Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Scenes Where the Star Lets Someone Else Shine


TomJH
 Share

Recommended Posts

Every now and then you will see a scene in a movie in which the film's star will voluntarily take a back seat in order to allow a co-star or character player to have their moment.

 

Here is a perfect illustration of it from the W. C. Fields comedy, The Old Fashioned Way. Jump to the 6 minute mark in order to see the priceless moment when character actress Jan Duggan, playing rich spinster Cleopatra Pepperday, sings (and provides a few dance (???) steps), hilariously torturing the 1874 song, "Gathering Shells By the Seashore."

 

Fields' reactions to her performance are amusing and add to the scene but the scene still belongs to Duggan. (Personally, I think it's probably the funniest moment in the film). 

 

Whether it was a matter of generosity on Fields' part to let her have a scene for herself or he just knew that it would be a funny moment adding to the overall enjoyment of the film, I don't know. Possibly both.

 

[media]

[media]

 

Can anyone provide illustrations of other scenes in films in which the star appeared in a scene but took a back seat so that someone else could have his or her moment in order to shine?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Every now and then you will see a scene in a movie in which the film's star will voluntarily take a back seat in order to allow a co-star or character player to have their moment.

 

Here is a perfect illustration of it from the W. C. Fields comedy, The Old Fashioned Way. Jump to the 6 minute mark in order to see the priceless moment when character actress Jan Duggan, playing rich spinster Cleopatra Pepperday, sings (and provides a few dance (???) steps), hilariously torturing the 1874 song, "Gathering Shells By the Seashore."

 

Fields' reactions to her performance are amusing and add to the scene but the scene still belongs to Duggan. (Personally, I think it's probably the funniest moment in the film). 

 

Whether it was a matter of generosity on Fields' part to let her have a scene for herself or he just knew that it would be a funny moment adding to the overall enjoyment of the film, I don't know. Possibly both.

 

 

 

Can anyone provide illustrations of other scenes in films in which the star appeared in a scene but took a back seat so that someone else could have his or her moment in order to shine?

Whoa. What a great topic, TomJH. No, I'm not that proficient in movie history to provide an example, but I do know that George Burns set up Gracie Allen to shine, Jackie Gleason was brilliant at this, and kudos to you for starting a topic that is genius.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Katharine Hepburn threw a key scene to Judy Holliday in ADAM'S RIB by insisting the camera stay on Judy, not her. She also had the gossip columnists help her build up Judy so Harry Cohn would hire her for BORN YESTERDAY. She insisted (per the columnists) that Judy was stealing the film out from under her and Spence. It was a magnanimous series of gestures that paved the way for Judy to give an Oscar-winning performance a year later.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Whoa. What a great topic, TomJH. No, I'm not that proficient in movie history to provide an example, but I do know that George Burns set up Gracie Allen to shine, Jackie Gleason was brilliant at this, and kudos to you for starting a topic that is genius.

Thanks, primos. I could be wrong but I have a feeling that posters will probably have a tough time coming up with illustrations. I must be honest that it's a bit of a head scratcher for myself, too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Katharine Hepburn threw a key scene to Judy Holliday in ADAM'S RIB by insisting the camera stay on Judy, not her. She also had the gossip columnists help her build up Judy so Harry Cohn would hire her for BORN YESTERDAY. She insisted (per the columnists) that Judy was stealing the film out from under her and Spence. It was a magnanimous series of gestures that paved the way for Judy to give an Oscar-winning performance a year later.

Thanks, TB. You don't happen to recall which scene that was in Adam's Rib, do you? Was it one of the courtroom scenes?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do know that George Burns set up Gracie Allen to shine, Jackie Gleason was brilliant at this, and kudos to you for starting a topic that is genius.

I know it's television rather than the movies, but since you cited Gleason, the "Great One" often gave Art Carney all kinds of room to show off his comedy skills in The Honeymooners.

 

I was thinking more along the lines of the movies, though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, TB. You don't happen to recall which scene that was in Adam's Rib, do you? Was it one of the courtroom scenes?

According to the IMDb trivia section for ADAM'S RIB, it was several scenes. My guess is that it was where she first accepted the case from Judy's character and probably those later courtroom scenes. I am going to have to watch the film again, and I will report back to you!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

According to the IMDb trivia section for ADAM'S RIB, it was several scenes. My guess is that it was where she first accepted the case from Judy's character and probably those later courtroom scenes. I am going to have to watch the film again, and I will report back to you!

