Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sissy-boy Male Leads?

The Magnificent Seven

Today my wife and I were watching The Magnificent Seven the 1960 movie starting Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Eli Wallace, and a actors of lesser renown today, though of the names listed how "renown" they are today is directly related to how old the person is that you're talking to.

My wife raised an interesting point as we watched the documentary that came with the DVD. Apparently Anthony Quinn was supposed to play the lead role in the movie, but Yul Brenner was cast (the reasons for this are convoluted, and the feelings attached to it are well-represented in the fact that Quinn subsequently sued the direct and Brenner for $600K for being bumped from the part - he lost), and as Quinn's picture was shown she asked how many of today's leading men look like Quinn, or any of the men in The Magnificent Seven? We brainstormed this for a bit and came up with Russel Crowe, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Sly Stone (though it's something of a question as how much of a leading man he'd be taken to be these days), Ahhhhhnold (here we're stuck with trying to figure out how much he can seriously be considered an actor vice a body/personality, which many would say is also a consideration for how well he's doing as governor of California), Denzel Washington, to some degree Antonio Banderas, and ... we sort of hit a wall at this point. As it turns out we could only come up with 6 possible actors to fill out, in what we saw as the appropriate demeanor and attitude, 7 roles in a classic western. Now that's not to say that there aren't many more actors than that who could meet the bill of particulars here, but they weren't coming to mind.

It seems that today's actors are more "pretty boys" than the testosterone laden creatures that seemed to dominate the screen way back when. We tried to think through some of today's "name" actors, coming up with Brad Pitt, Jude Law, Orlando Bloom, Colin Farrell, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Keannu Reeves, Adrien Brody (doesn't ring a bell? Late of The Pianist and King Kong), and Hugh Grant, and however much we tried we really couldn't see them filling the shoes of any of the actors in The Magnificent Seven - well, maybe Tom Cruise could be the Horst Bucchholz role in the movie (Bucchholz, playing a Mexican wannabe gunslinger who hooks up with what would have otherwise been the Magnificent 6, was a German - an odd twist of casting that seemed to work.) What each of these male leads seemed to have in common is that they're, for lack of a better way of putting it, "pretty".

When you look at Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Spencer Tracey, John Garfield, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, Anthony Quinn, Robert Mitchum, James Cagney, and the list goes on, these guys weren't pretty. They may have been handsome, and in the classic sense not all of them were, but what they all seemed to share was that they exuded some level of testosterone, a certain scent of maleness that, for the life of me, I can't detect to any degree with the likes of Jude Law or Keannu Reeves. Far too many male leads today just aren't especially "male" it seems to me. I'm not sure what this says, or even if I'm especially right, but my definite sense (and my wife's, though she thinks Johnny Depp definitely has "maleness" about him) is that many of today's male leads aren't selected for their jobs based on their being able to convey any obviously apparent maleness about them.

Well, anyway, just a thought to share. Much better that you check out The Magnificent Seven yourself, it truly is timeless, and while you're at it check out the movie it's based on, Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai , a movie that's great and classic entirely for reasons of its own.


Anonymous David C said...

What about Edward Norton, a true gem in modern cinema. That guy's all over the place.

On a cinema related note - I've recently developed a great respect for Michael Mann. Having enjoyed Collateral a while back and am a huge fan of Last of the Mohicans, recent viewings of The Insider and HEAT have convinced me that he's a real talent, though, nothing new.

Segway studies at GMU. Well, are hard as hell to get into, even with us 250 honors students given priority, the class was still full before I had a chance to attempt scheduling.

Think there's any place for film study in high school?

odd segway into...movies I've seen in school.
- The Day the Earth Stood Still
- 12 Angry Men
- Path to War
- Forest Gump
- X-Men
- Jurasic Park
- Jurasic Park III
- Bicentenial Man
- Legally Blond 2
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- Caddyshack
- Dr. Strangelove
- Wag the Dog
- A Beautiful Mind
- Mr. Smith goes to Washington
- Saving Private Ryan
- A Knight's Tale
- Shrek
- Monsters Inc.
- Finding NEMO
- Band of Brothers
- Apollo 13
- Evolution
- Pirates of the Carribean
- Jumanji

and this is only off the top of my head.

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liev Schreiber? Clive Owen, Sean Bean, Chun Fat, and even though they are comedians, I think Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson and somehow, John Hurley. Maybe George Clooney.
The next name that comes to mind is Angelina Jolie, oddly enough, so I guess that proves the point that the current preference is for androgyny over the iconic male hero.
I especially notice the difference in the modern "War" movies. Not only are the haircuts weird looking, but the way the enlisted men talk to the officers makes me cringe. The old movies are way more believable. I guess most of those guys actually served, and have that realistic snap to their salutes, not to mention a sort of taut terseness in the dialog.
Anyway, Robert Mitchum rules.

10:17 AM  
Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Love both the Sevens- Magnificent AND Samurai.

What about Clint Eastwood? Or is that cheating?

Every year I show Casablanca. Some of my kids don't get my Bogart fixation (nor my Sean Connery fixation, now that I think about it). But those that do-- ahh, they get it.

10:54 PM  
Blogger James said...

David: I can't believe you actually got to watch all those movies in high school - incredible. Some of them I can well enough see the "education" connection, but "X-Men", "Caddyshack", "A Knight's Tale", to name but three, I can't make the connection at all.

Atmika: Definitely, with that voice and look, Mitchum ruled. The man's man, or something like that.

Mrs. C.: Clint's definitely in the category of the "manly" actor. As for watching "Casablanca" and "getting it", I know exactly what you mean.

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


2:19 AM  

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