Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Retro Active Appreciation: George C. Scott

This has been the toughest post for me to write, and perhaps that's only fitting to its subject. Words just can't come easily to describe Mr. Scott. There is certainly an urgency and an intensity he brought to every role. He seems to have been somewhat more composed in real life (though who's to say), but the complex inner workings of the man as an actor are truly incomparable. If you want to see someone chew up the scenery, in any scene - no matter how trite it could have been in the hands of any other actor - George C. would have been your man. 
Even the sound of his name conjures a certain bite. In every role, here was this intellectual ruffian, a good but conflicted man wrestling with his own demons if not with those that threaten him, externally. A lion protecting his kingdom. He seemed always challenged, and made vulnerable by his own need to conquer whatever conflict had muddied his path. There is such charm in his gruffness (his voice and presence.) Apart from the vague description I offer here, it's complicated to define just what makes him watchable and endearing. He might not be a person I'd want to know in real life, but on screen he is a legend worth many observations. Just as one is drawn to watch a lion on the prowl.
Here are my favorite, standout George C. Scott films. (On a side note, how did I ever miss the fact that the C. in his name stands for Campbell? That he was in fact Campbell Scott's father? George seems to have fathered quite a number of little Scott's, but I have enjoyed a number of his son Campbell's performances, as well.)
Here's a bit from the film "Petulia" - in which you have The Grateful Dead, Julie Christie, San Francisco, Richard Chamberlain... and George. Great combo, and watch for the nice bit at the end of the clip, an exchange on cable cars (in our fair city):
Here is a full ten minutes of "The Changeling", to whet your appetite for a classic psychological horror show, the George C. way...
It's rather unfortunate there are so few clips on YouTube for this man, and none in particular for the other two film examples I'd suggest. (The one I haven't seen, ironically, is 'Patton' for which he is most remembered and won an Oscar.)
I can highly recommend "The Hospital", penned by Paddy Chayefsky of "Network" fame, which also stars Diana Rigg. It is a great satire on a corrupt health care profession in a fictional hospital, which was a progressive subject matter in 1971.

The other George recommendation and perhaps my favorite is "Day of the Dolphin", a forgotten Mike Nichols film (but memorable, if you've seen it) in which he plays a dolphin trainer. It is an exceptional and transcendent story, a sci-fi thriller that deals with inter-species communication and the fragility of nature (mixed with some political corruption.) Not as convoluted as it sounds, and one of the most moving films I've ever seen because of his paternal relationship with his sweet dolphins, and they to each other.


  1. So cool, I love it. Thank you. Wow.

  2. You're very welcome, my one of two followers, haha :) George is ridiculously great.