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Casting against type


CaveGirl
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I like directors who can see something different in an actor, and use them in offbeat roles.

 

I think it was the great Robert Siodmak who put Gene Kelly in the role of the loser hubby in "Christmas Holiday" which is also a great Somerset Maughm book.

 

Gene was stunning in the film as a charming bum. But as it usually is, he did not want to be cast as such again, and we are all the poorer.

 

Another great casting call, was putting Fred MacMurray in "The Apartment". Billy Wilder was brilliant in this move, as Fred's natural charm and wholesomeness came through as smarm and phoniness.

 

So... in what roles did you like the casting which caught you by surprise, and name the director if possible.

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Wow, that's probably the ultimate example, db. Damn, Henry looks mean in that film. Especially his eyes.

 

This one's a cliche, and it's really more about mixed up casting than against type casting...but why they cast Marlon Brando as Skye Masterson, giving him all the plum songs, and left Frank Sinatra playing second fiddle as the Nathan Detroit character, is beyond all reasoning. (Talking about *Guys and Dolls* , of course.)

 

I don't care if Brando was the next big thing at the time. I always imagine Sinatra watching Brando trying to sing "Luck be a Lady Tonight" and thinking, "I could knock it out of the park with two lines, but they'll see their mistake some time soon..."

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Then of course, there's Andy Griffith as the loathsome Lonesome Rhodes.

 

Though btw CG, and re Fred McMurray...don't forget that before his years in late '50s Disney comedies and his fatherly TV role in a '60s sitcom, Fred was known to being pretty adapt at playing the less-than-honorable type in films such as "Double Indemnity" and in "The Caine Mutiny". And so he didn't always play the wholesome sort.

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"Once Upon a Time in the West"-- The complete antiFonda of an alternate Universe and Existence. The deep blue squinty eyes of evil incarnate. I think this one performance made his legacy and career complete. Kind of like what it would be to watch Gandhi as an SS trooper. Very surreal.

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A Face in the Crowd was Griffith's first movie. So how is that 'casting against type'?

 

One could say Andy Taylor was casting against type since he isn't anything like Lonesome Rhodes.

 

I agree with you about Fred MacMurray. As you noted he played cads before The Apartment. Anyone that type casts him is likely doing so because they saw him in the Disney movies or My Three Sons BEFORE they saw much of his pre 60s movies.

 

Like with Griffith; one has to have a set of movies that establish a 'type' and than be in a role against that type. Time doesn't work backward folks!

 

(which is why Jones (nice gal in musicals) and Fonda (rock solid good guy in most movies) are good examples.

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A thread like this shouldn't be without a mention of perhaps the greatest mid-career "type" transformation of all: Dick Powell.

 

Powell first became known as "one of Broadway's better known juveniles" in musicals, and then made a mark in light comedies like Christmas in July. But then he did a 180 in Murder, My Sweet, (Dir: Edward Dmytryk) and wound up playing cops and criminals in some of the best noir movies ever made. He also went to to play in more than a few non-noir dramatic roles like The Bad and the Beautiful, and never returned to any lighter roles.

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So then how about Jennifer Jones, who up until her role as the fiery somewhat nymphomaniacal Pearl in "Duel in the Sun" was primarily known to audiences as more the chaste title character in "The Song of Bernadette".

 

(...and I hear much to the chagrin of the Catholic League of Decency at the time)

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Don't want to beat you up Dargo on the Fred thing, but I may have been coming from a bit of a different place. I'm sure all film fans are familiar with early Fred and his somewhat pedestrian roles. Being the pleasant guy he seemed on screen he was relegated to such even up to "The Egg and I".

 

But for me, even though he did play a dark part in "Double Indemnity" I did not see that as casting him in a truly different mold from his pleasant persona of those years. In DI he is still sort of the common man, and turns out to be the typical noir loser who gets led around by the nose by a female and falls victim of her schemes.

 

Without Phyliss leading the way, Freddie might never have gone down that path of destruction.

 

But in Wilder's "The Apartment" Fred represents a totally amoral, narcissistic villain who is not under the thumb of some gun moll or chick with a plan, but instead Fred is taking advantage of everyone, his secretary, his wife, his elevator operator and mostly...poor old JJ.

 

That's why I say Fred was cast against type in TA as now he is the dominant force of evil in the film and not the reactive source of evildoings.

 

By the way, I agree with your remarks about Andy Griffith being cast against type in "A Face in the Crowd" because despite it being his first film, he was known in show biz circles for very down home and folksy television bits and it was not like he was sitting on the street corner like Fabian and had no antecedent reputation preceding him when picked by Kazan to play Lonesome.

 

And I just wonder what Arthur Godfrey was doing the day that film hit the theatres...hmmm?

 

Thanks to all for the great comments!

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CG, it almost sounds as if you've never watched "The Caine Mutiny" in that case. Because if you had, I'm sure seeing Fred acting the cad in "The Apartment"(btw, probably my favorite film of all time) wouldn't have come as such a surprise to you.

 

Btw, and speaking of "The Apartment", as you may know, Paul Douglas was first cast in that role before Fred would take it over, But for the LIFE o' me, I will NEVER understand what Wilder was thinkin' there, as I have NO idea how he would have expected the audience to believe for one minute that the somewhat dumpy and usually cast as the crude and almost oafish Paul Douglas could have any woman he wanted in that office??? And I don't care if he was the president of the company or NOT!

 

(...though don't get me wrong, I always liked Paul Douglas' acting, but REALLY, a "smooth philandering ladies man"???...no way, Jose)

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An actor I like very much is Alan Arkin. His performance as the cool but nasty Roat in 'Wait Until Dark' (1967) is quite different from any other characterization that he is known for over the rest of his career - both before and after 'Dark'. After seeing it, I was always expecting to see him play streetwise bad guys - at least for awhile - but he never really revisited that persona. Too bad in a way - he was very good.

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Robert Walker I think is a good example of casting against type. In films like *See Here Prvt. Hargrove* , *One Touch of Venus* , *Since You Went Away*, *The Clock* , never a hint of the menancing psychopath, Bruno Antony that was to come in *Strangers On A Train* .

 

dargo, as long as you're mentioning Jennifer in *Duel In the Sun* how about Gregory Peck as Lewt? Not sure if he played any bad boys before that role.

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Thanks, finance. Glad you agree with me on the idea of Robert Walker and *Strangers On A Train*

 

Another good example I think is Thomas Mitchell in *Moontide* . I don't think he had ever played a role quite like the role of Tiny. He was a would be rapist, woman beater and KILLER is this film. Doesn't sound much like our wonderful Thomas Mitchell or any of the roles he had played

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Good examples, lavender. How about Spencer Tracy as a cold-hearted villain in *Edward, My Son*? He may have been halfway to that role in *Sea of Grass*, just as Robert Walker's mixed-up kid in *Sea of Grass* may have suggested that he could play an out-and-out crazy like Bruno in *Strangers on a Train*.

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