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II. 1. Read the following dialogue which presents an interview with a famous American character actor Tom Buchanan. Pay special attention to the phrases in bold type used for expressing opinion.





/.: How did you get into movies in the first place?

Buchanan: I first became interested in acting when I was in col­lege. I had a sister, and she told me about a class in play interpreta­tion. So the old instructor who also directed the little theater in col­lege, let me sit there and listen to him while they were reading Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona. I was particularly in­trigued with Shakespeare's fools. Two weeks later I was playing with the regular company on the stage. I was really stagestruck. It took about ten years to realize that people were laughing with me and not at me. I thought I was God's gift to the world as a dramatic heavy,1 but the more sincere I'd play a heavy, the louder they'd laugh.

/.: And what kind of parts did you usually play?

В.: Heavies and old men. I was playing old men when I was in my
twenties, when I started. My voice put me in the character class; I've
always had that voice. I had a seven-year contract in pictures because
of my voice, '


/.: Did the director give you any special consideration in your first picture?

В.: You're supposed to know what you're doing in this business. The second day we were shooting on this very first picture, the di­rector came to me and said "Would you like to see the rushes? "2 and I said "What's that? " He said "That's the work we shot yesterday." I went in and saw it, and I saw myself... I saw what was wrong. I was playing for the back row,3 and I was mugging.4

/.: Did you enjoy doing Penny Serenade?

В.: That was a big thrill for me, a big thrill. I learned a lot on that picture. George Stevens, in my opinion,is the greatest director we've ever had. He's a wonderful director for an actor. Once I asked him: "George, what do you credit your success to? Is it your knowledge of the camera? I know you used to be a cameraman." He said "It's two things. The camera is one of them... I know what I can do with a cam­era. The other one is that I've always wanted to be an actor. I come from an acting family, but I never could make it. And I think I know what actors want." And he really does. You'll have a scene to do two weeks later, and he'll come and be talking to you about something, just get­ting you in the mood, making you think correctly for that particular scene. A wonderful guy... he listens, doesn't do a lot of talking.

/.: Would you improvise different things in such a situation?

В.: Most directors will allow that... but don't tell them you've dis­covered something, or you should do this. Go ahead and do it, let them see it, then they'll come and tell you to do it. Then they've thought of it.

/.: It's been said that the character actor doesn't get directed as much as the lead.

В.: Well, as a rule, he's had more experience than the lead and doesn't need the direction. They hesitate to tell him what to do; he's probably been on the stage, or on the screen for fifty years, and if he doesn't know it by now he'll never know it. But they can always sug­gest, believe me. I thinkthe director should watch every actor. It was a great thrill working with young people. They all looked up to me, they didn't know it, but I was looking up to them, and learning a lot from these kids.



/.: Did you find yourself getting stale at all?

B.: Yes, you do. You have to watch it constantly. You become careless, your work becomes slovenly. Some days you don't feel up to it. It's the same character year after year, day after day. It'snot good, it's not healthy.

/.: What do you do to avoid it?


 




В.: Just keep alert, if you can. Be alert, and when you start out to do a scene, be thinking about it. The minute you're not sincere you're licked. And if you don't enjoy doing it, the audience won't enjoy watching it.

/.: Did you feel that you were typecast?5

B>: Yes, in a way. I had a variety of roles, but they principally typed me as a "lovable rogue". He'd be a heavy, but everyone would be on his side.

I/ Then you got into TV in a big way? ...Has the TV series done much to change your public status?

В.: Oh sure; I can go anywhere in the country — to foreign coun­tries, in fact — and the kids will holler "Hi, Uncle Joe!" More peo­ple can see you in one night than used to see you in a whole career. The only thing is,they may get tired of you, which I don't thinkis good. I thinkthere are more bad things against TV than good, as far as the actor is concerned.

/.: Do you have a favorite film?

B.:Yes, Texas. Because I knew what I was doing. I'd only practised ten years for that part, as a dentist. I never realized before how im­portant your "business" is, until that picture. I bet I received about a hundred letters on that picture, some of them from dentists. You know,the greatest compliment you can get, when somebody sees you in a picture, is for somebody to say "Anybody could do." It's a great compliment when you're portraying a part so it looks natural. That means you're doing well.

(From: The Real Stars/Ed, by L. Maltin. N.Y., 1973.) Commentary

1. a heavy:theat. a villainous part or character

2. a rush: a print of a motion picture scene processed directly af­
ter the shooting

3. to play for the back rowhere: to exaggerate; to act the way one
acts on the stage

4. to mug:to make faces to attract the attention of an audience

5. to typecast:to cast an actor repeatedly in the same type of role
calling for the same characteristics possessed by the actor

2. Here are some more phrases for expressing opinion and responding to it.

From my point of view... As I see it. Personally I think... As far as I'm concerned... It would seem to me that... As far as I'm able to


judge... I am of the same opinion. That's it (right). That's just what I was going to say! Right you are! I disagree with you on that point! But... Do you mean to say... I'm afraid I don't follow...

3. Work in pairs. Discuss the problems given below using the phrases for ex­pressing opinions and responding to them. Use the material of the interview.

