so young at that crossroads of CA Hwy-46 and 41 in that beautiful little 550 Spyder of his, 'cause now nobody will ever know how better and more refined an actor he could have become)

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> {quote:title=misswonderly wrote:}{quote}

> I must confess I have not seen (Steiger) in anything much after *In the Heat of the Night*, which, going by his filmography, was only about half-way through his career.

I would be hard-pressed to name another Best Actor winner (pre-1990s) whose career (and I daresay reputation) took a more dramatic nosedive almost immediately after his win than Steiger's did.

 

ps- no hate in that statement, just fact on the one and perception on the other.

pss- the final films of Aldo Ray had more dignity (and one of them was a porno.)

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on May 29, 2013 2:53 PM

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I'm with Addison on the stupefying badness of THE BIG KNIFE and the hamminess of Mr. Steiger's performance. Of course, if they'd cut about 45 minutes of Clifford Odets' pretentious dialogue, it wouldn't have been so bad. Although I still haven't seen THE PAWNBROKER, I'm inclined to think that Steiger did his best acting in supporting roles where he had a strong director to keep him in check. Like, say, Kazan in ON THE WATERFRONT.

 

 

But how did a thread on hammy actors get to page 2 with no mention of Lionel Barrymore?

 

 

For enjoyable hammy actors, the name of Edna May Oliver comes to mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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W.C. Fields and Mae West are the alltime hams to me but I love them. The hammiest voices and acting of them all. For that matter every silent star was also a ham. What else could they be?

 

Edited by: roverrocks on May 29, 2013 4:02 PM

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> A few "over -the-top" actors who serve up their jambon with verve and pineapple:

What, no maraschino cherry? Actually, I'm cool with that - they're not actually edible.

 

I too, love many a porcine performance. And I'm a vegan - go fig, huh? ;)

 

Seriously, a successful bacon-y bravado (oh boy, this is gonna get ugly) all depends on the context of the role and whether the actor comes across as being in on the joke, as someone else stated. The movie had its issues (as almost anything that came out of Hughes-helmed RKO did) but His Kind of Woman is my very favorite combination of noir and comedy. When Vincent Price's Mark Cardigan sets off to Mitchum's rescue and starts dropping the Shakespeare . . . priceless!

*"Now might I drink hot blood and do such bitter business the earth would quake to look upon."* :P

 

Also - do yourself a favor and check out his prosciutto-peppered (I warned ya) turn as a French marquis in A Royal Scandal on Charles Coburn's SUTS day in August. Opposite possibly the greatest porky lady (and I say that with love) of all time - Tallulah!

 

Another fave is John Barrymore as Oscar Jaffe in Twentieth Century. *"I want to send another (telegram) . . . To John Ringling: I'm in the market for 25 camels, several elephants and an ibis. Give me the rock-bottom price."*

 

I'm not very familar with Rod Steiger's work, but I found The Big Knife to be generally painful.

 

And am I the first to get to bring up Lionel Atwill? Remember what Felix Bressart told him in To Be Or Not To Be: *"Mr. Rawitch, what you are I wouldn't eat."*

 

 

 

Edited by: NoraCharles1934 on May 29, 2013 3:47 PM

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Absolutely agree about over-acting,

 

It's why I love Douglas SIrk movies.

 

Sometimes, we feel like a nut... Sometimes we don't.

 

Whenever I am watching a movie, and I see an actor that makes me jump and shout:

h3. Acting!

 

Then I watch for a totally different reason and get a smile

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Oh thank you so for validating me on The Big Knife.

 

There are very few classic movies I hate, but that is one. And there are *very few* classic writers/directors I hate, but I haaaaaate Clifford Odets soooooo much. It...th...the flames, flames on the siiiide of my face. Heaving...heaving breaths...

 

ps- what I think I hate the most about The Big Knife is the way Odets so openly bites the hand that was feeding him, then acts like he's the decent one. Gee Clifford, I know Hollywood is an awful place filled with awful people, but they did provide you with multiple ventures wherein you were allowed to spout your Marxist twaddle and pretentious dialogue with what I presume is pretty minimal interferance and they paid you for it to boot.

 

(although whatever they paid, it was too much.)

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I thought of another truly gourmet example - Robert Morley in Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?

 

On being told by his doctor that he is morbidly obese:

*"Cut down? I am what I am precisely because I have eaten my way to the top! I'm a work of art, created by the finest chefs in the world. Every fold is a brush stroke! Every crease a sonnet! Every chin a concerto! In short Doctor Darling, in my present form, I'm a masterpiece!"*

 

Who%2520Is%2520Killing%2520the%2520Great

 

Edited by: NoraCharles1934 on May 29, 2013 4:49 PM

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Nora, what a wonderful speech ! It's rich ! (no pun intended.) Robert Morley's character should join one of those "Overweight People's Rights" groups, and become their spokesperson. And, yeah, maybe their leader.

 

Another avoirdupois actor who could indulge in the hammy side of acting sometimes has already been mentioned here- the great Charles Laughton.

 

I suspect "heavy" actors have a special kind of over-acting that only they can do - using not only their voice and facial expression, but their entire body.

 

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