Thursday, May 2, 2013

Battle Royale #14: Battle of the Laconic Leading Men

Welcome to the fourteenth Battle Royale here at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World.   It is an ongoing series that will pit two classic cinematic greats against each other - and you can vote for who is the greater by clicking your choice over in the poll at the top of the sidebar.

For this round, we are going to take a look at two of the most stoic, the classiest, and according to the title, the most laconic of leading men.  The first of these great leading men to burst on the so-called scene was the legendary Gary Cooper, who would make his screen debut in 1925 and would make it big in the early 1930's with films ranging from von Sternberg's Morocco to Borzage's A Farewell to Arms to Lubitsch's Design for Living to Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, for which he would garner the first of five Academy Award nominations for Best Actor.  Coop would win two of these five times, the first in 1941 for Sergeant York and the second in 1952 for High Noon.  Cooper could do comedy (Ball of Fire, as a bumbling square professor to Stanwyck's wild chorus girl), drama (Meet John Doe, one of Coop's most under-appreciated gems), melodrama (The Fountainhead, even if a bit politically ugly), Romance (Desire, one of his films with on-again-off-again lover, Marlene Dietrich) and action (Vera Cruz and Man of the West), and he could do it all with but the twist of his lips or the rise of his brow.

Our second combatant is the equally legendary Gregory Peck, who would first make the scene in 1944 in a film called Days of Glory.  Later that same year, Peck would star in John M. Stahl's The Keys to the Kingdom, for which the actor would receive the first of his eventual six Best Actor nominations, culminating in 1962, when he would win the Oscar for playing Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Like Coop, Peck would work with many of the great directors of his time, from Hitchcock (Spellbound and The Paradine Case) to John Huston (Captain Ahab in Moby Dick) to Elia Kazan (Gentleman's Agreement) to King Vidor (Duel in the Sun, where Peck played a villain in one of my favourite roles by any actor) to William Wyler (Roman Holiday, opposite Audrey Hepburn).  The great roles, and great performances just go on forever - even if sometimes the films themselves could not live up the greatness of the actor.   Films such as Twelve O'Clock High, The Gunfighter, Cape Fear, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Designing Woman, The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit and The Boys From Brazil.  Peck, like Cooper, was the consummate leading man, and both men can rightfully be called legends.

As far as acting went, Peck and Cooper would play similar types (some even called Peck, "the new Gary Cooper") but when it came to politics, they could not be more opposite.  Cooper, a staunch Republican, was an outspoken opponent of Communism, and even spoke in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.  Cooper never named names but did make it known he did not like the "pinko" mentality of a lot of Hollywood.  Peck on the other hand was a lifelong Democrat and a very vocal supporter of civil rights.  Peck even spoke out against the blacklisting of Hollywood writers and actors, though he himself was never blacklisted, probably due to him being to big a star at the time to be squelched by the powers-that-be.  Peck also protested the Vietnam War, though made it clear he wished no harm to our troops, one of which was his own son.  In 1972 he was even thought of as a possible opponent to Ronald Reagan as governor of California.  Both men were idealists and believed strongly in their beliefs, even if those beliefs were proverbial world's apart.

So there ya have it folks.  Which laconic leading man will you choose?  Will it be Gary Cooper or Gregory Peck?  It is all up to you now.  All you need to do is go on over to the poll - placed conveniently near the top of the sidebar of this very same website - and make your vote heard.  And remember, you can rant and rave all you want in the comments section of this post - and please do, because we encourage such antics - but in order for your vote to be counted, you must actually vote in the aforementioned poll near the top of the sidebar.  After that, please feel free to come back here and rant and rave to your heart's delight.  And also, please tell all your friends to get in on the voting fun as well.  Our record voter turnout here in the Battle Royale arena, is just 66 votes - waaaay back in our second battle - but I know we can blow that number out of the proverbial water - maybe even reach triple digits this time around.  Voting will run through midnight EST, the night of May 20th - two-and-a-half weeks from the starting gate - so get out there and vote vote vote.  The winner will be announced in a post on Tuesday, May 21st.

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