Time to dip into our e-mail bag once again, a ritual we do regularly with great enthusiasm. We love hearing from you, and very much enjoy your contributions to our daily “chats.”
Must say that our skepticism about James Dean’s acting abilities — we think they are over-rated — has engendered a lot of feedback both pro and con. Just what we like.
The pictures that made Dean were three: director Elia Kazan’s East of Eden, Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without A Cause with Natalie Wood (both in 1955) and George Stevens’ Giant, released in 1956 after the actor’s death.
For our money, Rock Hudson walked off with Giant, handily out performing costars Elizabeth Taylor and Dean. It was pretty much all Dean’s show in the other two films. Taking a hard nosed look at Eden and Rebel today prompts the notion that dying early might have been a terrific career move.
We posed this question: Who was the better actor in Stevens’ western saga based on Edna Ferber’s novel about life on a Texas cattle ranch? Was it Hudson as rancher Jordan ‘Bick’ Benedict Jr. or Dean as the rebellious Jett Rink?
As noted in our Feb. 14 blog — ROCK HUDSON vs. JAMES DEAN (Yes, Him Again!) in ‘GIANT’ — reader Belmondo took us to task, eloquently questioning our sanity for choosing Hudson’s performance rather than the ‘dominating’ turn in Giant from Dean.
Reader Christopher Nickens follows up with this sage commentary:
Love your blog. I just wanted to add a bit to the Hudson/Dean debate.
A few years ago, I was proposing a book on Hudson in collaboration with his former (controversial) flame, the late Marc Christian. He always loved James Dean and he couldn’t help but ask Rock about him.
Rock told him that he actually admired him as an actor, but found him insufferably affected off-screen.
He recalled one afternoon when Dean went into a long-winded rapture about a cloud formation on the ‘Giant’ location. Rock said it was laughable, but Dean took himself very seriously, so Rock didn’t dare say anything.
Of course, both actors took their performances seriously, with one being the personification of the (then dying) studio system, the other a Brando acolyte steeped in the Method.
I always felt they both contributed importantly to the success of ‘Giant,’ but their roles and hence their performances are wildly different. Comparing them is pointless. I do agree that Hudson found his true calling in comedy.
Thanks for this, Christopher, and for your kind words.
Switching topics abruptly, regular reader and Dorothy Lamour aficionado Mike Sheridan has this to say in response to our Feb. 7 blog, Play Down Those Gams! — Grable and Her Sole Film Noir Outing!:
Betty Grable is truly a treat. No one doesn’t love B.G. But fellas, Carole Landis has quite a story as well. Would you enlighten us with a feature on this tragic beauty? And as always, anything on our little Dotty Lamour. Thanks in advance.
Sure thing, Mike. We’ll get cracking on Landis pronto.
Finally, this from Andrea inspired by our Feb. 17 Monday Quiz — Maureen O’Hara:
Maureen O’Hara is definitely one of the greatest actresses!
Hear, hear and thanks.