George C. Scott

Go down

George C. Scott

Post  BoG on Mon Feb 23, 2015 12:52 am

_____ _____
The latest Oscar awards show yesterday reminded me of a past winner of that award, someone who declined the award.  George C. Scott  was the first actor to do so; Brando followed suit a couple of years later. Scott's win was for the pivotal role of his career, the one that put him on top, that of the famous American general in Patton (1970).  It's interesting also that, since Brando had gone into decline in the sixties, many looked upon Scott at that point as Brando's successor - the top actor in the field. This probably was a fleeting appraisal of the actor, lasting only a few years, but that year - 1970 - it seemed like Scott could do no wrong and was the new king or prince of Hollywood, even as he looked down at the biggest awards ceremony and used phrases like "meat parade" to describe his contempt for the whole process. In some ways, Scott was the rare adult in Hollywoodland while everyone else there was busy playing their studio games; or, he was the rare curmudgeon in a business which valued political correctness and smiling for the cameras.
Scott's ascent to the top ranks of stardom seemed unlikely at the start of the sixties. He had been a stage actor in the fifties and began doing some TV late in the decade. His first roles in films were as villains - The Hanging Tree (59) was his debut as a crazed faith healer, with Gary Cooper in the main role. He was a prosecutor in the trial drama Anatomy of a Murder, up against attorney James Stewart. And, he was the sleazy creep gambler who backs pool player Paul Newman in The Hustler (61). In all these, Scott seemed to be in the films to offer a stark contrast to the stars, who were ostensibly the heroes. Scott certainly looked the part - his craggy, rather severe features seemed very suited for unpleasant, bad guy roles, and his voice, gravelly & coarse, even more so. But, he was so intense and electrifying in The Hustler, perhaps already reminding people of Brando, that he even overshadowed Newman in some scenes - not an easy thing to do - and it opened the door for other kinds of roles. I remember him in an episode of the first season of the TV series The Virginian, The Brazen Bell, about a year later, playing a timid schoolteacher of the old west, and it was as different a role as could be from his film roles thus far.

However, his sixties career was not that distinguished: his first starring role was in The List of Adrian Messenger (63), a weak mystery with him as a detective and the gimmick of several big stars (Sinatra, Lancaster, Douglas, Mitchum) in cameo, disguised.  He did a TV series for one season, East Side/West Side, a social drama. He did nab a juicy role as a warmongering general in Stanley Kubrick's dark comedy, Dr. Strangelove (64), which also had a gimmick - Peter Sellers in 3 roles. There was also the gimmicky The Yellow Rolls-Royce, an anthology about a car passing to several owners; Scott was one of these, a gangster. Then he played Abraham in his only biblical epic, The Bible (66), another anthology, so his part was again small (and the closest he got to a Heston-type role). He tried comedy: teamed with Tony Curtis in Not With my Wife You Don't!, about two Air Force pilots, and the better The Flim-Flam Man (67), with Scott as a conman. Finally, he was a doctor in an odd relationship with Julie Christie in the almost-experimental drama Petulia (68), which no one was sure what it was about.

