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Actors Whose Images/Personas Have Not Aged Well


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btw, and SPEAKIN' of Frederic...errr...FREDRIC here...

 

I just wanna say I do NOT think of him or his acting style as dated in the least. The guy, ESPECIALLY in "The Best Years of Our Lives" comes across as natural and as believable in THAT role as any actor in ANY film I've ever watched!

 

And even in some of his later roles than that, such as the President in "Seven Days In May" he STILL comes across to me in that same manner...totally natural and believable.

 

(..nope, the dude was TIMELESS, and just because many people don't know of him anymore might say more about THEM than it does about him)

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This is an interesting idea for a thread.

 

Alan Ladd has pretty much dropped off the map. In fact, he's dropped off the map so much that nobody has mentioned him here- perhaps the ultimate proof of just how much this formerly HUGE top ten box office star is no longer a part of our conscious thoughts anymore, even though we are film fans.

 

A couple of years ago I posted a photo of Ladd on these boards and a long time poster here (who still posts daily, in fact) asked who he was. And the photo was a good image of Ladd, too.

 

Part of the problem with Ladd is that many of his films were made at Paramount, now owned by Universal, which has kept most of them in the vault. The other problem is that, with the exception of Shane and perhaps one or two noirs that he made, few of Ladd's films were anything other than programmers of a routine type.

 

Having said all this, I like Ladd, and generally enjoy watching him, at least during his years up to Shane in 1953. His final films are a rather depressing lot as Ladd, even though a relatively young man, was aging in appearance, putting on the weight, and his performances, for the most part, were becoming increasingly lifeless.

 

In spite of everything that I have just written, Ladd will have a 24 hour tribute on TCM August 31st, with Shane getting prime time viewing. You will notice, though, in looking at the schedule, that there are only three other films from his Paramount glory days as a star on the schedule. And they're the same three suspects that TCM has frequently shown before. It is simply next to impossible to get many other films of the '40s that he made, thanks, no doubt, to Universal.

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The public's memory has always been short. 

 

Originally, movies were immediate, contemporary. Very few "big" stars of yesteryear had the staying power to be recognised after a few decades passed. Classic film has gone from "pop culture" to "art history" in the last 30-40 years.

 

The 70's brought a resurgence in interest and "classic" film was re-released for new generations to discover. TCM has taken over that role and exposes these old films 24/7 on cable for those who have an active interest.  

 

The more a person gets interested in old movies, the more great stars they discover. Hey, I've been watching old movies for decades and only recently discovered Anna Magnani. And on another thread we were talking about Jesse Matthews, HUGE in her day and very few of her films are shown anywhere.

 

Many stars were kept vital only because of their iconic photographs, like James Dean, Jean Harlow and Audrey Hepburn. You still see this today, high school kids wearing t-shirts with Marilyn Monroe on them who have NO IDEA who she is. 

When I've asked the wearer they've said, "she represents heavier women are still beautiful". Unbelievable.

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When Fredric March did "What's My Line?" in the mid-fifties, the panel could not guess him easily, and could not remember what he was famous for. It was a bad indication on the pop culture end that contributed to the obscurity the general public might not know too easily about, even though March continued making films until the mid-1970s. 

 

The reason that the panel on What's My Line could not guess him easily was more because of the way March disguised his voice during his appearance. Watch carefully and you can see that the panel which usually was able to guess who the mystery guest was fairly early on was simply stumped. And that is what you call superb acting/voice experience.

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Alan Ladd has pretty much dropped off the map. In fact, he's dropped off the map so much that nobody has mentioned him here- perhaps the ultimate proof of just how much this formerly HUGE top ten box office star is no longer a part of our conscious thoughts anymore, even though we are film fans.

 

Obviously this is true, but I didn't interpret the original question in this way.  My understanding was that it referred to actors whose screen personae beneath the surface would seem dated or quaint to a 21st century audience.  And while Ladd is undoubtedly forgotten by 99% of the population, I don't think his signature movie character in those classic films he made with Veronica Lake is all that different from someone like Steve McQueen, another slightly built but highly resourceful tough guy whose character still seems "modern", even though these days he's not even the most talked about and recognized  Steve McQueen within his own industry.

