From James Wolcott's never less than excellent blog http://www.vanityfair.com/online/wolcott
When Lees Collide
JANUARY 28, 2012
Former U.S. Marine and future Cat Ballou, Lee Marvin recalls his introduction to Method Acting and its founding godfather, whose strictures were seldom countermanded.
“...It’s important not to think too much about what you do. Take Strasberg. [Lee Strasberg, director of the Actors Studio and later founder of his own teaching institute.] I went to his joint once, back when I was first hanging out in New York, doing plays. I did a ten-minute scene in his class: the guy who had gangrene in his leg in The Snows of Kilimanjaro. After I did the scene, he starts in with, ‘Well, you were going for the pain in your leg, but I didn’t see it, so you didn’t put it over and thus the scene failed.’ I told him that he didn’t know anything about gangrene. When it’s in the terminal stage, there isn’t any pain. What I was going for was that the guy was trying to feel pain, because if he had any pain, it meant he wasn’t going to die. But he couldn’t feel a damned thing. I know about that shit from the Pacific. Strasberg was furious when I corrected him. He threw me out, so I said ‘fuck you’ and walked. He’s not my kind of guy at all. I didn’t dig it when he came in using his acting-school reputation to get the creamy acting jobs that some other old actor who’d paid his dues might have really needed. Nah, you can have him. He’s not in my outfit, pal.”
When it came to director John Ford, however, Marvin was glad to have him in his outfit, or to be part of Ford’s. He describes the scene in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance where a white-aproned Stewart is working in the restaurant kitchen and the steaks and skillets alike are giant-sized. Marvin:
“‘Ford,’ he says reverentially. “‘Fucking Ford. You’ll never see skillets and steaks like that in anybody else’s picture. He’s like Dickens. It’s all about bigger than life. That’s the what the old guys understood about movies. If it’s not bigger than life, put it on television.”
--from “Drinks with Liberty Valance: Lee Marvin Shoots from the Hip” in Robert Ward’s upcoming journalism collection Renegades (Tyrus Books)
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David Mamet is pretty critical of Strasberg in True and False. He says that of course he turns out great actors, because he won't let anybody else in. Makes sense to me.
Nice post which When it’s in the terminal stage, there isn’t any pain. What I was going for was that the guy was trying to feel pain, because if he had any pain, it meant he wasn’t going to die. But he couldn’t feel a damned thing. Thanks a lot for posting.
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