Thursday, July 28, 2011

Born to Play THE Part!

The idea for this post came from a comment on a recent post left by Nan from Letters From A Hill Farm.  She mentioned how certain actors seemed born to play certain parts and of course I agreed and thought - why not a post? And so, VOILA!

Please note: I've left the more obvious names off the list. We can all agree that the wonderful David Suchet was born to play Hercule Poirot and Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett were both born to play Sherlock Holmes, Bogart was born to play both Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe, William Powell and Myrna Loy were born to play Nick and Nora Charles, so I left them off the list. I thought I'd go with Ten OTHER actors born to play the role of their lives.

1)  Jane Marple - Joan Hickson. For me, there has never been another Miss Marple, there will never be another in my lifetime. Joan Hickson was THE personification of the brilliant, self-composed old maiden-ish crime solver. There was intelligence gleaming in her wrinkled, powdery face, purpose in her dithery-ness. And at the time these particular episodes were being filmed, they were not butchering the original plots as they have been doing in recent years.

2) Inspector Morse - John Thaw. Can you imagine anyone else as the irascible, classics loving, opera devotee and brilliant Oxford police detective?  I can't either. He owned the part. Thaw had the ability to make himself appear rude, objectionable, short-tempered, impatient and yet, despite this, his second in command, Lewis admired, respected and even loved him.

3) Jason Bourne - Matt Damon. Though Damon is a multi-talented actor willing to play off-beat roles and will continue to do so for years to come, it is as Jason Bourne that Damon will be be remembered - at least by me. The Bourne Trilogy is on my list of Top Twenty Favorite Films of All Time and, that is a big surprise to me since I'm not normally a fan of action spy films. (I will not be seeing the 4th Bourne film if Damon isn't playing the part.)

4) Frankenstein's Monster - Boris Karloff. Though other actors tried, once Karloff stopped playing The Monster, they all became caricatures of his interpretation. No one else could infuse the creature with Karloff's inchoate sadness, longing and wretched brutality.

5) Dracula - Bela Lugosi. Vampires come and go, but they will always be with us. At least in the movies. But no one embodied the sheer glamor of the undead as well as Bela Lugosi dressed in black with his flowing cape and his intense, darkly gleaming eyes, his clever, wicked smile. He made it seem a privilege to be bitten in the neck until undead. Though Lugosi became a caricature of himself in later roles, I'll always remember him as Count Alucard - that's Dracula spelled backwards.

6)  Superman - Christopher Reeve. I know, I know, there were and will be other fine Supermen. But Reeve was the first to make him 'human' and believable and gloriously romantic, not to mention, innocent while indecently handsome. To look at him in all his glory, was to see Superman step down from a pedestal and come to life.

7) The King of Siam - Yul Brynner. Brynner was the embodiment of raw vitality and sexuality, the allure of the mysterious and intriguing. Who else could have made a bald head sexy? For that matter, who else could have made calf muscles sexy? When, in THE KING AND I, Brynner puts his hand on Deborah Kerr's waist for the first time - a touch that precedes a joyous dance - I almost swoon. It is one of the great love scenes that is not an actual love scene in films. Tantamount to Fred Astaire making love to Ginger Rogers on the dance floor. (Because really, what else was Fred doing?)

8) T. E. Lawrence - Peter O'Toole. O'Toole captured the isolation, the angst, the daring and the quizzical incomprehensibility of the enigmatic Englishman T.E. Lawrence, leader of an Arab revolt against the Turks during WWI. Physically he was too tall, but in every other way O'Toole did resemble the shy, quiet, self aggrandizing individual who, inexplicably, became Lawrence of Arabia. I can't imagine any other actor except, perhaps, Leslie Howard, in the role. And Howard would have played it with his own slant, of course.

9) Rhett Butler - Clark Gable. Oh well, it is said that Margaret Mitchell had him in mind when she created the character in her epic GONE WITH THE WIND and it wouldn't surprise me in the least. There is no one, NO ONE, who could have played Butler then or now except Gable. He was the physical embodiment of the reckless, head-strong, conniving, cynical, gloriously male individual who was Rhett Butler. A man destined to be a hero denied a hero's ending.

