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Actors Whose Images/Personas Have Not Aged Well


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Alan Ladd has pretty much dropped off the map

 

The problem with your premise is that it has a humongous but -- Shane.

 

That has kept his memory alive with even casual movie fans.

 

Otherwise, I agree with you that the lack of circulation for his Paramount films has hurt him. What is IMHO his best performance, The Great Gatsby, has been all but invisible since the 1960s. If that had been in common circulation over the past 40+ years consider how many students would have checked it out just to see the story.

 

Ladd showed some very questionable judgment after he left Paramount, and turning down Jett Rink in Giant did not help. By the late '50s the booze and pills were starting to show up on screen -- it wasn't so much that he looked older, it was that seemed to have been heavily sedated and placed on a film set as some sort of experimental therapy (compare the vigor of Ladd at 45 with that of, say, Lloyd Bridges at 65) 

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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 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.

And historically speaking, that's because there were African American cowboys in the Old West. 

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That's so hard to believe. But I suppose things were so different in an era in which there were only three major television networks --and none of them were showing movies in prime time. And remember, there was no definitive book on the Academy Awards and Oscar winners until Robert Osborne did his first history in 1965. Just imagine how March would be greeted if he was alive today and made an appearance at a TCM Classic Film Festival.

And the fact that wide circulation and reruns of films from earlier times, even from twenty years ago, we're not in vogue yet. If March appeared at the TCM film festival, I'm not going to lie, I'd jump on stage to meet him.

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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 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.

 

Nope, it wasn't so much the common political factor that Stewart and Wayne shared, but more the idea that Jimmy was NEVER the overtly in-your-face "never apologize 'cause that's a sign of weakness" macho BS that Big Duke almost always presented himself as being, and which NOW seems "dated".

 

(...yep, THAT was the freakin' difference here!)

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Nope, it wasn't so much the common political factor that Stewart and Wayne shared, but more the idea that Jimmy was NEVER the overtly in-your-face "never apologize 'cause that's a sign of weakest" macho SOB that Big Duke almost always presented himself as being, and which NOW seems "dated".

 

(...yep, THAT was the freakin' difference here!)

Amen! Even Ronald Reagan met with Tip O'Neill and compromised, instead of acting like spoiled brats who want their own way. 

 

Back to films here, I saw McLintock! recently and John Wayne had one of the characters named after Hubert Humphreys, the Vice President of the United States at the time (Cuthbert Humphreys) in the film. I looked up LBJ's VP and looking at his track record, I could see why Wayne didn't like him. But, all that posturing made it very uncomfortable to watch for me in that bit. Not because of the politics, but just how personal Wayne took it to commandeer a film to make a point about someone he didn't like. I am just glad Maureen O'Hara, Stefanie Powers, and Yvonne De Carlo were there to remind us that we are only watching a movie. 

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I believe that Lincoln Perry, or Stepin' Fetchit's, image has not dated well, and probably will not as the years pass. Some might say that it's because he was another Black actor who played stereotypical roles, and because newer generations don't understand the context of racial stereotypes in films of yesteryear. But IMO, I think that it goes deeper than that. There were a number if African-American actors who had to "play the game" so to speak, but there was always something about their performances (at least among the great ones) that transcended the one-dimensional parts they were given. As a result, their performances have a subversive edge, especially when the viewer watches carefully within the context of the films (I'm thinking of Hattie McDaniel and Clarence Muse specifically here, as well as Spencer Williams). With Perry, however, there's nothing there under the iceberg. What you see is what you get, and there appeared to be no attempt on his behalf to try and do more. And unfortunately, what we see makes us very uncomfortable. Dick Gregory once said that Perry's great-great- grandchildren are going to have to live with his legacy, and that it's unfortunate.

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Nope, it wasn't so much the common political factor that Stewart and Wayne shared, but more the idea that Jimmy was NEVER the overtly in-your-face "never apologize 'cause that's a sign of weakness" macho BS that Big Duke almost always presented himself as being, and which NOW seems "dated".

 

(...yep, THAT was the freakin' difference here!)

I don't recall James Stewart punching college students in the face, either, or saying that certain groups "deserved" to be "conquered".