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Many stars were kept vital only because of their iconic photographs, like James Dean, Jean Harlow and Audrey Hepburn. You still see this today, high school kids wearing t-shirts with Marilyn Monroe on them who have NO IDEA who she is.

 

Very good point.  In many ways they're like Che Guevara or "Malcolm the Tenth".

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The public's memory has always been short. 

 

Originally, movies were immediate, contemporary. Very few "big" stars of yesteryear had the staying power to be recognised after a few decades passed. Classic film has gone from "pop culture" to "art history" in the last 30-40 years.

 

The 70's brought a resurgence in interest and "classic" film was re-released for new generations to discover. TCM has taken over that role and exposes these old films 24/7 on cable for those who have an active interest.  

 

The more a person gets interested in old movies, the more great stars they discover. Hey, I've been watching old movies for decades and only recently discovered Anna Magnani. And on another thread we were talking about Jesse Matthews, HUGE in her day and very few of her films are shown anywhere.

 

Many stars were kept vital only because of their iconic photographs, like James Dean, Jean Harlow and Audrey Hepburn. You still see this today, high school kids wearing t-shirts with Marilyn Monroe on them who have NO IDEA who she is. 

When I've asked the wearer they've said, "she represents heavier women are still beautiful". Unbelievable.

 

Well, I would agree to a certain extent about what you write in the first several paragraphs, and we have TCM largely to thank for this. But I also think the bigger problem with today's films is that there just is not a group of actors who represent the values of most adults. Or more appropriately have anything to do with today's audience members who are in their 40's and 50's.

When the 1940's and 1950's era of filmmaking was happening the country was teaming with returning vets from WWII and hence the nation's film theaters were basking in their glory as they had during the depths of the depression. Then the fifties arrived with television. And theater receipts started to tumble. The actors of the Golden Age of the Movies were starting to disappear.

 

Then came the revival of the movies in the mid to late sixties. Those actors of that generation are now still with us but are in their 60's and 70's now, and they just like their counterparts from the Golden Age are starting to fade away.

 

But there is one important person from the old days of Hollywood that is still around and figures quite prominently in the popularity polls of today...

 

http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/HarrisPolls/tabid/447/mid/1508/articleId/1362/ctl/ReadCustom%20Default/Default.aspx

 

If you look carefully at the polls of favorite movie stars from 1994 to 2013, there is one name that exists and that person died in 1979. How do you explain this?

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If you look carefully at the polls of favorite movie stars from 1994 to 2013, there is one name that exists and that person died in 1979. How do you explain this?

 

It's not very complicated.  John Wayne has the most clearly defined screen persona of any "classic era" actor.  He's also the one who's most clearly and unambiguously identified with so-called "traditional" American values, and against every social and cultural trend that a sizable minority of the country detests.  IOW within the realm of movie stars he's the winner-take-all representative of one part of our divided country, while the other part (which has no use for Wayne) has no single counterpart who so clearly stands out.  He's the Ronald Reagan of film stars in a way that Ronald Reagan himself never was, a T-shirt icon loved by a significant minority of people for what he symbolically represents, the ultimate polarizing figure.

 

 

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Alan Ladd has pretty much dropped off the map. In fact, he's dropped off the map so much that nobody has mentioned him here- perhaps the ultimate proof of just how much this formerly HUGE top ten box office star is no longer a part of our conscious thoughts anymore, even though we are film fans.

 

Obviously this is true, but I didn't interpret the original question in this way.  My understanding was that it referred to actors whose screen personae beneath the surface would seem dated or quaint to a 21st century audience.  And while Ladd is undoubtedly forgotten by 99% of the population, I don't think his signature movie character in those classic films he made with Veronica Lake is all that different from someone like Steve McQueen, another slightly built but highly resourceful tough guy whose character still seems "modern", even though these days he's not even the most talked about and recognized  Steve McQueen within his own industry.