10) Fitzwilliam Darcy - Colin Firth. Though I'm convinced Firth can play any role he sets his mind to, for me he will always be the ultimate Darcy in the TV mini-series of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. When I envision the part, it is always Colin Firth who springs to mind. It's going to be very difficult for any other actor to dislodge him from my film consciousness.

If there is any objection to my using any of these pictures in this post, please let me know and I'll remove the photo immediately.


  1. I agree with ALL of the ones you mentioned!!! Loved John Thaw and there will never be another on to take his place .. Also Colin Firth !!!! I can just see them in their roles now!!! Okay thanks for the blog and I enjoy your thoughts on all thinks my friend!!! Have a great day... :) Judy

  2. oh yeah , I forgot the sexy Yul , as the KING!!!!!

  3. You know, I have to say when I first heard Matt Damon was to play Jason Bourne, I thought he'd been miscast -- he had always seemed as an actor like a man so innocent and callow, he had no past to forget in the first place. But as he actually performed it on screen, he wrestled the role to the ground and made it his own, which greatly increased my respect for him as an actor. Now I can't imagine anyone else in the part.

  4. Judy: Thanks! I like that you're dropping by more often these days. We generally do agree on most things. Well, more or less. Ha!

    Yes, Yul was a dream-boat. He was also sexy as heck in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN dressed in black from head to foot.

  5. I felt the same way you did, Monkey, when I heard Damon was cast in the part. I was, like, OH NO! But boy did he prove me wrong. He was superb. He proved that it's possible to make an action movie with a thinking, feeling hero who also kicks ass.

  6. I agree with all these, Yvette! Excellent choices. Can I add Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in 'To Kill A Mocking Bird?

    Of course, as the King of Siam, no-one tops Yul Brynner! I went to see him the London Palladium production of the musical in 1979 (with Virginia McKenna as Anna) and despite being 59 at the time he had the lithe physique commensurate with the role! Very suave and sultry!

  7. Oh you lucky thing you - to have seen Yul Brynner live! Wow.

    Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. A very good choice, Sue.

  8. I agree with all your choices, especially all of them in the prologue, as well as Karloff and Lugosi.

    I would add:

    Rosalind Russell as Mame Dennis in Auntie Mame!

    Michael Keaton as Batman in Batman

    Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse in Rosemary's Baby

    Errol Flynn as Robin Hood in The Adventures of Robin Hood

    Kiefer Sutherland as David in The Lost Boys

    Julie Harris as Eleanor Lance in The Haunting

    Dennis Leary as Gus in The Ref

    Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

  9. Erroll Flynn as ROBIN HOOD and Rosalind Russell as MAME, for sure, Ryan. The others I'm not so sure about. I haven't seen the films.

  10. Wonderful topic Yvette!
    but YIKES you better see Rosemary's Baby PDQ!
    it's a bucket-lister!!

    And I will add Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter Whimsey.

  11. PB: Thanks for dropping by! Hmmm, I may see ROSEMARY'S BABY. I've always been a little leery of the whole thing. I have to stop being a whimp about it.

    Oh yes, I agree about Ian Carmichael. I almost listed him. He was perfect.

  12. Yvette, I'm loving your movie posts, and this one is great. You are so right about almost every one. Just one about which I feel differently. I just adore Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple, with here real-life husband as her dithery partner Mr. Stringer. I haven't read the stories (my dear Mom was the mystery lover!), and I know it can be irritating when things are changed. But dear, funny, ugly, smart Margaret just has my heart!

    Yul Brynner - sigh...King and I and the 10 Commandments! Wow! when he says to Anne Baxter in the 10 Commandments "You will come to me when I call, and I will enjoy that very much. Whether or not you enjoy it is your own affair. But I think you will." Sizzle!

    I have a tie myself between Laurence Olivier and Colin Firth as Darcy. Both are just marvelous!

  13. I agree with many of the suggestions that have been made (especially Peck as Atticus Finch, Thaw as Inspector Morse, and Hickson as Miss Marple).

    I would add two of my own:

    Anthony Quinn as Zorba the Greek

    Roy Marsdon as PD James' Inspector Dalgleish.

  14. I nominate Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart.

  15. Robert Duvall in "The Great Santini." Nobody could have done that like him!

  16. ClassicBecky: I LOVE Margaret Rutherford AND her cohort in crime, Stringer Davis. But here's the thing:
    her 'Miss Marple' is so NOT the Miss Marple of the books that I consider it a separate part altogether. Otherwise I would have added her to the list. Am I forgiven? Even a little?