1. Character actor. Do you think it is always some peculiari­
ties, like figure, features of the face, voice that put an actor into
a character class? Is a character actor who is typecast as a villain
or a fool confined for ever to these roles? If so, how to avoid get­
ting stale?

2. Character actor the lead. Can character actors display an
acting which overshadows many a "star" and transforms a poor film
into a work of art? Should they act at all, or should they merely be
natural and "play themselves" ?

3. Actor professional training. Do you think that professional
training, including such things as a voice production or bodily con­
trol, is a must for an actor? Is it possible to come into this profession
by some other way than drama school?

4. Acting its popularity. What is it to your mind that makes this
profession so popular? Is it viewed as the surest road to fame or is it
that "everyone wants to be somebody else" ?

5. Actor: stage cinema television. Is it true that nowadays no
actor is confined to only one medium? Do you think that working for
television is good for the actor?

6. Actor — director. What-makes a good director? Is it true that
we live in an age of director's cinema and actors are merely puppets
in his hands? Are there any ways to achieve a fruitful collaboration
between the talents of writer, director and actor?

4. Role-playing. Get,ready for an interview. One part of the group is asked to make an actor's character sketch for themselves in written form. The other part is getting ready with the questions putting the spotlight on the main events of the actor's career and his views on the problems of modern cinema. Act the interview in class. By the end of it the interviewer is supposed to make a character sketch of : the actor and compare it to the original one made by his partner.

III. Many famous directors expressed their ideas about the role of cinema and its task to reflect life as it is, to pose problems and discuss them. The question emerges: Should cinema preserve its function as an entertainment?


1. Read the essay by J.B. Priestley and single out the author's main idea on the
function of art.

Disturbing?

What has been puzzling me for some time now is this. Why does ev­erything worth reading, hearing, looking at, have to be disturbing? That is according to all reviewers and critics. Among the men and women who count, the pacesetters in taste, the highest term of praise is disturbing.

But now I must ask a question that will show how far out of touch I am. Why do I have to be disturbed all the time? Why do the newer novelists and playwrights (sometimes on TV too) and their critics and admirers think it is necessary I should be disturbed? Why should disturbing be the term of highest praise now? Why am I supposed to regard this as the strongest recommendation? What do they think I ought to be disturbed out of? Where the devil do they imagine I've been all my life — lolling in a rose-garden? However, let's forget me and consider the public in general. Why do they have to be disturbed all the time? For my part I can't believe it is necessary.

There are of course a certain number of stupidly complacent peo­ple in this country who would be better after a jolt or two. Oh yes, such people exist and no doubt they ought to be disturbed.

They ought to be, but they won't be. Not for them the "disturb­ing" novels, plays, films, painting, sculpture, music. They keep well away from such things. They take care to guard their complacency.

When we move away from these people to the population at large, the very notion of a general complacency that needs a shock is laugh­able. Never have the English felt more disturbed. They wonder day and night where the money's to come from and where it goes to. Crime increases and the prisons are overcrowded. Mental homes are packed out and psychiatrists desperately overworked. People take barbiturates and pep pills as they took acid drops when I was young. They spend not hundreds but thousands of millions on gambling, amusements, cigarettes and booze, not out of confidence or any ex­cess of joy but largely out of an attempt to cope with worry, anxiety, deep-seated feelings of unease.

What they don't spend their money on is all that work, so fashion­able among the intelligentsia, which is praised because it's disturbing. They want, as they say, to be taken out of themselves, not further into themselves. They don't want to pass their evenings being told what life's like, they've had that all day, thank you. And yet, being the chil-


dren of their ancestors, not some race newly created, when they watch their favourite television series or go to the pictures, they are really groping for what our age has deprived them of—mythology, the time­less world of gods and heroes, unchanging and shining immortals.

Now we come to the inner circle of the educated, the sensitive, the cultured, the people to whom these reviews and notices of nov­els, plays, films, the visual arts, are being addressed. It is for their sake, to attract their attention, that disturbing is trotted out over and over again, with an occasional change to deeply disquieting.

The truth is of course that these are the very people who have been feeling disturbed for years. Disturbing these people seems to me like watering the Thames. I shall be told of course that the really signifi­cant writers and artists of our time are expressing what such people feel. It is their duty to keep right on disturbing the disturbed, just as it is the duty of the intelligent and conscientious critic to single out and recommend whatever will best disturb the disturbed. And to show them whafthey may not have noticed, that what they thought was still dark grey in fact now a deep black.

If the universe were absurd, we'd never realize it, having nothing .to compare it with. Life can be disturbing of course, but it can't be all disturbance, without any point of reference outside it; and I feel it's about time we kept this in mind — while we still have minds.

(From: "Essays of Five Decades" by J.B. Priestley. Abridged.)

2. Comment on the title of the essay. What does the author mean by the word
"disturbing"?

3. Single out the main arguments given by the author against art being "disturb­
ing". Do you agree with them? If you do, enlarge on his reasoning, giving illustra­
tions from your firsthand experience. If you don't, give your counter arguments.

4. Make a round-table talk to discuss the points raised by the author in refer­
ence to cinema as art and its function in the society.









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