Adam's Rib is a terrific comedy and certainly the character support like Holliday, Tom Ewell and David Wayne do shine in it, but I'm having a hard time thinking of a specific scene in which either Tracy or Hepburn sort of stood aside for them.

 

One illustration, though, might be the home movies scene, in which Tracy is burning as David Wayne is making a lot of smart aleck comments as to what is playing on the screen. Wayne's obnoxiousness dominates the scene, though Tracy's reaction to him is priceless, as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Adam's Rib is a terrific comedy and certainly the character support like Holliday, Tom Ewell and David Wayne do shine in it, but I'm having a hard time thinking of a specific scene in which either Tracy or Hepburn sort of stood aside for them.

 

One illustration, though, might be the home movies scene, in which Tracy is burning as David Wayne is making a lot of smart aleck comments as to what is playing on the screen. Wayne's obnoxiousness dominates the scene, though Tracy's reaction to him is priceless, as well.

Well, I don't think Tracy threw scenes to anyone. In fact, as per the trivia section at the IMDb, he threw a fit about billing and insisted that he be over Kate in the credits. That's another story!

 

I do agree that David Wayne has some good moments in this film. They all do.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I know it's television rather than the movies, but since you cited Gleason, the "Great One" often gave Art Carney all kinds of room to show off his comedy skills in The Honeymooners.

 

I was thinking more along the lines of the movies, though.

Oh you are correct about Gleason, and I know you meant movies, Tom.

 

I was just showing my ignorance about movies and my complete indoctrination with television from the year of the flood, aka 1953.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You may be right. The scene is certainly written, though, to allow Wayne to shine, which is not quite what I was talking about in my original posting, though.

I should correct myself about Spencer Tracy. I think he liked Van Johnson and helped Johnson shine in A GUY NAMED JOE. And I don't think it was an accident that Spence and Van did a few more movies together at MGM-- my guess is that Spence probably had approval over casting and requested Van for those other roles. So when he wanted to be amenable, he could be. But for the most part, Spencer Tracy had an ego as wide as the Mississippi and he liked being top dog.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The film noir Cry Danger has a scene in which character actor Richard Erdman enters a trailor rather drunk, pours a glass of milk for himself then pours the milk back into the bottle again. It's an amusing scene in which star Dick Powell lies in a bunk in the background staring at the ceiling while all this is happening.

 

In fact, Powell, who was also involved in the production of this film, allowed Erdman to have much of the best dialogue in the film.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh you are correct about Gleason, and I know you meant movies, Tom.

 

I was just showing my ignorance about movies and my complete indoctrination with television from the year of the flood, aka 1953.

Still, the Gleason-Carney TV illustration is ideal. Now to find a movie equivalent of it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The film noir Cry Danger has a scene in which character actor Richard Erdman enters a trailor rather drunk, pours a glass of milk for himself then pours the milk back into the bottle again. It's an amusing scene in which star Dick Powell lies in a bunk in the background staring at the ceiling while all this is happening.

 

In fact, Powell, who was also involved in the production of this film, allowed Erdman to have much of the best dialogue in the film.

Tom I had a thought here-- I don't know about CRY DANGER because it's been awhile since I have seen it (wish TCM aired it more frequently)-- but I think sometimes when the lead actor is involved behind the scenes, like with production duties or functioning as an uncredited director in some scenes, then they are willing to turn portions of the film over to the co-leads or character actors. They know that if others look good, ultimately it makes them look good too-- and having a hit film is what counts most, because they want to keep producing or directing as well as acting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tom I had a thought here-- I don't know about CRY DANGER because it's been awhile since I have seen it (wish TCM aired it more frequently)-- but I think sometimes when the lead actor is involved more behind the scenes, like with production duties or functioning as an uncredited director in some scenes, then they are more willing to turn portions of the film over to the costars or character actors. They know that if others look good, ultimately it makes them look good too-- and having a hit film is what counts most, because they want to keep producing or directing as well as acting.

That makes a lot of sense, TB. Still, as an actor, Powell was often generous in his scenes with Erdman in that film.