Several big stars were considered for Patton, among them Robert Mitchum and Rod Steiger, but Scott got the meaty role and ran with it all the way. His World War II general was belligerent, abusive and intolerant, famously striking a traumatized soldier, but he was also the one military leader that the Germans were legitimately concerned about. Whereas his general in Dr. Strangelove was a dark caricature, in Patton he presented a textured portrait of a loud, driven individual who was also highly educated and even cultured. As with the best film performances, you couldn't take your eyes off him and waited to see what he did next. Thanks to this role, Scott was very in demand as the seventies got under way, grabbing several important roles, and his refusal of the Academy Award didn't seem to hurt his career (money talks - Patton was a huge hit). Just in 1971, he was in 3 big films - in They Might be Giants, now a cult classic, he was a widowed lawyer who believes himself to be Sherlock Holmes. The Hospital was the first of many social commentaries prevalent in the seventies, pointing out the drawbacks of modern bureaucracy; Scott again played a doctor, though also saddled with administration in a chaotic setting. By this point, audiences were becoming accustomed to seeing him express outrage and anger, in a loud fashion. He also played a mob driver in The Last Run.
Scott continued in penetrating dramas: in The New Centurions (72), he was the elder half of a police duo; the younger one was played by Stacy Keach. It's remembered now for Scott's unexpected exit way before the film ended (maybe why he liked the role). He brought a lot of dignity to such drama, but perhaps he also wanted to offset all the dramatics - a more comic role was Oklahoma Crude (73), a period comedy with Faye Dunaway and Jack Palance. And, he was a comical bank robber in the lame Bank Shot (74), a sort-of sequel to The Hot Rock (72-in which Redford played a very different type of character). Scott came closest to a sci-fi film with The Day of the Dolphin (73), as a researcher; he liked working with the dolphins and it co-starred his wife, Trish van Devere, though the story tagged on a conspiratorial assassination plot in the final act. Scott also showed interest in directing: his directorial debut was Rage (72-same year as Heston!); he also starred in Rage as a father whose son dies suddenly due to government negligence; as indicated by the title, it afforded Scott the chance to play angry yet again. He also directed and starred in The Savage is Loose (74), again with his wife as a couple stranded on an island with a growing son; it was poorly received and he never directed again, maybe because he lost much of his fortune producing this.
This last was a bad sign in Scott's career - none of his films came close to matching the success of Patton and it got worse as the 2nd half of the seventies began. Among the disaster films of that decade, there was The Hindenburg (75); Scott played the German officer in charge of security and we know he failed because it's based on a real historical event - and maybe that's why it didn't do as well as previous disaster films, which were more fantasy. He played an artist in the Caribbean, by famed writer Hemingway, in Islands in the Stream (77), directed by Scott's Patton director, Franklin J. Schaffner. He had a small part - done as a favor - in the all-star Crossed Swords (77), his only film with Heston, though they had no scenes together; Scott played a king of thieves while Heston was the real king. Scott was genuinely amusing in this and it showed, like his few other attempts at comedy, that he was just as adept at such comic timing as the serious drama. Then there was the quirky Movie, Movie (78), a 2-movies-in-1 experiment, hearkening back to double features of the forties. Hardcore (79) was back to hard-edged drama, with Scott as a father searching for his lost daughter in the porn districts.  As the seventies ended, Scott was still considered one of the top actors, but it's telling that he began the eighties with horror and weak thrillers.

He starred in The Changeling (80), a ghost story & mystery made in Canada. Then he finally teamed with Brando in The Formula, though Brando's role was small and they had only a couple of short scenes together; Scott played a police detective caught up in an oil conspiracy - it was fairly dull. Scott began to show his age, switching to almost grandfatherly figures - he was the old general in Taps (81), spotlighting early roles for new stars Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn and Tom Cruise; though billed first, Scott's role was small. He also began doing more TV - an Oliver Twist version (82) and another version of A Christmas Carol (84) as Scrooge. He was Mussolini in the mini-series Mussolini: The Untold Story (85). He also returned to his Patton character in a TV sequel, The Last Days of Patton (86). He also finally went back to being a villain, a strange Indian killer with a glass eye in Firestarter (84), based on a Stephen King thriller. This had sci-fi elements, was so-so and had an ensemble cast, but Scott stood out as the psychotic assassin. But (like Heston), most of his eighties work was in TV, even a short TV series, Mr. President (87-88), a sitcom about a U.S. president.

He returned to horror once, the belated sequel Exorcist III (1990), but he made a statement around that time about such horror stories not being his thing, and most of his nineties work was still in TV drama, the exception being a small role in Malice (93).  He finished his career with a string of strong TV movies - as the captain in a TV version of Titanic (96), the extra-angry juror in a remake of 12 Angry Men (97-with Jack Lemmon) and a remake of Inherit the Wind (99-again up against Jack Lemmon). Though he began in films much later than Heston, I find that there are some curious parallels in their careers, much like the Heston-Brando comparative, though not at the same level.

Galaxy Overlord
Galaxy Overlord  Galactus

Posts : 3265
Join date : 2010-02-28
Location : Earth-1

Back to top Go down

Back to top

- Similar topics

Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum