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October 03, 2003

Kazan and the Method

Friedrich --

Have you followed the obits for Elia Kazan? There have been a couple of beauties. I especially liked this one here by Patrick Goldstein for the LA Times, and this one by David Thomson for the Guardian (here).

A giant though Kazan certainly was, I was never a huge fan of his work. Were you? I understand his place in theater and film history, etc. etc. -- I'm talking here only about personal reactions. In fact, the first time I saw "Streetcar," "On the Waterfront" and "Splendor in the Grass," I recoiled. And in a hurry: all the sweat, the swollen emoting, the pumped-up anguish, the luridly doted-on fumbling for words, the heightening of intensity via camera angles, light and music ... Good lord, what strange planet did these people come from?

I felt at some points like a madman had me in his grip, and at others like I was watching a bizarre new kind of horror film. (The only Kazan film I took to instantly was "Baby Doll," which in fact was a kind of porno-horror comedy.) Polite small-town boy that I was at the time, I simply didn't have the resources to experience this carrying-on as anything but gross and terrifying. Everyone onscreen seemed hysterical and over-fleshy to me; the movies themselves seemed like emotional pornography. It took me years before I was able to take Kazan's work (and to be able to appreciate and enjoy it) on its own terms.

But I've always struggled with Method acting, as a moviegoer and (for a misguided few years) as an acting student too. Pushy emotional exhibitionism wasn't, and isn't, my cup of theatrical tea.

Yet back when you and I were young adults, the Method seemed to be what acting was, and all acting was. It wasn't a style or a school -- it was a meta-school. Remember all that talk about "the truth"? I found its claims bewildering. Could it really be that all acting paths led to the Method? Was the Method really what underlay the work of all performers, whether they knew it or not? Was my dislike of the Method a form of anti-art resistance that I needed to overcome? I finally got so puzzled by questions like these that I wound up trying to make some historical sense of it all.

Long story made somewhat less long: no, no, no, no and no. In fact, the Method turns out to be a number of very specific things. The two that leaped out at me (yet that I've never heard said out loud) were these:

* Art-historically speaking, the Method was in acting what modernism was in the other arts. It was a quasi-religious search for Truth, it made the same revolutionary claims as such other modernist quasi-religions as psychoanalysis, and it professed to get at the real essence of things in the same ways. It can help to think of the young Brando as the Jackson Pollock of acting.

* Sociologically speaking, the Method was lefty-immigrant acting. In this country, it was largely the creation and the vehicle of turn-of-the-century immigrants (and their children) from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. Kazan, for instance, was born in Constantinople, and was the son of a rug dealer. (Incidentally, nearly all the early Method people were socialists or Communists.) Simply speaking, immigrants (and second-gen types) from these backgrounds often had a taste for more heated-up, impassioned-seeming, soulful acting than did the people who were already in the field here. In Stanislavsky they found a rationale for their preferences.

Another thing the Method was about was trying to unify and ennoble performing -- to turn it into a profession and an art. Performers in America prior to the Method were a seat-of-the-pants bunch, and performing itself was a beyond-sketchy occupation. Fathers hid daughters when the theater people came to town, and actresses were often considered only one click up the scale from prostitutes. Starting in the mid-to-late 1800s, there was an attempt in Europe unify and elevate the theater; my posting here, where I spend some time discussing the history of directing, touches on this. The Method was the American manifestation of that impulse. Performers were no longer to be clowns and interpreters; they were to be creative artists in their own right.

The Method is often discussed as an attempt to get at a fresh kind of psychological realism, and that seems fair. It's probably also fair to say that it's a good thing for a performer to be able to draw on the Method's approach when the moment seems right. Yet it doesn't hurt to be skeptical of its larger claims, or to remind ourselves of the glories of non-Method performers too. A few examples: Mae West. W.C. Fields. Cary Grant. Tallulah Bankhead. Chaplin. Keaton. Katharine Hepburn. James Cagney. These performers (all of them art heroes to me) had backgrounds ranging from burlesque to Bryn Mawr, and none of them went through the Method.

Anyway, the Method approach didn't suit me as an actor one jot. It must have been painful, watching me struggle with it. I'm emotionally reserved but physically jaunty, respectful of an audience's needs and averse to excessive carrying-on -- unlikely grist for the Method's mill. I shade a lot more Bing Crosby than I do Marlon Brando. Although my teachers were good (and certainly deserve Oscars for their efforts to coax a little something out of me), in two years I managed only a couple of moments when something like "acting" seemed to be happening. This might well have been a consequence of the tininess of my talent, of course, but it may also have had to do with how unsuited I was to the Method's techniques, which always struck me as designed to force the moment. For whatever reason, I tend to prefer that the moment be allowed to take care of itself.