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I believe that Lincoln Perry, or Stepin' Fetchit's, image has not dated well, and probably will not as the years pass. Some might say that it's because he was another Black actor who played stereotypical roles, and because newer generations don't understand the context of racial stereotypes in films of yesteryear. But IMO, I think that it goes deeper than that. There were a number if African-American actors who had to "play the game" so to speak, but there was always something about their performances (at least among the great ones) that transcended the one-dimensional parts they were given. As a result, their performances have a subversive edge, especially when the viewer watches carefully within the context of the films (I'm thinking of Hattie McDaniel and Clarence Muse specifically here, as well as Spencer Williams). With Perry, however, there's nothing there under the iceberg. What you see is what you get, and there appeared to be no attempt on his behalf to try and do more. And unfortunately, what we see makes us very uncomfortable. Dick Gregory once said that Perry's great-great- grandchildren are going to have to live with his legacy, and that it's unfortunate.

I have written a lot about classic actors and actresses of color at the Classic Film Union, and it amazes me how people can just take it by role and not by context of performance when looking at those actors. Clearly, doing a job requiring playing a social stereotype is not good nor right by any means, but that doesn't mean that those actors couldn't fight back by giving a dimensional performance. Also, in the context of their real lives, they were not stereotypical. Hattie McDaniel only played a maid, but she led to the de-segregation of neighborhoods with her Sugar Hill discrimination case going all the way to the Supreme Court stating that people should have a right to live wherever they want in what neighborhood they want, she also was a founding member of the Negro Actors' Guild who sought to end social stereotype in film and other entertainment, provide health care for uninsured actors of color, as well as provide transportation and setting up hotel accommodations for actors of color shooting in various locations. Clarence Muse, I believe, was a founding member as well. Muse and Williams also were major directors and actors who were apart of the independent "race" films that gave actors of color substantive roles that defied stereotype that the mainstream was full of. Regarding Lincoln Perry, I would like to know if there is something out there that stated what he thought about the stereotype he played and what he did off screen that challenged that. 

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I don't recall James Stewart punching college students in the face, either, or saying that certain groups "deserved" to be "conquered".

 

Well, to be honest with ya here SG, THIS Centrist HERE would have probably smacked some kid in HIS face TOO if he'd had come up and gotten in right in MY face in an incidence like THAT!

 

(...though of course unlike Wayne, I'd have probably apologized to the kid afterward, thinkin' as I do that apologizing ISN'T a sign of weakness!!!) LOL

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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.

 

In Hollywood's so-called Golden Age, a majority of stars were Republicans.  Wayne differed from the rest of them mainly in his frequently vocal and confrontational opinions, and because as a leading actor and box office draw he commanded a lot more attention than an equally right wing Adolphe Menjou. 

 

To make a crude comparison, Wayne was the Jane Fonda of Hollywood conservatism, whereas Jimmy Stewart's liberal counterpart would have been someone like Robert Ryan or Richard Widmark, actors with strong liberal convictions but who weren't running around expressing them to any reporter with a microphone or a note pad. 

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I believe that Lincoln Perry, or Stepin' Fetchit's, image has not dated well, and probably will not as the years pass. Some might say that it's because he was another Black actor who played stereotypical roles, and because newer generations don't understand the context of racial stereotypes in films of yesteryear. But IMO, I think that it goes deeper than that. There were a number if African-American actors who had to "play the game" so to speak, but there was always something about their performances (at least among the great ones) that transcended the one-dimensional parts they were given. As a result, their performances have a subversive edge, especially when the viewer watches carefully within the context of the films (I'm thinking of Hattie McDaniel and Clarence Muse specifically here, as well as Spencer Williams). With Perry, however, there's nothing there under the iceberg. What you see is what you get, and there appeared to be no attempt on his behalf to try and do more. And unfortunately, what we see makes us very uncomfortable. Dick Gregory once said that Perry's great-great- grandchildren are going to have to live with his legacy, and that it's unfortunate.

Didn't Willie Best give performances very similar to Lincoln Perry's?

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Amen! Even Ronald Reagan met with Tip O'Neill and compromised, instead of acting like spoiled brats who want their own way. 

 

Back to films here, I saw McLintock! recently and John Wayne had one of the characters named after Hubert Humphreys, the Vice President of the United States at the time (Cuthbert Humphreys) in the film. I looked up LBJ's VP and looking at his track record, I could see why Wayne didn't like him. But, all that posturing made it very uncomfortable to watch for me in that bit. Not because of the politics, but just how personal Wayne took it to commandeer a film to make a point about someone he didn't like. I am just glad Maureen O'Hara, Stefanie Powers, and Yvonne De Carlo were there to remind us that we are only watching a movie. 

 

Actually, Humphrey was not Vice-President at the time of the release of this film just over one week before President Kennedy was killed on November 22nd. Humphrey did not become VP until January, 1965, the start of Lyndon Johnson's only full-term of presidency.

