Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My Favorite Performances By An Actor in the 1960s

Back in January, I posted a list of my favorite performances by an actress in the 1960s, and a couple of weeks ago, Mary Field challenged me to come up with a similar list of actors. Ms. Field has posted her own list of the top ten greatest acting performances here. Nothing so ambitious for me — I can barely narrow down the top ten performances of any given year — but here is a short chronological list of my personal faves from between 1960 and 1969.

Jack Lemmon (The Apartment) — his finest non-drag performance, maybe his finest, period. And in one of my all-time favorite movies, too.

"Mrs. MacDougall, I think it is only fair to warn you that you are now alone with a notorious sexpot."

James Cagney (One, Two, Three) — not one of Billy Wilder's better-known comedies, but Cagney's performance is finger-snapping good and Katie-Bar-The-Door quotes him every time we go to a baseball game.

"You know what the first thing is I'm going to do? I'm going to lead the workers down there in revolt!

"Put your pants on, Spartacus!"

Tony Randall (Lover Come Back) — My favorite Tony Randall performance, here playing a millionaire CEO living in the shadow of his late father.

"You don't realize how completely he dominated me ever since I was a little boy. Just once I spoke back to him. He cut a switch from a tree and gave me such a whipping, in front of this girl. It was a shattering experience."

"Pete, all kids get whippings."

"But I was twenty five! The girl was my fiancée!"

Robert Preston (The Music Man) — True story: in law school, my pals and I learned all the words to "Marian the Librarian" and sang it to a girl. Named Marian. Who was an undergraduate librarian. Sometimes life just serves it up to you on a platter.

"Oh, my dear little librarian. You pile up enough tomorrows, and you'll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays."

Steve McQueen (The Great Escape) — technically, my favorite performance here is by Steve McQueen's motorcycle, but he's the one riding it, so ...

"Are all American officers so ill-mannered?"

"Yeah, about 99 percent."

The entire cast of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb — you know, a friend once confessed she watched this movie and didn't understand why it was supposed to be a comedy. We're not friends anymore.

"Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks."

The Beatles (A Hard Day's Night) — if you have to ask, I can't tell you.

"Excuse me?"

"Oh, yeah. The lads frequently sit around the telly and watch her for a giggle. One time, we actually sat down and wrote these letters saying how gear she was and all that rubbish."

"She's a trendsetter. It's her profession."

"She's a drag. A well known drag. We turn the sound down on her and say rude things."

Michael Dunn (TV's The Wild, Wild West) — maybe the greatest television villain ever. My favorite, anyway.

"I thought you were dead."

"Oh, no, Mr. West! I'm afraid I shall never die. Death is too ordinary. The humiliation would kill me."

Charlie Brown (TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas) — reaching deep for pathos, comedy and blistering insight into the emptiness of our consumer-driven culture, this round-headed kid really brought it.

"How about cats? If you're afraid of cats, you have ailurophasia."

"Well, sort of, but I'm not sure."

Paul Newman (Harper) — I like Paul Newman. I like his movies, I like his pizza, I like his salad dressing. I like everything there is to like about Paul Newman. Except Paul Newman. How do you account for that? I kid. But I do like Paul Newman.

"What do you do this kind of crummy work for, anyway?"

"What, are you trying to be funny? I do it because I believe in the United Nations and Southeast Asia, and — you think it's funny if your life depends on what goes through the Panama Canal? What about the English pound? I'll tell you something — as long as there's a Siberia, you'll find Lew Harper on the job."

"Are you putting me on?"

"Jeez, I don't think so. "

Lee Marvin (The Dirty Dozen) — Katie-Bar-The-Door once gave me this movie as a Valentine's Day present. No wonder I love her!

"I owe you an apology, colonel. I always thought that you were a cold, unimaginative, tight-lipped officer. But you're really quite emotional, aren't you?"

Zero Mostel (The Producers) — probably one of the three most quoted movies when my pals Muleboy and Bellotoot get together.

"Oh my God!"

"You mean 'oops,' don't you? Just say 'oops' and get out! "

Hal 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey) — saw this in the theater as a kid in 1968, and I say, while a lot of computers turned in fine work in the 1960s, particularly the Robot on Lost in Space, the Hal 9000 topped them all.

"I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a... fraid."


Who Am Us Anyway? said...

I STILL don't understand why everyone including The Beatles insisted on describing Ringo's "It's Been A Hard Day's Night" as some kind of Malaprop. Lyrical, yes, but the phrase makes perfect sense to me: a night that follows a hard day is a hard day's night, yes?

Mythical Monkey said...

I suspect they played up the idea of Ringo being something of a schlub because it simplified the narrative. And by "they," I mostly mean the press and the Beatles' hangers-on. And once fans get an idea in their head, there's often no room left for another one.

"Tomorrow never knows" is another one that makes perfect sense to me and yet one that Lennon offered up in the Playboy interviews as one of Ringo's "funny" (as in odd) malapropisms.

Hell, maybe the Beatles themselves told the same stories so often they began to believe them. John, God bless him, always thought a good story was better than the truth. And thus we have the Beatles jamming with Elvis at Graceland and the Beatles smoking dope in the men's room before meeting the Queen and John baking bread every day in the Dakota.

For a guy with a reputation for telling the unvarnished truth all the time, Lennon was full of the blarney. But I love him for it.