erik lundegaard


Thursday February 09, 2023

...And I Will Give You the Man

A few days after seeing my first George Arliss movie, in which Arliss greatly impressed me, I read the following in “Hollywood: The Oral History,” by Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson, which is a compendium of American Film Institute interviews with Hollywood artists and artisans.

GORE VIDAL: You tell me somebody's favorite actor when they were 10 years old, and I'll tell you who they are. Could Norman Mailer have existed without John Garfield? He's been playing Garfield ever since. And he doesn't really know it, but it's part of him. I've been doing George Arliss ever since. You know, you get hung up with an image. Now, it's interesting that your generation has come along and you've been brought up on ninety-second TV commercials. Now, what kind of images are going to come out of that I don't know. I can suddenly see 20 years from now some girl breaking down and really discovering that she's a Salem commercial at heart. Or a detergent.

One, I can totally see Vidal as Arliss. Two, it sounds like he raised the Mailer-Garfield connection to Mailer and Mailer dismissed it, but who knows. Three, it might no longer play—if it ever did—for the TV generation. In Vidal's day, James Cagney would make 4-6 movies a year, so you'd constantly see him on the screen, and in similar roles. That was no longer the case by the 1970s when, say, Robert Redford would make 1-3 movies a year. By then, this had been translated to episodic television. And who was my favorite TV actor when I was 10? Maybe Lee Majors in “The Six Million Dollar Man”? And I don't think that says anything about me.

So probably better to focus on “you get hung up with an image.” What would that be or me as I grew up? Whose image did I try to emulate? Groucho? Hawkeye? Michael Jackson? Fonzie? Maybe the closest in the identification category was Gary Burghoff's Radar O'Reilly.

I think for my generation you'd have to wait until adolescence to find this type of figure. And even then I don't know who it'd be for me. Vidal's feels like wish fulfillment while I keep leaning toward identification.

Posted at 11:24 AM on Thursday February 09, 2023 in category Books