A couple of recent discussions, and some recent online reading, have led me to think about the following.
I can’t think of any female stars in Hollywood today who can pull off what Lauren Bacall did effortlessly: play older than her actual age. The demand, for years, has been for twenty-somethings who can play teenagers and thirty-somethings who can play college girls. But Bacall could hold her own as a romantic lead against a man old enough to be her father.
Who today has that gravity? Ellen Page, maybe, but (as was pointed out to me recently) she’s been pigeonholed into low-presence roles. Anyone else?
Also: I was reading an article online about Burt Lancaster and a similar thought occurred to me. In two of my favorite classic movies, From Here to Eternity and Gunfight at the OK Corral, Lancaster does something that I can’t vision a male action star doing today. He lifts a woman by the waist and lowers her to the ground – in the former from a rocky outcropping, in the latter from the saddle of a horse. I’m sure there are action stars today with the raw lifting capacity to pull that off, but I can’t picture anyone doing it as gracefully.
The closest I can see to that type is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He’s got the muscle, the fluidity of movement and the boyish charisma. However I can’t see The Rock taking on roles as challenging as Lancaster’s, like a Nazi judge being tried by a military tribunal, or a gay hairdresser (not played for laughs) (which role he lost to William Hurt), or an anti-Vietnam movie at the height of the Vietnam conflict (which he took a pay cut to finance). Lancaster wasn’t just good hair and teeth, don’t forget – he had acting chops, too.
I know, I know – kvetching about how great the movies of yesteryear were never goes out of style. But don’t blame me for wanting more out of Hollywood.