ACTING IN THE CINEMA by James Naremore


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A text on movie acting, to be read with handy VCR and cassettes stacked at your side, by the author of The Magic World of Orson Welles (1978). Naremore has many enjoyable passages in what in the end amounts to a laborious read. He begins with a history of the rhetoric of acting and how the earliest filmmakers attempted to break away from staginess and the proscenium. What happened is that acting in movies became a ""parading of expertise""--an obvious ""mastery, skill, or inventiveness that is implied in the normative use of the word performance."" What he strives for, in opening up certain famous performances, is ""an indirect commentary on the social and psychological foundations of identity""--a commentary about which many readers may say, ""Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."" Meanwhile, they will enjoy his rich anatomizations of Lillian Gish's expertise in True Heart Susie, Charlie Chaplin's in The Gold Rush, Marlene Dietrich's in Morocco, James Cagney's in Angels with Dirty Faces, Katharine Hepburn's in Holiday, James Stewart's in Rear Window, Marlon Brando's in On the Waterfront, and Cary Grant's in North by Northwest, all of them marvelously alive under Naremore's psychoscope, which picks up practically cellular impressions of the actors' motives. Quite admirable detail--particularly about how Brando cleverly and sexily handles grieving Eva Marie Saint's glove in the playground scene, or even about Grant's bluish-gray socks as the airplane chases him in the crop-dusting sequence. Reading this is like waiting for a fastball that never comes, although the pitcher keeps you suckered by his reserve. Buy by all means--but be prepared.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0520071948
Publisher: Univ. of California Press