I wonder sometimes if I'd do better these days, now that the Method monopoly has broken down, and now that the Method is no longer the all-encompassing, inescapable meta-school it was in the '70s. Actors coming up today get a many-sided training -- in movement, performance art, standup, dance, and improv, as well as in the Method. This is post-modernism in the good sense, as far as I'm concerned -- a return to something more patchwork, and more catch-as-catch-can. Even in academia, where everything inevitably gets over-theorized, the standard acting thing now is a looser and more patchworky overtheorized thing than it used to be. One such school is known as Viewpoints; it makes a point of throwing everything-and-the-kitchen-sink at its students.

So the Method has subsided into being what it always should have been, just one set of techniques among the many a performer might call on. Part of the reason for this, as far as I can tell, is the practical problem of time pressures. Using the Method, you can fumble around for centuries before finding your way to your character and his scenes. These days, what with budgets and rehearsal schedules being cut to the bone, performers need to get on their feet and start acting darned fast. And they need techniques that can help them do this.

Should anyone be so foolish as to ask me for advice about how to start acting, I'd humbly suggest trying a class in improv acting. The standard improv thing these days is quite effective, and a good teacher will get you on your feet and having real acting experiences in a matter of only a few classes. A big plus, IMHO, is that improv acting, which I got a small taste of, is anything but the grueling, cult-like, psychotherapy-esque thing that Method acting can sometimes be. Improv promotes instead an on-the-ball, physically-active attitude; it's great training for thinking and speaking on your feet in a general way. And, hey, it can do wonders for your social life -- it's hard to beat an improv-acting class as a means to meet other gals and guys.

By the way, wasn't it was fun to notice in the obits that Kazan went to Williams and Yale before finding success on the stage and in Hollywood? Ah, America -- such a hard place for an immigrant boy to crack. Kazan, of course, felt like an outsider his whole life.

For a tiptop history and discussion of Method acting, I recommend Steve Vinebergs book "Method Actors," which is buyable here.

Has the Method meant much to you?



posted by Michael at October 3, 2003


1. I have to say I loved "On the Waterfront"---or, more specifically, Brando in it. I just saw it for the first time about two years ago, because I had avoided it, because his performance is always so praised that I figured it would never live up to the hype. (Maybe that's the reaction of someone who has lived through too many Spielberg movies and sequels!!).
I was genuinely riveted. It was one of those times when something totally fulfilled unrealistically high expectations. But what I loved is that I DIDN'T think he over-emoted at all. Maybe Karl Malden or some others did, but not Brando. He was so simple, never a false note, so perfect as a slowly-waking-up-to-the-world lummox. His courting of Eva Marie Saint was beautiful. I always think that people who think of The Method as Brando screaming "Stella!" haven't really sat through one of his full performances, and are only reacting to the endless copycats. His famous "I coulda been a contender" line has really been misrepresented by all the mimics---he really just says it simply, just one line in a paragraph he's saying to his brother. It was sort of like seeing Montgomery Clift in "A Place in the Sun." They aren't bulging off the screen---they are more sinking into the fabric of the movie. When I saw "On the Waterfront", I understood all the people who believed it was a tragedy that Brando stopped taking acting seriously. It was. It would have been like Michelangelo stopped caring about sculpting.

2. In general, though, I am always struck by how accomplished, British film actors are, and none of them learn the Method. They all giggle at it, basically. When I watched Judi Densch in "Shakespeare in Love"---the completeness of her command just takes your breath away. Notice how easily Vivien Leigh keeps up with Brando in the acting chops department in "Streetcar." Michael Caine, Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Maggie Smith, Vanessa Redgrave. Day-Lewis probably comes the closest in method to The Method, but he's really a classically trained stage actor. Olivier went to the Actor's Studio a few times, to become acquainted, and admitted he just never understood what they were getting at. He needed a cane and a mustache---not a sense memory.

Posted by: annette on October 3, 2003 6:50 PM

My tastes in the theatre tend to run towards (1) comedy, (2) Shakespeare and (3) Greek tragedy, all of which seem to call for a more intellectual, stripped-down style of acting than what I understand as the Method. I think Brando is a great actor--or at least, was a great actor when he cared to be--but Kazan's movies are a long way down my list of favorites...interesting but never clicking on a subconscious level. And I never understood the "absolutist" claims of the method to represent the Platonic Ideal of Acting; effective acting seems to come in way too many flavors--from Bela Lugosi to Jimmy Cagny--for any tradition to try to hog the limelight.

P.S. Michael, do you remember that little movie of Jean Renoir directing a young actress in a soliloquoy? I mean, my god, what a performance he gets out of her. And no trace of the Method in sight.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 4, 2003 2:23 AM

Having deliberately sought out virtually every major American style of training in improv, I can testify that improv also harbors its share of super touchy-feely psychotherapesque training. There are also some schools that are grueling and cult-like. But you're right that a standard improv class is nothing like that.

The original gurus of improv, the ones who founded Second City in Chicago and elaborted a lot of the basic approach to the work -- people like Paul Sills and Del Close -- were full of lefty zeal, and the sort of fascination with the individual and the creative process that lends itself to deliberate undiscipline. That said, they accomplished a hell of a lot, basically inventing a new art form.

It helps that since most improv is comedic, people can't get too precious without getting boring. Also comedians are, by temperament, emotionally shuttered -- a point illustrated at one extreme by comparing a group of improvisers with a group of stand-up comics, and at the other by comparing them with a group of dance improvisers, who are very uncomic.

Although the '60s spirit of "there are no rules" still animates most improv teaching, that's certainly not what's taught at a more advanced level. The the best improvisers are always the ones who have developed a very strict and technical discipline of their own. Either that, or they're just naturals.

Posted by: alexis on October 4, 2003 6:03 AM

Ha ha! Sounds like my response to Fine art teachers who use words like "feeling" "freedom" "viseral" and "expression" all red-flag words.

It also reminded me of poor Diane in A Chorus Line. Whom I think you sympathize with....

I'm so excited because I'm gonna go to the High School of Performing
Arts, I mean I was dying to be a serious actress. Anyway, it's our first
day acting class and we're in the auditorium and the teacher, Mr. Karp,
puts us upon the stage with our legs around everybody, one in back of the
other, and he says: 'Okay, we're gonna do improvisations...Now, you're
on a bobsled and it's snowing out and it's cold... Okay, go!'
Ev'ryday for a week we would try to feel the motion,
Feel the motion down the hill.
Ev'ry day for a week we would try to hear the wind rush
Hear the wind rush, feel the chill
And I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
To see what I had inside.
Yes, I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
And I tried, I tried!
And everybody goin' 'Woosh... woosh ...
I feel the snow, I feel the cold,
I feel the air...'
And Mr. Karp turns to me and he says:
'Okay, Morales, what did you feel?'
And I said...
'Nothing, I'm feeling nothing,'
And he says 'Nothing could get a girl transferred.'
They all felt something,
But I felt nothing
Except the feelin' that this bullshit was absurd!
But I said to myself,
'Hey, it's only the first week. Maybe it's genetic,
They don't have bobsleds in San Juan!'
Second week, more advanced,
And we had to be a table,
Be a sportscar, Ice-cream cone.
Mister Karp, he would say,
'Very good, except Morales.
Try, Morales, all alone.'
And I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
To see how an ice cream felt...
Yes, I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
And I tried to melt!
The kids yelled,
They called me 'Nothing'
And Karp allowed it, which really makes me burn.
They were so helpful, they called me 'Hopeless',
Until I really didn't know where else to turn.
And Karp kept saying,
'Morales, I think you should transfer to Girl's High,
You'll never be an actress, Never!'
Jesus Christ!
Went to church, praying, Santa Maria,
Send me guidance,
Send me guidance on my knees.
Went to church praying, Santa Maria,
Help me feel it,
Help me feel it pretty please.
And a voice from down at the bottom of my soul
Came up to the top of my head,
And a voice from down at the bottom of my soul,
Here is what it said,
'This man is nothing! This course is nothing!
If you want something go find another class.
And when you find one You'll be an actress.'
And I assure you that's what fin'lly came to pass
Six months later I heard that Karp had died.
And I dug right down to the bottom of my soul And cried--
'Cause I felt nothing...

Posted by: JLeavitt5 on October 4, 2003 1:07 PM

There is a story about Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier together on the set of Marathon Man. Olivier watches in amazement as Hoffman paces back and forth like a caged tiger, working himself up into a fury for one of their scenes together. Finally he asks someone what Hoffman's doing, and is told that this is the Method, that he is "working himself inside his character." "Oh," Olivier says. "Has he ever tried acting?"