I can see your point, Andy, and maybe you're right.

 

The Ladd deadpan "coolness" factor might appeal to some of the same crowd that likes a McQueen. McQueen's films remain accessible enough so that many still know about him today - a huge contrast to many of the films of Ladd, and therefore, 21st Century film fan lack of familiarity with him. (All the more reason to berate Universal for keeping most of his films with them under wraps).

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The reason that the panel on What's My Line could not guess him easily was more because of the way March disguised his voice during his appearance. Watch carefully and you can see that the panel which usually was able to guess who the mystery guest was fairly early on was simply stumped. And that is what you call superb acting/voice experience.

I am well aware of the rules of "What's My Line?," my point was is that it took a long time for the panel to discover him and the amazed glazed look on their face when they saw him. 

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btw, and SPEAKIN' of Frederic...errr...FREDRIC here...

 

I just wanna say I do NOT think of him or his acting style as dated in the least. The guy, ESPECIALLY in "The Best Years of Our Lives" comes across as natural and as believable in THAT role as any actor in ANY film I've ever watched!

 

And even in some of his later roles than that, such as the President in "Seven Days In May" he STILL comes across to me in that same manner...totally natural and believable.

 

(..nope, the dude was TIMELESS, and just because many people don't know of him anymore might say more about THEM than it does about him)

Exactly. 

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fx: "If you look carefully at the polls of favorite movie stars from 1994 to 2013, there is one name that exists and that person died in 1979. How do you explain this?"

 

Andy: It's not very complicated.

 

fx: This was meant as a rhetorical question.

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When Fredric March did "What's My Line?" in the mid-fifties, the panel could not guess him easily, and could not remember what he was famous for. It was a bad indication on the pop culture end that contributed to the obscurity the general public might not know too easily about, even though March continued making films until the mid-1970s.

 

I remember seeing that "WML" episode, and constantly thinking, "come on Arlene, come on Bennett, think!" Something similar happened with Ralph Bellamy. When he said that he had done 89 pictures in 30 years, people thought he was joking. The only reason they guessed him was because of his huge popularity in "Sunrise at Campobello", which had just been released.

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I am well aware of the rules of "What's My Line?," my point was is that it took a long time for the panel to discover him and the amazed glazed look on their face when they saw him. 

 

We are in agreement then. Oh, and I was not attempting to suggest that you were not aware of that panel show's rules.

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Here's one I thought by now would have surely been mentioned:

 

JOHN WAYNE

 

Back when Wayne was nominated for his role in "True Grit", those of us who had seen it and had grown up seeing Wayne movies on TV and in theaters( Liberty Valance, Alamo, Rio Bravo, etc.)  saw "Grit" as nothing more than Wayne being the same Wayne we grew up with and nothing exceptional in the role or performance.  Personally, and a few years later, I thought the Oscar nod would have been better served if it had been for his role and performance in THE COWBOYS.  But sadly, I'm not in charge of those decisions.

 

Brando is another one.  Once seen as the quintessential rebel, he just grew older and fat, and towards the end, more people remembered him as Vito Corleone, NOT Terry Malloy or Johnny Strabler.  Now, the character and portrayal of Vito Corleone is nothing to be ashamed of, but since his fame and rep had long before been established, he wasn't seen in the same light in '72 as he was in the mid '50's.

 

Sepiatone

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The public's memory has always been short. 

 

Originally, movies were immediate, contemporary. Very few "big" stars of yesteryear had the staying power to be recognised after a few decades passed. Classic film has gone from "pop culture" to "art history" in the last 30-40 years.

 

The 70's brought a resurgence in interest and "classic" film was re-released for new generations to discover. TCM has taken over that role and exposes these old films 24/7 on cable for those who have an active interest.  

 

The more a person gets interested in old movies, the more great stars they discover. Hey, I've been watching old movies for decades and only recently discovered Anna Magnani. And on another thread we were talking about Jesse Matthews, HUGE in her day and very few of her films are shown anywhere.

