Daphne Likes it Hot

Featuring elements of vaudeville, slapstick, and drag, Some Like It Hot is widely considered one of the greatest comedies in all of Hollywood’s history. The film stars Marylin Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon, each of whom achieve their comedic ends in their own unique ways. Jack Lemmon is arguably the main attraction of the film, though not the primary love interest. Both Lemmon and Curtis are effectively and hilariously able to convince the audience of both their situation and their disguises.

 Lemmon plays Jerry, a gigging musician, who along with his friend and partner, Joe (Curtis), witnesses a mob murder. The pair are forced to pose as women and subsequently join a women’s-only band who happen to be on their way out of Chicago and on to Florida.

 This sequence of events is the vehicle which allows for a lot of the comedy. Lemmon won Best Actor in a Leading Role for this film, and it’s easy to see why. He is an incredibly physical actor, both as Jerry and Daphne. His performance Daphne is filled with high energy, but also tempered and controlled by Lemmon’s vast acting experience. Lemmon’s highly feminine performance is contrasted by Curtis’s more weighty “masculine” performance.

 Femininity, or more rather what a man perceives as feminine, was highlighted in several aspects of Lemmon’s performance including: running in heels, quick costume changes, and the typical banter associated with men in women’s clothing. Lemmon’s portrayal of femininity is further emphasized and satirized when “Daphne” meets Osgood Fielding III for the first time. His high-pitched laughs and unease regarding male advances lends beautifully to the comedic timing and truthfulness in his acting as a woman. After exiting the elevator from a questionable encounter with Osgood, Lemmon as Daphne is outraged at what has happened. She slaps Osgood and with a click of the heels, storms away up the stairs. In that moment we believe we are seeing a woman and not a man playing a woman.

 ImageThe conviction in Lemmon’s performance as Jerry as Daphne carries over into one of the more interesting moments of the film, at least in consideration of method acting. This occurs when Jerry’s Daphne persona starts to seep into his regular identity. After an evening spent with Osgood he becomes engaged. When Joe returns to the hotel room Jerry is dancing around displaying elements of both Jerry and the “Daphne” persona and announces that he has become engaged. He doesn’t see it as a problem, and the flattery of the proposal overrides his senses. It seems as though that emotional truth, comedic timing, and physicality all worked together to create a stellar and harmonious performance. No one specific element over shadowed the other; each had its specific role and place in the actors performance. We’ve talked about what makes someone funny: rhythm and timing. Although during the filming the actors don’t get receive feedback from the crew, if their timing and rhythm with one another is truthful and in the moment, the execution will be inherently funny. Given the timeless and natural quality of the film, I’d say they expertly achieved this.

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Character Acting – Peter Sellers and Lionel Mandrake

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When discussing Hollywood film, directors, audiences and film critics tend to rave about the lead actors. Their pictures can be found in every newspaper, headline, google image search, and they quickly become the face of the film. Often unnoticed or even overlooked, however, are the character actors. Without them the worlds we see as the audience would seem far less real. In the film Dr. Strangelove directed by Stanley Kubrick, there were several character actors who played a significant role. Peter Sellerss creates an excellent experience for the audience by playing not one, but three different and distinct characters (President Mirkin Muffley, Captain Lionel Mandrake, and Dr. Strangelove).

 Lionel Mandrake is a comical character who catches the audience’s attention quite early on. While it is difficult to pinpoint the “main character” in a film like Dr. Strangelove, we can reasonably suggest that Mandrake played one of the more pivotal roles in the film. After Ripper shoots himself, Colonel Guano enters to take Mandrake away. Here, Mandrake is given his task – to reach the president by any means to give him the code that will turn the jets around, thereby averting nuclear holocaust.

 In our course text, Melissa Bruder presents nine steps to good action that an actor must use when performing an action to a scene. Mandrake had to perform actions that were physically capable of being done. This decision is an actor’s way of acknowledging how the task will be accomplished. In this case, Mandrake was pleading for permission. His struggle enabled the audience to see his desperation, but also his otherwise calm demeanour needed to achieve his goals.

 As the pressure builds and the Colonels patience wears thin, Sellers (and Kubrick) take this opportunity to make things fun. A series of events take place that make the scene quite comical; The phone has a broken cord, he doesn’t have enough change for the phone.

The third step suggested by Bruder is to be specific. Mandrake was specific with his urgency to get the president on the phone, trying to convince the Colonel asking “Can you possibly imagine what is going to happen to you?”

 The Colonel and Lionel Mandrake display an extensive understanding of each others character. As the scene unfolds, we see that Mandrake never loses a sense of the Colonel’s presence which is his test in the other person. As he turns to the Colonel he says “shoot if off! Shoot … with a gun! That’s what the bullets are for, you twit!” Mandrake keeps the action alive by working off the Colonel.

 Mandrake is presented by Kubrick and Sellers as an extreme caricature of a British Air Force officer. Sellers achieves this using a variety of techniques physically as well as vocally. He acts to fit the whole atmosphere of unrestrained satire present in the film and does an amazing job convincing us of the identities of three different characters.

The Tree Lover: The Deer Hunter’s Friend

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The three hour (some may consider it an epic) film, Deer Hunter, directed by Michael Cimino follows the lives of three small town Russian American steel workers, who enjoy going deer hunting together, and whose lives are forever affected and changed in very different ways during their time in the Vietnam War. Nick Chevotarevich (Christopher Walken) is illustrated as a quiet and reserved young man, yet ultimately quite contemplative compared to some of his other friends. At the outset of the film we see how cool and collected Mike (Robert DeNiro) is during the deer hunt, how eager Steven (John Savage) is to prove his self sufficiency, and how contemplative and in touch with nature Nick seems to be. When asked why he enjoys the hunt, his response is simply that he likes “… the trees … the way the trees are …” Suddenly in Vietnam Nick is forced to kill and survive anyway he can; he is at odds with his otherwise gentle nature and has to make morally questionable decisions that slowly chip away at the kind, nature loving Nick. While in the POW camp, Nick is forced to play a game of Russian roulette against his best friend, Mike; another chip at the block, but they formulate a plan to escape. During the escape Nick is rescued by an American helicopter, but Mike and Steven are left behind. Nick escapes thinking only that he has left his friends behind to die. These continued acts of moral questionability start to erode his personality. Alone in the military hospital he attempts to call his fiancé, only to hang up the phone, seemingly in doubt of who he is as well. We follow Nick to the red-light district in Saigon were he is enticed into a game of consensual Russian roulette; this is the first time we really see the change in Nick. The sight of the gun triggered something in him. You might even say the shots he takes with the gun here were actually the ones that ended his existence as we knew him.

The final scene of Russian roulette between Nick and Mike in Saigon truly illustrates how completely Nick has been altered by his experiences. Physically we see the same contemplative man we’ve always known, yet we know something is different in him; what’s going on in his mind is much different than at the outset of the film. His past experiences with the game seem to have left him all but morally bankrupt. He thought he had nothing left to live for after leaving his friends behind in Vietnam and he couldn’t bear to go back to his fiancé with that on his conscience. Mike attempts to appeal to his humanity in an ultimately futile attempt but reaches him on some level, and it seems as though it was permission for Nick to free himself from the horrors he had experienced with the “One Shot”.