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I have written a lot about classic actors and actresses of color at the Classic Film Union, and it amazes me how people can just take it by role and not by context of performance when looking at those actors. Clearly, doing a job requiring playing a social stereotype is not good nor right by any means, but that doesn't mean that those actors couldn't fight back by giving a dimensional performance. Also, in the context of their real lives, they were not stereotypical. Hattie McDaniel only played a maid, but she led to the de-segregation of neighborhoods with her Sugar Hill discrimination case going all the way to the Supreme Court stating that people should have a right to live wherever they want in what neighborhood they want, she also was a founding member of the Negro Actors' Guild who sought to end social stereotype in film and other entertainment, provide health care for uninsured actors of color, as well as provide transportation and setting up hotel accommodations for actors of color shooting in various locations. Clarence Muse, I believe, was a founding member as well. Muse and Williams also were major directors and actors who were apart of the independent "race" films that gave actors of color substantive roles that defied stereotype that the mainstream was full of. Regarding Lincoln Perry, I would like to know if there is something out there that stated what he thought about the stereotype he played and what he did off screen that challenged that.

 

From what I've read about Perry, he saw himself as a game-changer, one who "elevated the Negro into la first-class citizen all over the world." (This is from Donald Bogle's "Toms, Coons,Mulatties, Mammies and Bucks"). But he also resented that people saw him as a negative force, and didn't give him his proper due. Bogle also argues that there does exist a subversive element in Perry's performances, but I'm a little hard-pressed to see it, though I try.

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Didn't Willie Best give performances very similar to Lincoln Perry's?

As did Ben Carter, but I believe that Perry's popularity and extremely high visibility (he was even in the "Our Gang" series) had a lot to do with the discussion and discomfort around his image.

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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.

 

In Hollywood's so-called Golden Age, a majority of stars were Republicans.  Wayne differed from the rest of them mainly in his frequently vocal and confrontational opinions, and because as a leading actor and box office draw he commanded a lot more attention than an equally right wing Adolphe Menjou. 

 

To make a crude comparison, Wayne was the Jane Fonda of Hollywood conservatism, whereas Jimmy Stewart's liberal counterpart would have been someone like Robert Ryan or Richard Widmark, actors with strong liberal convictions but who weren't running around expressing them to any reporter with a microphone or a note pad.

 

I like your analogy.

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Well, to be honest with ya here SG, THIS Centrist HERE would have probably smacked some kid in HIS face TOO if he'd had come up and gotten in right in MY face in an incidence like THAT!

 

(...though of course unlike Wayne, I'd have probably apologized to the kid afterward, thinkin' as I do that apologizing ISN'T a sign of weakness!!!) LOL

Dargo, you're a wild one, that's for sure :)

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I have written a lot about classic actors and actresses of color at the Classic Film Union, and it amazes me how people can just take it by role and not by context of performance when looking at those actors. Clearly, doing a job requiring playing a social stereotype is not good nor right by any means, but that doesn't mean that those actors couldn't fight back by giving a dimensional performance. Also, in the context of their real lives, they were not stereotypical. Hattie McDaniel only played a maid, but she led to the de-segregation of neighborhoods with her Sugar Hill discrimination case going all the way to the Supreme Court stating that people should have a right to live wherever they want in what neighborhood they want, she also was a founding member of the Negro Actors' Guild who sought to end social stereotype in film and other entertainment, provide health care for uninsured actors of color, as well as provide transportation and setting up hotel accommodations for actors of color shooting in various locations. Clarence Muse, I believe, was a founding member as well. Muse and Williams also were major directors and actors who were apart of the independent "race" films that gave actors of color substantive roles that defied stereotype that the mainstream was full of. Regarding Lincoln Perry, I would like to know if there is something out there that stated what he thought about the stereotype he played and what he did off screen that challenged that.

 

Oh, and just to clarify, I'm not dismissing the role of context, just that there are other things to be considered with it. :)

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Dargo, you're a wild one, that's for sure :)

 

Well, yeah, I suppose. ;)

 

(...but unlike that OTHER "Wild One" who ALSO rode motorcycles, I don't have a nasally voice and I don't mumble!!!) 

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I believe that Lincoln Perry, or Stepin' Fetchit's, image has not dated well, and probably will not as the years pass. Some might say that it's because he was another Black actor who played stereotypical roles, and because newer generations don't understand the context of racial stereotypes in films of yesteryear. 

 

It's probably a similar situation for some film stars who specialized in blackface performances, particularly Eddie Cantor. Al Jolson probably gets a pass because of that glorious voice (which may have inspired animator Chuck Jones to create Michigan J. Frog) and his special place in film history because of "The Jazz Singer."

But I have a feeling that Cantor is not well remembered, although he has been a recurring character -- portrayed by actor Stephen DeRosa -- in HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" series.

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It's probably a similar situation for some film stars who specialized in blackface performances, particularly Eddie Cantor. Al Jolson probably gets a pass because of that glorious voice (which may have inspired animator Chuck Jones to create Michigan J. Frog) and his special place in film history because of "The Jazz Singer."

But I have a feeling that Cantor is not well remembered, although he has been a recurring character -- portrayed by actor Stephen DeRosa -- in HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" series.

Apparently those two were rivals, but I always found Cantor to be a better performer overall. It's also interesting to note just how many stars performed in blackface, but whom haven't had it affect their legacy.

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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.

 

I was reading this conversation on my phone and logged on using my laptop to comment on this very topic.  There are so many teenage girls/women who claim that Marilyn Monroe and/or Audrey Hepburn are their favorite actress(es).  Usually these people will have either actresses' picture emblazoned on something they're wearing-- whether it's a shirt, purse, etc.  Me, having a genuine interest in classic film and in both Hepburn and Monroe, will ask what Monroe/Hepburn film is their favorite.  (Note: I don't ask this of strangers I see, just people I meet)  Usually the response I get is: "Oh, I've never seen one of her films." I'm always pleasantly surprised when they can actually answer the question.

 

I have an acquaintance who claims to be a "huge Marilyn Monroe fan."  Intrigued, I asked her what her favorite Monroe film was.  "Oh, I've never seen any of her films," she says.  "Mmhmm," I say.  Finally, I made her watch "Some Like it Hot" just so that she could at least have an answer to that question if anyone ever asks again.  Personally my favorite Monroe performance is "Niagara."  My favorite Hepburn performance is "Funny Face."

 

Monroe and Hepburn are enduring icons of classic Hollywood cinema and Hollywood in general, not because of any of their performances, but because of images perpetuated by the media.  Of course, many of these images are from classic films that Monroe and Hepburn appeared in, i.e. Marilyn's white dress scene from "The Seven Year Itch" and Hepburn's black dress from "Breakfast at Tiffany's."  However, I doubt that a majority of their "huge fans" would be able to identify which films the images were culled from.  Male stars who I think may fall into this category would be James Dean and John Wayne. 

 

Finally, as a side note to those who look up to Monroe because she shows that "heavier women are beautiful" (I read that in a thread further down), I wish that they'd actually watch one of Monroe's films and see that she was not all that heavy.  She wasn't svelte like her contemporary Audrey Hepburn; but really who is? Monroe's weight does fluctuate in her films; but for the most part, she is thin.  She isn't a size 14 or whatever it is that the media is claiming these days.  I'd say at the most, she was today's size 6 or 8. 

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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.

 

In Hollywood's so-called Golden Age, a majority of stars were Republicans.  Wayne differed from the rest of them mainly in his frequently vocal and confrontational opinions, and because as a leading actor and box office draw he commanded a lot more attention than an equally right wing Adolphe Menjou. 

 

To make a crude comparison, Wayne was the Jane Fonda of Hollywood conservatism, whereas Jimmy Stewart's liberal counterpart would have been someone like Robert Ryan or Richard Widmark, actors with strong liberal convictions but who weren't running around expressing them to any reporter with a microphone or a note pad. 

I don't find that comparison crude, but then again, I don't find Jane Fonda to be worthy of ire for not being status quo as other noted Hollywood notaries were during that time in history. 

 

I do know that on the set of State of the Union, Katharine Hepburn and Adolphe Menjou only talked to each other when filming, because she was upset that he was so supportive of McCarthy. 

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Oh, and just to clarify, I'm not dismissing the role of context, just that there are other things to be considered with it. :)

I didn't get that sense at all from your comments. I was speaking generally. 

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From what I've read about Perry, he saw himself as a game-changer, one who "elevated the Negro into la first-class citizen all over the world." (This is from Donald Bogle's "Toms, Coons,Mulatties, Mammies and Bucks"). But he also resented that people saw him as a negative force, and didn't give him his proper due. Bogle also argues that there does exist a subversive element in Perry's performances, but I'm a little hard-pressed to see it, though I try.

I haven't looked hard enough to try myself. I like knowing that he resented people who viewed him as a negative force, as he was the highest paid African American actor in mainstream Hollywood at the time. But, as I still need to see, I would have to look for the "subversive" element in his performances. 

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