 

Many stars were kept vital only because of their iconic photographs, like James Dean, Jean Harlow and Audrey Hepburn. You still see this today, high school kids wearing t-shirts with Marilyn Monroe on them who have NO IDEA who she is. 

When I've asked the wearer they've said, "she represents heavier women are still beautiful". Unbelievable.

What's so sad is that those same people who sport Marilyn accessories or Hang Steve McQueen posters can't name a single one of their films. It's a shame. There are people who sport Betty Boop merchandise and have never seen any of her cartoons.

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Brando is another one.  Once seen as the quintessential rebel, he just grew older and fat, and towards the end, more people remembered him as Vito Corleone, NOT Terry Malloy or Johnny Strabler.  Now, the character and portrayal of Vito Corleone is nothing to be ashamed of, but since his fame and rep had long before been established, he wasn't seen in the same light in '72 as he was in the mid '50's.

 

This happens if you live. James Dean would have become Brando.

 

If Jim Morrison had lived he wouldn't be known as the forever young rebel. He would've ended up a joke like fat Elvis or Keith Richards.

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I remember seeing that "WML" episode, and constantly thinking, "come on Arlene, come on Bennett, think!" Something similar happened with Ralph Bellamy. When he said that he had done 89 pictures in 30 years, people thought he was joking. The only reason they guessed him was because of his huge popularity in "Sunrise at Campobello", which had just been released.

Yes, and Arlene Francis, who was the Broadway actress could not even guess who he was. 

 

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I've been hearing John Wayne's name a lot now, and I think that he's probably the perennial example. As AndyM108 mentioned, there always will be a segment of the population that identifies with him as one if the lat great "heroes" of the movies, but for a significant portion of viewers, his mannerisms, acting styles, and his.....errr....confrontational political views have made him a polarizing figure. One can only take but so much swaggering around with a gun, and I'll leave it at that.

But that beings me to another question: how do we as viewers, the public, determine whose screen personality endures and whose doesn't? James Stewart was just as conservative as John Wayne. He supported Mayer and the studio system wholeheartedly, was active in the movement to stamp out "Red influence" in Hollywood, was a huge supporter of the Vietnam War, and generally fought for other right-wing causes openly. Yet he somehow remains accessible to and beloved by audiences while John Wayne does not. Is it because of Stewart's image as a nice everyman? Or the fact that he didn't scream at people? I'm not saying that Wayne should experience a surge of popularity, (nor do I want to disparage James Stewart; I love him) just that it's interesting to see how one fares versus the other.

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This is an interesting idea for a thread.

 

Alan Ladd has pretty much dropped off the map. In fact, he's dropped off the map so much that nobody has mentioned him here- perhaps the ultimate proof of just how much this formerly HUGE top ten box office star is no longer a part of our conscious thoughts anymore, even though we are film fans.

 

A couple of years ago I posted a photo of Ladd on these boards and a long time poster here (who still posts daily, in fact) asked who he was. And the photo was a good image of Ladd, too.

 

Part of the problem with Ladd is that many of his films were made at Paramount, now owned by Universal, which has kept most of them in the vault. The other problem is that, with the exception of Shane and perhaps one or two noirs that he made, few of Ladd's films were anything other than programmers of a routine type.

 

Having said all this, I like Ladd, and generally enjoy watching him, at least during his years up to Shane in 1953. His final films are a rather depressing lot as Ladd, even though a relatively young man, was aging in appearance, putting on the weight, and his performances, for the most part, were becoming increasingly lifeless.

 

In spite of everything that I have just written, Ladd will have a 24 hour tribute on TCM August 31st, with Shane getting prime time viewing. You will notice, though, in looking at the schedule, that there are only three other films from his Paramount glory days as a star on the schedule. And they're the same three suspects that TCM has frequently shown before. It is simply next to impossible to get many other films of the '40s that he made, thanks, no doubt, to Universal.