 

By the way, Powell isn't even listed as producer on Cry Danger (even though he was). How much real credit he would personally have received for a good little film here I'm not quite certain.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That makes a lot of sense, TB. Still, as an actor, Powell was often generous in his scenes with Erdman in that film.

 

By the way, Powell isn't even listed as producer on Cry Danger (even though he was). How much real credit he would personally have received for a good little film here I'm not quite certain.

But even in those scenes where they are acting, they are assisting the director with the other actors' performances. Ida Lupino did this, too. In fact, I think in many ways Lupino and Powell were better actor-directors than someone like Orson Welles.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It seems to me that Raoul Walsh's They Drive By Night has a lot of scenes in which the character support really shines. I'm thinking of the likes of Roscoe Karns playing those pinball machines in the cafe scene at the film's beginning, for example. It really adds to the colour and amusement of the scene. Star George Raft is temporarily in the background here.

 

Even more so, though, Alan Hale's jovial boss, always cracking jokes and bending over with laughter, dominates any scenes that he has with George Raft. Yeah, yeah, I know, maybe this is more a case of a great character actor doing some old fashioned scene stealing from a limited leading man.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It seems to me that Raoul Walsh's They Drive By Night has a lot of scenes in which the character support really shines. I'm thinking of the likes of Roscoe Karns playing those pinball machines in the cafe scene at the film's beginning, for example. It really adds to the colour and amusement of the scene. Star George Raft is temporarily in the background here.

 

Even more so, though, Alan Hale's jovial boss, always cracking jokes and bending over with laughter, dominates any scenes that he has with George Raft. Yeah, yeah, I know, maybe this is more a case of a great character actor doing some old fashioned scene stealing from a limited leading man.

 

Well I'm glad to see you added that 'Yeah, yeah, I know,,,,,,' part.     It isn't very difficult to shine while standing next to a block of wood!      But They Drive By Night is a good example of where the supporting players really standout in certain scenes. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It seems to me that Raoul Walsh's They Drive By Night has a lot of scenes in which the character support really shines. I'm thinking of the likes of Roscoe Karns playing those pinball machines in the cafe scene at the film's beginning, for example. It really adds to the colour and amusement of the scene. Star George Raft is temporarily in the background here.

 

Even more so, though, Alan Hale's jovial boss, always cracking jokes and bending over with laughter, dominates any scenes that he has with George Raft. Yeah, yeah, I know, maybe this is more a case of a great character actor doing some old fashioned scene stealing from a limited leading man.

I think you're getting into another related area. Raft was winding down at Warners at this time. In some situations like these, the studio would have the director deliberately background the star who is on his or her way out in order to build-up a rising star who may only be third- or fourth-billed. Does that make sense? That happened with Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak in PAL JOEY.

 

I agree about Alan Hale. But from what I have read, he was very ambitious and fought for roles that were sometimes given to S.Z. Sakall. So Hale may have pulled out all the stops in some of these pictures, or received the benefit of his buddies like Flynn and Cagney who threw scenes to him, to make sure the studio would keep him on and keep using him in other films instead of Sakall.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

IMHO Bette Davis was very good at letting her co-stars shine, even though many people either dislike her, or think of her as some kind of ostentatious performer.

 

I agree with you.   I find too many people only know Davis for her 'chew the scenery' type performances (e.g. The Little Foxes,  Dark Victory),   but they don't give her credit for her lower key performacnes in films like The Corn is Green or The Great Lie.   In both of these films she allowed the secondary star (John Dall and Mary Astor in the films mentioned),  to shine and take the spotlight.    

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with you.   I find too many people only know Davis for her 'chew the scenery' type performances (e.g. The Little Foxes,  Dark Victory),   but they don't give her credit for her lower key performacnes in films like The Corn is Green or The Great Lie.   In both of these films she allowed the secondary star (John Dall and Mary Astor in the films mentioned),  to shine and take the spotlight.    

The Great Lie is interesting because star Davis took an overall less interesting role than the one played by Mary Astor.

 

If there was any Davis film in which Claude Rains truly dominated her it was Deception. The masterful scene in the restaurant in which Rains toys with Davis and Paul Henreid while ordering food is a good illustration of a great character actor making the most of his moment with his very florid performance, but with Davis, essentially, standing (or, in this case, sitting) back and allowing him to have this scene (mind you, Claude probably would have taken it from her even if she hadn't).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

© 2023 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...