Posted by: Aaron Haspel on October 5, 2003 9:58 AM

Who would you rather drink with in a bar?

Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Vanessa Redgrave, (and I'll add to this list) Peter O'Toole, Rex Harrison, Ian McKellen, Oliver Reed, Derek Jacobi, Helen Mirren, Richard Burton, Julie Christie


Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Hopper, Jessica Lange, Robert Duvall, Al Pacino, Robert Deniro, Marlon Brando, Meryl Streep, James Cahn, Glenn Close, Ellen Burstyn, Harvey Keitel, Sissy Spacek, Diane Keaton

It's the Brit stage against the American screen - and quite frankly I'd much rather hang out with folks who can crack a joke and down a pint then slump over the edge of a bar and take themselves too seriously. Plus, coming from years of living in Hollywood, actors freak me out in general anyway. I try and think of them as *arteests* but when they get all airheaded me-me-me on me I instantly get the hibbies and run the other direction. I'd rather talk me-me-me self-important writers or artists because in that forum, at least I'm comfortable enough to say: SHUT THE *!%# UP and get over your whiney self.

Did I just segue off topic?

Posted by: turbokitty on October 5, 2003 10:57 AM

Michael Caine and Peter O'Toole were certainly known to throw back a few in a pretty fun way in their day!! Of course, O'Toole then went too far. I read a biography of Judi Densch, and her biggest problem when she appeared with Anthony Hopkins in "Antony and Cleopatra" was not dissolving in giggles at the most crucial moments. Gotta love that. And they got knockout reviews for that production!!

Posted by: annette on October 5, 2003 1:09 PM

If I were a mature person, I'd write a well-considered appreciation of the Method -- how it brought a new realism to the stage and screen, something deeper and more frankly emotional; about how the movie camera seems to eat that up (it goes looking inside the performer); about how I came respect and love a lot of Method and Method-derived stuff. But, heck, that's what they pay critics to do, and many of them do it pretty well. So instead I bitch and muse instead.

Another thing I don't remember seeing anyone write about the Method is that it tends to burn a performer up, possibly because they're relying on their own innards to feed the flames. I spent a couple of months once really doing Brando -- rewatching the movies, reading bios, watching documentaries. And I came away from thinking, You know, I think the reason he stopped being the "great actor" everyone said he was was because he didn't like doing it. He could do it, it made him rich -- but he was really putting himself out there in a way he didn't like. So he turned into a hambone instead. He pulled back into himself and seemed much happier for it. He ventured back out in the Method way only one more time -- "Last Tango" -- and then closed up shop altogether. Which isn't to say I don't enjoy some of his hammy performances. But it reminds me of Ab-Ex painting (also something that merged and overlapped with psychoanalysis) -- a painter might very well have a good few years, like Pollock, and then lose his way, or fizzle. Some kind of amazing pitch of yearning and talent and feeling might get reached, but it seemed to take its toll.

Ah, "Direction d'Acteur Par Jean Renoir," yeah, I remember it well, although maybe I'm making up the title. Amazing picture. So simple, so moving. No guru baloney either.

Thanks to Alexis for the interesting thoughts and knowledge -- I'd love to read more! Speaking as someone who's never done more (and never will do more) than wade around in the very, very shallow end of acting, I do regret I didn't take improv. The standard-brand intro-to-improv thing (Chicago City Limits, Upright Citizens Brigade, etc) seems great and pretty much guaranteed to deliver some experience of on-your-feet acting, where in an intro to Method-style acting the promised land always seems decades away, much like it does in psychotherapy. But maybe I'm all wet here -- I'm certainly basing this on a tiny amount of personal experience. Alexis?

"Roaring Boys" -- isn't that what the Burton/O'Toole/Finney/Caine bunch were called? Great name for them. I do like actors as friends, and especially going to parties where there are a good number of them. Even Method types generally know how to have a good time. But maybe the English do have a special knack. One American actor I know who's worked on international cruise ships told me that the wildest, most good-natured misbehavors he ever ran into were English actresses.

And we think of the Brits as inhibited.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 5, 2003 11:16 PM


You are by no means alone in your distrust of the method. In 'Almodovar on Almodovar' Pedro talks of how the method, and De Niro in particular, leaves him cold, and if anyone is an 'actors' director' it's Almodovar.

The method to me sounds like a hell of a lot of work, and then you read of actors like John Malkovich who, he reckons, just turns up and acts.

I don't the method can compensate for the lack of native talent, and for every Brando there is a Richard Gere, but perhaps it helps actors go further than they would otherwise go into certain roles.

