METHOD ACTORS by Steve Vineberg


Three Generations of an American Acting Style
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 Survey in depth of Method acting, focusing largely on film, by the film and theater critic of The Boston Phoenix. No two people agree on what Method acting is. While Vineberg gives a historical background to the style, ranging from Stanislavsky's work with the Moscow Art Theatre to Broadway's proletariat Group Theatre and later the Actors Studio, this finely spaded loam only prepares the way for his detailed story of the Method's absolute grip on American film acting over the past four decades. He explains that earlier actors, such as Barbara Stanwyck and Burgess Meredith, were unwittingly using a Method approach with their ``uncluttered, uncalculated approach to acting--acting that doesn't announce itself as acting.'' In Stanwyck's early films, lines spring from her and pierce her fellow players as if from life, not from a script, and Vineberg goes through her each performance for our delectation. After a rich review of the works (and acting) of Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan, he gives a role-by- role career history of Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Julie Harris, Paul Newman, Blythe Danner, and Jack Nicholson, among many others. Of these, only Nicholson's entry feels scanted. A spacious book, this takes on a tremendous amount of material and allows Vineberg to highlight forgotten or overlooked roles (Brando's homosexual Army officer in Reflections in a Golden Eye, Dean's TV features, Nicholson's superb--and Method-rich--cop in The Border). These actors re-create real emotions and have been geared for it in part, Vineberg says, by the psychological darkness of the American stage following WW II, with the great plays of O'Neill, Williams, and Miller. Major, and as seismically sensitive as a Brando soliloquy. (Sixteen-page photo insert--not seen.)

Pub Date: July 15th, 1991
ISBN: 0-02-872685-5
Page count: 384pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1991


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