By Donald Dewey
For a lot of his theater contemporaries, Lee J. Cobb (1911–1976) was once the best actor of his iteration. In Hollywood he turned the definitive embodiment of gangsters, psychiatrists, and roaring lunatics. From 1939 until eventually his demise, Cobb contributed riveting performances to a couple of movies, together with Boomerang, On the Waterfront, The Brothers Karamazov, 12 offended Men, and The Exorcist. yet for all of his conspicuous achievements in movies, Cobb’s identify is so much pointed out with the nature Willy Loman within the unique level construction of Arthur Miller’s Death of a salesperson (1949). Directed through Elia Kazan, Cobb’s Broadway functionality proved to be a benchmark for American theater.
In Lee J. Cobb: Characters of an Actor, Donald Dewey appears to be like on the lifestyles and profession of this flexible performer. From his decrease East part roots in big apple City—where he used to be born Leo Jacob—to a number of accolades on level and the large and small displays, Cobb’s existence proved to be a tumultuous rollercoaster of highs and lows. As a number one guy of the theater, he gave a few compelling performances in such performs as Golden Boy and King Lear. For the Hollywood studios, Cobb healthy the outline of the “character actor.” not anyone larger epitomized the performer who without warning seems to be at the display and instantly grabs the audience’s consciousness. in the course of his forty-five-year occupation, there wasn’t an important star—from Humphrey Bogart and James Stewart to Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood—with whom he didn’t paintings.
Cobb used to be additionally through controversy: he seemed sooner than the home Un-American actions Committee within the Fifties and was once a witness to a movie-set homicide case within the Nineteen Seventies. via all of it, he by no means misplaced his flavor for speedy autos and gin rummy. A undergo of a guy with a voice that both accommodated growls and sibilant sympathies, Cobb was once undeniably an actor to be reckoned with. during this interesting booklet, Dewey captures the entire drama that surrounded Cobb, either on monitor and off.
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Extra info for Lee J. Cobb: Characters of an Actor
23. Clurman, Fervent Years, p. 197. bankruptcy five The Actor: How used to be tuition? effective. Amid all of the furies assailing Johnny Johnson the play represented infrequent touch among the tactic with its attempt to create a self-contained psychologically cogent international and the Brechtian Epic aesthetic that the theatrical adventure was once very important basically as a gathering of performers and viewers inside a patently man made constitution for selling social and political ends. even supposing Weill’s Sprechstimme was once below natural Brecht, it brought sufficient didactic detachment from the overall narrative to fragment the conventional inside functionality arcs inculcated through Strasberg and approach academics. the consequences would possibly not were seamless (and Strasberg spent such a lot of his eleventh-hour course removing songs and scenes inimical to his approach), yet they nonetheless earned a footnote within the background of yankee acting—a contrast crew actors finally indicated they can have refrained from. aside from Carnovsky, who seized at the overwhelming units (think city) to aggrandize his personality of the lunatic psychiatrist to farcical degrees, none of them waxed poetic in a while in regards to the avenues they'd taken into their roles. The specifics of the Johnny Johnson turmoil apart, that has been par for the direction for actors for a while. Asking them to bare the signposts in their direction into characters has seldom introduced enlightenment, not at all in smooth media profiles that fish for insights into technical tools. At his so much shielding the actor will come off as a magician detest to bare how he slipped the rabbit into his hat for next extrication; at his such a lot accommodating he'll speak vaguely approximately touching on own studies to these of the nature being portrayed. every now and then the reaction is tough to differentiate from hostility. hence Laurence Olivier: “If you purchase a diamond ring or the other fantastic little bit of jewellery, you don’t ask, ‘What was once your process in growing this? ’ when you did, the jeweler may possibly say, ‘Why don’t you brain your personal company? You’re no longer a jeweler. ’”1 The pervasive experience is of a superstition that conversing in regards to the craft will dilute it. whilst all else fails, the pressed actor will land on listening as a go-to resolution. And why now not? a person who has ever stepped on a degree or in entrance of a digicam has subscribed to the indispensability of listening (whether or no longer he truly practices it in performance). ahead of motion picture takes James Stewart, for one instance, cherished facing additional drills during which he and co-players in a scene grew to become scripted questions into declarations and declarations into questions for honing their engagement within the discussion and making sure that when the cameras began capturing everybody will be extra keenly aware of what used to be being stated and might believe extra comfy being so. 2 No different “secrets” have been worthy searching. yet that stated, the determine of the taciturn actor reluctant to reveal his equipment has been lovely contemporary, flying within the face of centuries of volubility by means of performers concerning the nuances in their career.