When you were involved in impro, did the quality of a performance rely on how interesting the person acting was? I am a huge fan of Brando, but it seemed that when he really improvised (eg the end of Apocalypse Now) he revealed himself to be, as they say in England, a bit of a twat.

Finally, just to end the debate once and for all, what 'method' does Gene Hackman use? And can anyone out there suggest a comparable talent in this generation of young actors? Mark Ruffalo, maybe?

Posted by: adrianhyland on October 6, 2003 4:15 AM

I saw Hackman on "Inside the Actor's Studio." He's a straight up Method Actor, sense memory and all. And...that would seem to imply that the Method has something going for it. But I also agree---I don't think Method (or method) makes up for lack of talent. As Jodie Foster once said, "Acting is essentially an unschooled skill. Acting classes just make bad people without much talent...PASSABLE."

Posted by: annette on October 6, 2003 9:41 AM


I enjoyed your post on Elia Kazan and the Method, though I should say that I am a devout fan of Kazan's approach to filmmaking--"the heightening of intensity via camera angles, light and music ..." Isn't this a description of any great director's craftsmanship? Can't you say the same thing for David Lynch, Brian DePalma and Robert Altman?

I've been a student of the Method for some time now, and I've even taken classes at a respected New York institution founded by the pioneering teacher of Method acting in America. While I do think that certain technical aspects of the Method--effective memory, the private moment--are unbeatable, especially in the age of rehearsal constraints, when you need to get it right and you need to get it right now, I think the mentalities most Method teachers I've met posses are unhealthy for an actor's development. Most damaging is the 'our-way-is-the-only-way' pretentousness most of these poseurs preen around with. Unfortunately, said teachers do not recognize the necessity of theatrical behavior, and constantly push for emotional outbursts, contrary to whatever they may tell you.

I think all actors are subconsciously using the Method some of the time. The work that Judi Dench does in IRIS, or Michael Caine's work in LAST ORDERS, depends on some sort of effective emotional memory. As you say, the Method has become one tool for an actor to use. When it works for people who embrace it, the results are undeniable and poetic--Dean in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, Pacino, DeNiro, Lee Strasberg, Robert Duvall, Michael Gazzo, et. al. in THE GODFATHER, PART 2. But the dangerousness of the Method's pop-based allure is that its prospective students are coaxed into believing great acting talent is lurking in their souls waiting to be unleashed. They aren't coached about the industry they aspire to work in, which couldn't give less of a shit about such nonsense.

Posted by: Dick Ranko on October 6, 2003 11:01 AM

Who would I want to have a drink with?

Brits: Alec Guinness yes, Ralph Richardson no, Daniel Day-Lewis no, Judi Dench no, Michael Caine no, Maggie Smith no, Vanessa Redgrave no, Peter O'Toole yes, Rex Harrison yes, Ian McKellen no, Oliver Reed yes, Derek Jacobi oh god yes, Helen Mirren no, Richard Burton yes, Julie Christie yes. Total 7/15.

Americans: Dustin Hoffman no, Dennis Hopper oh god yes, Jessica Lange yes, Robert Duvall no, Al Pacino no, Robert Deniro no, Marlon Brando yes, Meryl Streep no, James Cahn no, Glenn Close no, Ellen Burstyn yes, Harvey Keitel no, Sissy Spacek no, Diane Keaton no. Total 4/14.

Looks like TurboKitty has a point, although when it comes to the younger generation I'd much rather hang out with Parker Posey than Jude Law, and likewise would take Uma Thurman over Kate Winslet any day.

Posted by: Felix on October 6, 2003 11:17 AM

Having heard Sissy Spacek discuss her work (she lives near C'ville), I can testify that in person she's a lot of fun. She can certainly keep an audience in stitches.

So Spacek gets my vote when it's brewski time.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on October 6, 2003 2:33 PM

Michael's comment that the Method "tends to burn a performer up" really hit home with me. I studied drama in college, and most of my professors taught that "The Method" was THE ONLY WAY. Most of us students became good little disciples, eagerly applying the Method to everything from Greek tragedy to adaptations of "Winnie the Pooh". By my senior year I was completely burnt-out, which I've always attributed to heavy course-loads, doing several plays each semester, partying, and a "History of Comedy" seminar that almost killed my sense of humor. But looking back on this now, I'm inclined to think that my burn-out was caused by the constant "digging deep within" and baring of my psyche -- without the benefit of a good therapist!

