Saturday, June 9, 2012

How They Move

From John Wayne's America, by Garry Wills:

"How an actor moves is obviously important in what are, after all, motion pictures -- but surprisingly little criticism has focused on this essential aspect of performance. Virginia Wright Wexman applied "kinesics" to Humphrey Bogart's body language -- more languorous as a Chandler hero, more nervous as a Hammett one. And perceptive critics have noticed the grace of particular performers. Graham Greene said that Cagney danced his gangster parts "on his light hoofer's feet, with his quick nervous hands." David Thomson saw signs of Burt Lancaster's acrobatic training in the way he moved. Alan Ladd liked to run in little cat-crouches, turning his low stature into a slithery form of energy. Henry Fonda had a stiff storklike walk that set him against the flow of things around him -- a sign of integrity in Young Mr. Lincoln or The Grapes of Wrath, of martinet irresponsiveness in Fort Apache, of detached inhumanity in Once Upon a Time in the West. What gives the dance in Ford's My Darling Clementine its impact is the way the rigid Fonda becomes more flexible. Cary Grant was trained as an acrobat, like Lancaster, and he can do more with less motion than any other screen actor. This is because of the way he angles his head away from what he is doing, as if it were a detached thing carried at a careful remove from what his limbs and torso are up to. (Buster Keaton has the same knack in his knockabout comedies.)"

1 comment:

  1. matthew d. wilderJune 13, 2012 at 2:08 PM

    Well, there is one writer who has made a whole career on the poetics of movement, and that's Manny Farber.