    Otherwise, I'm so glad you enjoyed this post, Becky. Coming from a real movie maven like you, that's high praise!

  17. Fred: I like your suggestions. Especially Anthony Quinn as ZORBA.

  18. Bill: Okay. Never saw the film, but I've seen the trailer. Does that count? I might even add Jeff Bridges in STAR MAN.

  19. ClassicBecky: I like Robert Duvall. I agree about THE GREAT SANTINI. I also like him when he plays a grizzled cowboy.:)

  20. Yvette, please fell free to drop the Classic and just call me Becky! No formalities needed...

    No forgiveness necessary for Miss Marple. I get your point totally. I saw the movies before I ever read any of the books, so it was totally different for me. It's the same with Sherlock Holmes -- for me, Basil and Nigel will always be the closest to my heart, but the only did a couple that were actually Conan Doyle, and I love the original stories.

    Oh, and Robert Duvall -- I think he is probably - ready for it? - tied with Spencer Tracy for the greatest actor of the 20th Century and up to now. The man is so good that half the time you hardly recognize that it's him! It's pretty amazing. I know you are familiar with Faulkner - have you ever seen a younger Duvall in a movie called "Tomorrow." Made in the 70's, I think -- absolutely brilliant. P.S. You DO write very well about movies!

  21. Thanks, Becky. I so enjoy your comments especially when they're compliments - ha. I've never heard of the movie, TOMORROW with Robert Duvall. I'll have to check and see if Netflix has it. (I'm quickly learning there's SO MUCH I haven't heard of or seen, or read. Yikes!

    Basil and Nigel yes, But don't forget Jeremy Brett. But yes, if I had to choose one, I'd choose Basil for the more 'mythic' quality.

  22. I agree with all of the names listed in the prologue and most of those in the top 10, and several listed here by bloggers.

    I would add May Whitty as Miss Froy in one of my favorites, The Lady Vanishes, and Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher; Ingrid Bergman as the star of Notorious (and Claude Rains as the bad Nazi), Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, Judy Holliday ins every movie she was in, Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen, etc.

    More recently, I'd say Michael Kitchen as Inspector Foyle (love that series) and Honeysuckle Weeks in that series also (her name alone! And Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in Invictus -- I thought I was watching a documentary.

    We could all keep going forever. The mind "reels," pun intended.

  23. Kathy: Oh yes, there are lots more names I could have added but then the post would have run forever. Ha!

    Judy Holiday in BORN YESTERDAY, for sure.

    I love that actress's name: Honeysuckle Weeks. Only in England. :)

    Dame May Whitty: Miss Froy. Good one.

    I like Angela Lansbury in just about anything she does. But I guess we'll remember her as Jessica Fletcher best.

  24. Great post. I agree with just about all of these. Joan Hickson will always be the only Miss Marple to me too just as David Suchet is Poirot. And Rhett Butler wouldn't be the same with someone else playing him.

  25. Karen: Thanks! I love Joan Hickson's Miss Marple, for me it's the only one worth watching. And I still do. :)

    Suchet is perfection.

  26. Yvette:

    I agree with all of your choices and most of those contributed by the posters. On Miss Marple, I absolutely agree with your assessment. Margaret Rutherford wasn't really playing Miss Marple as Christie wrote her. The newer ones are generally too young. Even Christie thought that Hickson would make a good choice. The story goes that Christie saw her on the stage in London and told her, "Someday, I'd like you to play Miss Marple."

    To the other excellent contributions (Rosalind Russell, Angela Landsbury, and company), my contribution would be Michael Rennie as Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still. (The real one from 1951.) Robert Wise (the director) wanted an A-list actor whose face was unknown in the US. He found one.

  27. Steve: We agree. I too think that Michael Rennie will be remembered for Klaatu. My mom and I were both BIG Michael Rennie fans. I think he was my mom's favorite actor. :)

    The funny thing about Joan Hickson is that she played in one of the Margaret Rutherford Marple films. Actually in my favorite of the Rutherford films. The one based on Christie's 4:50 From Paddington.

    Hickson was much younger then and played someone on the Crackenthorpe house staff.


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