George, you are such a versatile actor!

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I was just thinking about all the movies you made, George–around 135, I think, not counting your television career. It struck me how very versatile you have been. What springs to my mind first is the comparison between the roles you played in the 1941 movie “Rage In Heaven” and the 1942 movies, “Her Cardboard Lover” and “The Moon and Sixpence”. In “Rage” you convincingly played a really sweet, lovable guy who gets the girl (Ingrid Bergman) in the end, whereas in “Cardboard Lover” you convincingly played an arrogant upper-crust guy who used and controlled the girl (Norma Shearer) and eventually lost her to the nice guy (Robert Taylor)–as if any woman would leave YOU for Taylor–ridiculous! In “Moon” you just as convincingly played the role of  a dull, boring stock broker, who callously left his wife to go to Paris and become a flamboyant, shabby, Bohemian painter (modeled on Gauguin).

You played two very opposite roles in “Man Hunt”(1941), where you played a very nasty Nazi (you were sexy even as an awful Nazi) and then you played a hero of German descent in the 1943 movie “They Came To Blow Up America”. Then we can go back to 1940 to the two Alfred Hitchcock movies you made that year. In the first, “Rebecca”, you played the role of the dreadful cad, Jack Favell,–an absolute rotter, as the English might put it. Here you cemented your “Cad” persona. However, later that same year, you played the role of a smart, thoroughly decent guy, Scott ffolliott, in “Foreign Correspondent”. Here you again showed your extreme versatility as an actor.

I sometimes get carried away when I discuss George’s movies and the various types of characters he played. I want to discuss the characters George played in some of his films made in 1945, 1946, and 1947. First, one of my favorites, “The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry”(1945), I believe I have discussed this film before in other posts. The movie tells the story of a milk-sop fellow who is guiltily engaged in an incestuous relationship with his younger sister,  played by Geraldine Fitzgerald. She manipulates her brother by using her sexuality and supposed illness to bend him to her will. This role of course is completely opposite to George’s real personality but he manages a convincing portrayal. “Harry” meets a lovely woman (Ella Raines) and falls for her. Interestingly, she also manipulates “Harry” to get what she wants.

The year after filming”Harry”, George filmed “A Scandal In Paris” (1946) where he easily plays a completely different character, a charmer with a tongue as nimble as his larceny. He is reformed by his love for the daughter of the French minister of justice. The story is based on the true life of the French criminal Eugene Francois Vidocq. You can see how George is enjoying playing this character and he does so beautifully. He also wears some lovely tight pants in the film which I enjoyed very much.

Then we move on to 1947 where George filmed two movies with completely different type leading men. The first is “The Private Affairs of Bel-Ami”where he plays a nineteenth-century cad, George Duroy, who rises to success in journalism by using women and then discarding them when they are of no further use to him. This type cad is one George was used to playing and came very easily to him. He said it was one of his favorite films. I suspect this is because he is so physically disguised by having very dark hair and a moustache (spelled Mustache in the U.S.) that you cannot even recognize him.  George was able to hid his really sensitive, insecure, and introspective self convincingly behind Duroy’s character.

“Bel-Ami” can be compared to another one of George’s 1947 movies, “Lured” where he played opposite to Lucille Ball before she became a comedian. The film is set in Edwardian London and George plays a suave nightclub proprietor, Robert Fleming. He woos Lucy and she falls in love with him (which I have read she really did) George plays a womanizer (more like George’s real character) who women are unable to resist.  Other than both being irresistible to women, Fleming is completely opposite to the role George played in “Bel-Ami” but being very suave and unflappable in real life, as well as being a woman-magnet, George is very convincing in the role of Fleming.

I could go on for hours discussing the various types of men George could convincing portray but I will stop with one more comparison from the 1950s.  First, in the 1953 movie, “Call Me Madam”, George plays a charming and elegant foreign minister from a small European country. His co-star, Ethel Merman portrays an American who is sent to that country as U.S. ambassador. George has an adorable European accent and gets to surprise everyone by singing in his deep, beautiful, melodious voice. No one knew how beautifully George could sing! One can contrast this sweet fellow which George plays in this movie to his performance in the 1954 movie, “Witness to Murder” where George plays a more familiar despicable character. Here George is  portrayed as an ex-Nazi named Albert Richer whose killing of a woman is witnessed by Barbara Stanwyck. In one scene George goes into a very convincing Nazi rant. You could he was having fun ranting and raving like an insane man!

Well, for now I  will stop going on and on about George’s versatility as an actor. I am sure that his versatility is obvious to everyone by now. George could obviously play any type of character very convincingly.

Next post will have to be one which I have to write every dreadful April, the month when George left this world a poorer, sadder place without him….

 

 

 

 

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