Golden Age of Hollywood Book Club discussion

Hob Nob > Hest-Fest!

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message 1: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (last edited Jul 03, 2018 08:51PM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2491 comments Mod
Chuck Heston made a helluva lot of sturdy, eminently-watchable, entertaining movies. The guy was in an endless string of fun flicks. What're your faves...?

message 2: by Doubledf99.99 (new)

Doubledf99.99 | 271 comments Major Dundee
Will Penny
Planet of the Apes
Playhouse 90, The Forbidden Area
The Big Country
Ben Hur

message 3: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2491 comments Mod
Okay I will state some of mine

'Ben Hur'--for sure, though I feel that Stephen Boyd almost stole that film away from him

'Dark City'--his first role; and he did a fine, fine, first outing. Jack Webb co-stars in a rather Raymond Chandler-esque tale.

I've not seen Hest in all his religious flicks since I was a kid; but I'm not keen on them. Did he face-off against Yul Brynner as Pharaoh? yikes

'The Big Country' for sure. No question. He was eclipsed by Peck but had what was almost the best scene at the climax, where he shows how a violent man can embrace 'tough' pacifism.

I'm not actually a fan of 'Major Dundee', I can't recall very many scenes where he shined there.

'Khartoum'. Playing opposite Olivier's phenomenal performance as the Madhi? Hest holds his own; although just barely. The guy's physique picks up wherever his acting doesn't. Anyone who's read the biography of Gordon knows Hest was fine in this flick.

'Touch of Evil'. The masterpiece of film noir by Orson Welles. Hest plays a Mex! He was lambasted unfairly for his accent. Raw deal. He was solid here.

I liked several of Hest's cheesier/smaller roles usually sporting massive sideburns: 'Two-Minute Warning', 'Airport '75', 'Soylent Green', 'Number One', 'Earthquake'.

He did a big-game hunting TV movie with John Savage which I enjoyed.

His role as Richelieu in the Salkind's wonderful 'The Three Musketeers'--very, very interesting to see Hest play an pacifist intellectual.

What else. H'mmm. Didn't like him much in 'Julius Caesar'.

Will Penny! Yes. Superb. He owned that role.

Planet of the Apes. Of course. Stellar.

'The War Lord' with James Mason, is an interesting medieval flick.

Eric Ambler's engaging adaptation of a Hammond Innes thriller starring Gary Cooper--'The Wreck of the Mary Deare'--Hest has some extremely moving scenes. Look for Richard Harris as the villain.

'El Cid' opposite Sophia Loren. It's gorgeous; although not a great venue for acting.

All in all--though I don't admire Hest's politics--as a man and as an actor I wish we had a whole friggin' generation of men just like him. Instead of the two-legged miserable male garbage we have out there today.

message 4: by Doubledf99.99 (new)

Doubledf99.99 | 271 comments Nice list, completely agree.

I enjoyed El Cid, The Warlord, and Khartoum pretty much.

Another one I forgot about that I've seen a few times is The Naked Jungle.

Growing up in the sixties he was one of my favorites'.

message 5: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2491 comments Mod
Oh yerr! 'Naked Jungle' is a cult classic but its really more about the ants, wouldn't you say? lol

p.s. it comes from a celebrated radio play starring Bill Conrad as the hero (Conrad plays the district commissioner in the movie, nice gesture)

message 6: by W (new)

W Khartoum
The Big Country
Didn't like Ben Hur

message 7: by Betsy (last edited Dec 08, 2019 07:21PM) (new)

Betsy | 2556 comments Charlton Heston is one actor that I have never warmed to. His emotions seem to go from A to B. However, I understand that some people do like him so no problem.

message 8: by Kandice (new)

Kandice Planet of the Apes is not only my favorite Heston movie, but one of my favorite movies (and books) period.

I also really liked Soylent Green.

message 9: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2491 comments Mod
Well that's pretty impressive; not usually a favorite of a female moviegoer.

I enjoy Heston quite a bit, but I admit his detractors can make some biting assertions about him.

Here's a very powerful essay which --although I don't like it --I must agree makes some accurate-sounding analyses. It's plausible enough though of course we can't ever say for sure.