Posted by: Jennifer on October 6, 2003 2:38 PM

To me, the Method always seemed predicated on a mistaken assumption about authenticity. The idea is that if you feel properly, if your insides are all right, then the external performance will follow accordingly. It would follow, then, that the best performances are those in which the actor actually goes through what is happening to his character.

Tom Stoppard wrote a wicked critique of the Method in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. The Player mentions a performance in which an actor is actually hanged onstage. But despite all that authenticity (yes, he's really going to die, we're not faking it, the emotions you're seeing are true and unmediated), nobody in the audience believes the actor. The emotions are too real, you see.

Expect some of that "This-is-so-friggin'-intense-I-just-can't-believe-it" Method acting in Eastwood's Mystic River (esp. with Sean Penn in a leading role) ...

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on October 6, 2003 9:21 PM

Heavens, I'm speechless before everything y'all have said, which strikes me as amazingly insightful and smart. I think what particularly irked me about the Method method was what a few of you have pointed out -- how it's oftentimes presented as the Only Way. Baloney to that. Interesting to learn from a few of you that that still goes on -- I'd been hoping it was a thing of the past.

The Wife makes one good point that's appreciative of the Method that I can pass along. She writes plays and works with actors (so I get to tag along and hang out), and tells me that the one thing that young actors with some Method training have that other young actors without it don't have is an ability to pick a moment and make it really real, in an inside-out kind of way. She says that the new, more patchwork approach (the one I enjoy imagining would be so congenial) sometimes leads young actors to come at everything from the outside, and be content with playing with angles and effects -- juggling concepts and techniques, horsing around rather than living the moment.

I know I'm getting untrustworthily cosmic here, but isn't it always the case with these movements/cults/approaches that claim to be offering the one and only real way, the real good themselves, access to the promised land, etc? Or rather, isn't that the question that always comes up: is it possible to get the thing that's good about them without losing yourself in them (and often getting destroyed by them)? Freudianism, Marxism, modernism, the Method -- each one has insights and tips to offer. But there seems to be something about each one of them that isn't content just to be one approach among many, that needs instead to make what's usually called "totalizing" claims. They have to be actively prevented from sucking all the oxygen out of a room. Lazy soul that I am, my choice is generally to avoid inviting them into the room.

Any ideas from anyone on what it is about these cults that makes them so unavoidably overweening?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 7, 2003 2:11 AM

Alister Crowley had a few helpful things to say about extracting what is good from 'one true path' schools of anything. You DO tend to have to throw yourself into their worldview to get at the marrow. The trick with a temporarily adopted belief system is to NOT FORGET IT'S TEMPORARY!! :-)

Programming oneself with some sort of trigger to re-emerge once you've 'gotten it' is crucial, but difficult and beyond the scope of a blog's comments (beyond the scope of the blog format period, I'd say).

The level of hubris in calling a particular method of acting 'The Method' is so huge as to be mind-boggling.

Posted by: David Mercer on October 7, 2003 4:43 AM

Just stumbled across this.
I wish people could get it into their heads that Brando was NOT, nor was he EVER a diciple of "the method" in general, or Strasberg in particular!
The same is true for DeNiro and Duvall, so please try to discuss it without saddling these actors with the "method" bullshit.
The were not only untrained in "the method," if you asked them about it's merits, they'd laugh in your face.

Posted by: Jeep on April 20, 2004 7:02 PM

Jeep -- I think you're fighting an uphill battle with this one.

From David Thomson's Encyclopedia of Film's entry on Brando: "It was the Method at work, and few actos have so conscientiously applied a theory to their films."

From Ephraim Katz's Film Encyclopedia on Brando: "His naturalistic style of acting and his casual, mumbling delivery, under the guidance of Elia Kana, also heralded the arrival of 'the Method' as a fashionable style of acting."

Brando's got a chapter in Steve Vineberg's definitive book "Method Acting." And Vineberg lists De Niro and Duvall as examples (along with tons of other '70s actors) of Method actors.

I know there are intramural squabbles about these things: did you study with Stella Adler or Strasberg, etc. But that's all inside-baseball. It's all, in a general sense, Method acting, which is a distinctive, Stanislavsky-derived, mid-20th century American approach to acting that's very different than, say, burlesque, or Cary Grant, or Comedie Francaise, or improv, or Viewpoints. I don't think it's unfair to say that Brando, Duvall, De Niro and tons of others (Pacino, Hackman, Burstyn, Newman, Geraldine Page, etc etc) all played ball in the "Method" ballpark. and the reference books don't either.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 20, 2004 10:36 PM

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