You raise an excellent point about the role that the studio played/plays in determining one's image and popularity. It's bad enough that under the studio system, actors were often typecast. When the same studio then drags their feet in releasing said actor's films, either for networks like TCM or for home video, it prevents a newer audience, as well as the fans, from accessing them.

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I've been hearing John Wayne's name a lot now, and I think that he's probably the perennial example. As AndyM108 mentioned, there always will be a segment of the population that identifies with him as one if the lat great "heroes" of the movies, but for a significant portion of viewers, his mannerisms, acting styles, and his.....errr....confrontational political views have made him a polarizing figure. One can only take but so much swaggering around with a gun, and I'll leave it at that.

But that beings me to another question: how do we as viewers, the public, determine whose screen personality endures and whose doesn't? James Stewart was just as conservative as John Wayne. He supported Mayer and the studio system wholeheartedly, was active in the movement to stamp out "Red influence" in Hollywood, was a huge supporter of the Vietnam War, and generally fought for other right-wing causes openly. Yet he somehow remains accessible to and beloved by audiences while John Wayne does not. Is it because of Stewart's image as a nice everyman? Or the fact that he didn't scream at people? I'm not saying that Wayne should experience a surge of popularity, just that it's interesting to see how one fares versus the other.

James Stewart was an everyman actor. I don't care that he was a conservative Republican. The films he made speak to the ordinary person in our times. Mr Smith Goes To Washington speaks to the ineffectiveness the ordinary American feels towards Congress. It's A Wonderful Life speaks to the greed the ordinary American feels about Wall Street and the 1%. These are just examples here, not trying to pontificate politics here, just the lasting effect on Stewart's legacy. Mike Connor in The Philadelphia Story is practically a character who thrives on pointing out class inequalities. 

 

I think it is important to note that Stewart's conservative Republicanness is not the same conservative Republicanness of today's, which probably explains the John Wayne fetish in the extreme. Frank Capra was a Republican and his films' messages seem so foreign to today's political cultural climate regarding those messages. Maybe that's why Stewart is not well known on the whole offscreen as much as onscreen. 

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To answer your question, I think as audience we are the determining factors of who remains known and who doesn't. In that we are classic film fans, we do our best to preserve the memories of them, make sure people know them, and if they don't or we don't know someone, we are fast to let people know about them to preserve their memories and shine a light on them, even if they didn't have it before. 

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James Stewart was an everyman actor. I don't care that he was a conservative Republican. The films he made speak to the ordinary person in our times. Mr Smith Goes To Washington speaks to the ineffectiveness the ordinary American feels towards Congress. It's A Wonderful Life speaks to the greed the ordinary American feels about Wall Street and the 1%. These are just examples here, not trying to pontificate politics here, just the lasting effect on Stewart's legacy. Mike Connor in The Philadelphia Story is practically a character who thrives on pointing out class inequalities.

 

I think it is important to note that Stewart's conservative Republicanness is not the same conservative Republicanness of today's, which probably explains the John Wayne fetish in the extreme. Frank Capra was a Republican and his films' messages seem so foreign to today's political cultural climate regarding those messages. Maybe that's why Stewart is not well known on the whole offscreen as much as onscreen.

 

Which goes back (again) to the changing times. Everyone who worked with Stewart said he was always kind and professional, whereas with John Wayne....I find that many of the Hollywood Republicans up until the 1970s ( with a few exceptions; remember the MPA?) did not have that fringe level of extremism that we know today. Gene Autry was a Republican, and Herb Jeffries noted that he helped finance his films. Furthermore, Autry's cowboy code for the kids who watched his show firmly stated that true cowboys didn't harbor racist feelings.
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Which goes back (again) to the changing times. Everyone who worked with Stewart said he was always kind and professional, whereas with John Wayne....I find that many of the Hollywood Republicans up until the 1970s ( with a few exceptions; remember the MPA?) did not have that fringe level of extreme sim that we know today. Gene Autry was a Republican, and Herb Jeffries noted that he helped finance his films.

Context is everything, and I didn't know that about Gene Autry! Cool! 

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