Ray Carney Moment of the Day #16

July 26, 2011

Breakaway - Bruce Conner

Capra’s work is closely, if unconsciously, related to that of avowed Method directors like Nicholas Ray and Elia Kazan. It is not that the work of any of these directors dispenses altogether with technical or character acting (any more than Henry James’s work dispenses with fixed characters to give itself over to an exclusive depiction of free characters), but at crucial moments it gestures beyond what is depictable in that form of acting. Performances like those turned in by Barbara Stanwyck in even the earliest of Capra’s films and Jean Arthur and Jimmy Stewart in the later ones have a passionateness and an imaginative intensity in search of an adequate form of social expression (which can never bequite attained) that directly anticipates the performances of Montgomery Clift, James Dean, and Marlon Brando in their best work of the fifties. Stanwyck, Stewart, and Arthur demonstrate that it did not take Lee Strasberg to bring the emotional inwardness, strangled intensity, and smothered hysteria of the Method to America. In fact, the reason Strasberg’s seeds took such immediate and firm root in American soil was that it was already so well prepared to receive his doctrines. The Method is an interesting side path not opposed to, but parallel to, a vast highway of Romantic expression in American art that existed in this country long before the birth of Stanislavski in Russia and at least a century before Strasberg’s creatively all-American misreadings of An Actor Prepares. If Strasberg had not come across Stanislavski, he could have gotten the same performative doctrines out of the pregnant silences, the charged glances, and the imaginative unappeasability of the characters in a novel by Henry James, characters like Isabel Archer or Lambert Strether, searching for, but never quite finding a way to speak their deepest, most authentic selves.

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2 Responses to “Ray Carney Moment of the Day #16”

  1. Tom Sutpen said

    Amazing blog. I applaud every word and pixel of it.

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