Let me know what you think. The way I feel about it: if one is to claim that he wasn't on par with Olivier, alright --but what of it? Olivier is not 'perfect' for every role either. Heston filled a definite niche and a definite need with the 'presence' Hollywood needed at the time. He didn't have to be Olivier.

message 10: by Kandice (new)

Kandice That was a great article. Thanks for posting it.

message 11: by Doubledf99.99 (new)

Doubledf99.99 | 271 comments The first movie I watched at the big screen with Heston was Major Dundee and I was a fan of his since.

message 12: by Spencer (new)

Spencer Rich | 925 comments IT'S PEOPLE!

message 13: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) | 2831 comments I'm no big fan of Heston but did like him in El Cid and Planet of the Apes. I thought he was a bit hammy in some of his roles but hey, so was Olivier. Ever see Boys From Brazil?

message 14: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2491 comments Mod
I suspect I have no judgment when it comes to what is hammy or not. Olivier's later roles: I tend to admire because he wields that phenomenal power he has of mimicry. In 'Boys' he plays a Jew; in 'Marathon Man' he plays a Nazi; in 'Voyage 'Round My Father' he is a Frenchman; in 'Jazz Singer' he is an Orthodox Jew; in 'Dracula' he plays Van Helsing; in 'Merchant of Venice' he plays Shylock; in 'Khartoum' he plays an Ethiopian; on and on and on. This is part of why he was revered by his professional peers, if anybody was.

'Boys from Brazil' I recall only one scene where his character loses his temper; he seemed to keep everything in check up until the final fistfight with the much-larger Peck.

But like I say, I am not sure I am a good judge of ham. The only ham I've ever seen *for sure* was Edward G. Robinson giving a condemned murderer's last words to the court in 1932's pre-code, Mervyn LeRoy flick, "Two Seconds". Histrionic raving with every corny stage gesture invented.

message 15: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 2556 comments I'm never sure how much is 'ham' on the part of the actor or was the role written that way? If it was written that way then isn't the actor just doing his job, and it's the writer who is hamming it up?

message 16: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2491 comments Mod
It's a tricky question for sure. Films are collaborations. Novelist, to screenwriter, then to the director, the dialog coach, then the editors --all have a say. Plus many more figures besides even just these.

message 17: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 2556 comments Since nowadays many, many movies aren't from novels, do you think that has affected the quality of the writing? Look at the all slam-bang movies or horror or even the animated ones. It seems that so many movies are written just to have a movie for the theatre or for Netflix.

message 18: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (last edited Dec 09, 2019 08:21AM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2491 comments Mod
Well. Until your remark just now I myself would have suggested that that (best-selling) or 'buzzed-about' or 'viral' novels continue to be a source of adaptations for the screen. The wisdom has always been that for a studio the expensive marketing struggle is already half-complete when they purchase book rights. The story already has 'locked-in' fans who look forward to the screen version.

Producers crave 'sure-bets', they want pre-existing confidence for a new yarn rather than back a horse-which-has-never-run. Because when they must go and try to convince their superiors to go and try to convince their investors to sink more than one hundred million dollars into a typical project (these days), failure is unacceptable. I don't think that has changed.

Yes, there are all sorts of new numbers. You're right; they are cranking out anything --just to get something, anything up on the screen. They'll cut-any-corner they can, too-- using digitally-generated tools as well. Hollywood unions are in an uproar about it.

Studios are cut-throats though; they have big legal teams and big accounting teams, and they get away with almost any deceit they wish. Difficult to fight.

Tech trends are giving them even more leeway, sadly: they can vastly reduce distribution costs by filming digital; (the cost of shipping heavy film canisters around the world was always the top expense).

And new agreements with undiscriminating foreign markets allow them --in essence --to make movies as poorly/cheaply as they wish, knowing that the insatiable Asian market will still earn their profits back. There's no reason to 'craft' or 'hone' quality at all anymore. No matter how bad a film is, it still earns revenue.

One thing they do lately is only develop the simplest, most inane, most vapid / childish dialogue for any story --knowing in advance that it all has to be changed/re-dubbed for foreign language audiences anyway. Why groom good acting in English, when it's all going to be tossed aside? This kind of thinking makes short shrift for US audiences.

