John Gielgud On American Film Actors

Interview with James Grissom
Via Telephone

There is so much to be learned from all sorts of actors. I don't believe that British actors have a lock on anything particularly, although we are thrust into far more classical roles than our American counterparts, but the French actors terrify me with their precision, their comedic timing, their historical understanding of plays and writing and design. The Italians--with their innate understanding of opera and commedia and surrealism, which I truly believe they invented within the drama, are frighteningly good, terribly unique. And we cannot discount the effect that film actors--American film stars--had on us all. The great gift of American film actors is their immediate and galvanizing talent, and that is what it is, no matter how others may scoff. Few things excite me as much as the film actor who does none of the tentative and British tiptoeing toward a part, but who is suddenly, fully, thrillingly deep and alive in the role. Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart--these are all remarkable talents, vivid personalities. Claude Rains was my good friend and a great actor, but he admitted that it took being in the room, amid the air, of so many great American film actors to loosen some muscles he didn't know he had and didn't know he was clenching.

© 2013 James Grissom
From Artistic Suicide


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