Sunday, August 14, 2011

Robert Ryan: Tough Guy Retrospective at Film Forum

Why is Robert Ryan one of the toughest guys in Hollywood?

When Nick Ray was asked why he cast Ryan opposite John Wayne in the US Marine war film Flying Leathernecks, Ray would explain that Ryan had been a boxer in college and was the only actor he could think of who could "kick Wayne's ass."  Now of course such a fact doesn't necessarily mean Ryan was all that tough when one considers how Wayne's public image was a lot tougher than the actor's so-called real life persona.  I mean really, even Jimmy Stewart punched Duke out once, but then I wouldn't want to get myself started on the whole draft-dodging Duke versus the great and heroic military service of Brigadier General Stewart, so I will preemptively digress and get back to the topic at hand, Mr. Robert Ryan.

What I am trying (and not particularly all that successfully either) to say here is that Robert Ryan was one of the toughest damn actors in Hollywood history (part of the tough guy triumvirate of Mitchum, Ryan and Lee Marvin) and one of the coolest as well.  A lifelong Democrat and crusader for civil rights (even though his on screen persona was more of right wing sort - he even once tried to explain to the press "the problems of an actor like me playing the kind of character that in real life he finds totally despicable.") Ryan was one of the best actors in all of Hollywood - even though today he is nearly unknown to the average moviegoer.  Did you know that when he moved out of the Dakota in New York City, he sold his apartment to a pair of newcomers to the city by the names of John and Yoko?  See, I told you - coolest cat ever.

Seriously though, the reason I am talking about Robert Ryan is that that cinema of all cinemas, Film Forum, is holding a retrospective of the great actor's work as we speak.  Running from August 12th to the 25th, Film Forum is hosting two dozen of the actors greatest films.  After this retrospective, for one week only (though it could be extended if all goes as well as it should) the cinema will screen a brand new 35mm print of Sam Fuller's House of Bamboo, starring you-know-who.  This is a very exciting series and I am especially thrilled for the opportunity to see House of Bamboo on the big screen.  A look at this retrospective can be seen HERE.


Natalie said...

Ewww, Robert Ryan, I don't like him...but I guess I'm not in a place to judge - I've only seen one of his movies.

Kevyn Knox said...

Which one have you seen? Clash by Night?

Natalie said...

Yes, Clash by Night. ;) I actually liked that movie - I just didn't like Robert Ryan (or, at least, I didn't like his character).

Kevyn Knox said...

Have you seen Escape to Burma? Stanwyck and Ryan again.

Actually my favourite Ryan is On Dangerous Ground (with lovely Ida Lupino) directed by the great Nick Ray.

Natalie said...

No, I haven't seen Escape to Burma yet. I've been thinking about Netfix-ing it, but I don't know?

I've never seen an Ida Lupino movie...maybe I need to?

Kevyn Knox said...

Ida is great - as an actress and as a director.

Cullen Gallagher said...

I recently saw Escape to Burma. I'm a big fan of both Stanwyck and Ryan, as well as director Allan Dwan and DP John Alton.

I thought the movie was more interesting than actually "good." The cast and crew seemed more talented than the story deserved. Some terrific sequences...I remember really enjoying the scenes in the jungle, and the fight scenes in the cave. Stanywck, Ryan and Dwan all have made better movies. Still, I enjoyed watching it overall.