Monday, February 15, 2010

Four (er, Five) Faces

One of my favorite actors when I was a kid was David Janssen, best known for his long-running performance as Doctor Richard Kimble on THE FUGITIVE television series. What I liked about him as a kid, and what I still enjoy about his performances is that he was able to convey a certain kind of vulnerability on the screen. I don't know whether this was something that he cultivated, or perhaps it was something that was just a part of his personality and it translated well to film. But whatever the source, it appealed to me as a kid, and it still strikes me when I view his performances today. Unfortunately, he only lived to be 48 years old. Bad ticker and all that, I suppose.

Occasionally I'll stumble upon a performance or an actor whose work reminds me of the things I used to see in Janssen's portrayals in various roles. Many actors can create a role of a particularly vulnerable character, but very few present these vulnerabilities as part of their persona and from which they are apparently incapable of hiding. Following is a short list of these actors whose body of work always make me think of David Janssen when I see their own performances in films and on TV.

If there's an actor around who is more capable of exhibiting sadness and pathos, I don't know who that person might be. Chris Cooper has to top the list of actors who can make you feel these emotions.

Someone once asked me what actor I thought was best suited to portray Jesus of Nazareth. Without hesitation I thought of Danny Glover. Of course he's too old to do that now, but in his youth he would have been brilliant in that role. Once again, there are few whose face is able to show such a range of emotion.

No matter what this guys plays, William Hurt always seems to be sad. There's a child-like helplessness about this guy that comes through, no matter the position he's in. I've always liked that about his work.

And now Carole (my wife) had reminded me that her favorite actor (and one of mine), Bill Pullman, should be on this list. She's right. I forgot to add him earlier.

One of my favorite modern actors. Bill Pullman is like the regular dude, while appearing constantly irregular. Better at creating an image of helplessness than just about anyone I've seen.

Tomorrow...the flip side of this kind of actor.

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