Maybe new group member Patrick can address your question better than I. Yep, as a sideline I do some writing myself --so I follow the industry a little --but I'm strictly 'spec' (e.g. utter nobody) so I can afford not to care.

message 19: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) | 2831 comments Don't get me wrong, Feliks......I think the Olivier may have been the greatest of all actors but he sometimes went "over the top". Maybe "hammy" isn't the word for it but it is just my impression And he probably did wince at some of the dialogue that he was given which didn't give him much room for interpretation.

message 20: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2491 comments Mod
You're likely right. One thing though, is that most big stars do have final say over their dialog. They have script approval, credits approval, and often even casting approval. Not all of them exercise their power-of-veto, of course. Brando and many of the other 'big egos' like McQueen did. Even Redford did, occasionally.

Ah well, as I freely admit --I don't believe I have good enough acuteness in this matter of 'good' acting. I'm sure I let many performances pass without noticing the scenery-chewing which others are appalled by.

message 21: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) | 2831 comments I have no background to determine "hammyness" either but sometimes it just smacks me in the face. And I suppose all actors are prone to it at some time in their career but it doesn't mean that they are not good actors.....just having a bad day. :>)

message 22: by Spencer (new)

Spencer Rich | 925 comments Sometimes a role calls for ham. And Heston could really do it. But sometimes I question some directors casting decisions. Orson--you're going to cast Heston as a Mexican detective? And yet, I wouldn't change one iota of Touch of Evil. But The Greatest Story Ever Told. That movie is the most ridiculously cast Biblical epic in the history of Biblical epics. John the Baptist? Really?

message 23: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2491 comments Mod
Aye. Well. I've heard viewers criticize Heston's Mexican accent. Sounded okay to my ears. Listened to it many times.

Biblical epics...well, it was a different time. I extend plenty of leeway. Edward G. Robinson played who, Nebuchanezzar? The whole episode in Hollywood is incomprehensible to us today, I'm sure.

A Bible romp can occasionally be great. I've seen 'Intolerance' on the big screen. Stupendous.

message 24: by Spencer (new)

Spencer Rich | 925 comments Heston was perfect for Ben Hur. If you can buy him being Hebrew.

message 25: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2491 comments Mod
It's all a bit reminiscent of Tony Curtis' many detractors who lampooned him anytime he played somewhere other than the eastern seaboard of the USA. This is another thing that I let pass without qualm in my own viewing habits. I supposed I just have a supple suspension-of-disbelief. Curtis' New YAWK-ese never shook me.

message 26: by Spencer (new)

Spencer Rich | 925 comments Well, Heston is a more believable John the Baptist than von Sydow is Jesus. As for Curtis, what the hell, if he wants to be a Viking, let him be a Viking.

message 27: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 2556 comments I suspect there have been many cases where "a job is a job" even if their accent is wrong or whatever. Actors couldn't afford to turn down that many parts, especially since who knew how long they would be in demand? Of course, one or two bad roles could ruin a career.

message 28: by Spencer (new)

Spencer Rich | 925 comments Some people are better at accents than others. If you had only seen Gone With the Wind and Streetcar, you could easily believe Vivian Leigh was born in the South.

message 29: by Betsy (last edited Dec 10, 2019 01:39PM) (new)

Betsy | 2556 comments Isn't it Meryl Streep who is famous for her command of accents?

Speaking of Vivien Leigh, supposedly Hedda Hopper castigated David O. Selznick for choosing an Englishwoman to portray the famous southern belle. By 'Streetcar Named Desire' nobody was complaining.

message 30: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2491 comments Mod
Hopper reportedly enjoyed a lifetime appointment at the behest of W.R. Hearst for 'having the goods' on him. The Marion Davies scandal I believe.

message 31: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) | 2831 comments Hopper and Louella Parsons certainly had a hold over some of the Hollywood crowd....they knew "secrets" such as homosexuality, drugs, drinking, and just plain fooling around. And they certainly were not above hinting about those things. All one had to do was read between the lines to get the idea. I don't think I ever heard that they were sued by any stars, unlike the Confidential scandal sheet which was taken to court by Liberace for "hinting" about his sexual preference.

message 32: by Spencer (new)

Spencer Rich | 925 comments Let's not forget Winchell. Rumored to be the subject of Sweet Smell of Success.

message 33: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) | 2831 comments He wielded such power and seemed to have spies everywhere. And he could ruin you in a heartbeat.

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