And I refer NOT to my arm. I speak of movies and television. You can thank Nancy Hatch for this post – she jogged my mind while I replied to a reply on my post of yesterday about Robert B. Parker.
If any of you are old enough to remember, there was actually a TV series based on the Spenser characters, called “Spenser: For Hire.” Robert Urich played Spenser. He was OK – I would refer to his choice as the one to play that role as “OK,” but not “Perfect.” However, the actor chosen to play “Hawk,” Spenser’s best friend, was Avery Brooks, and I gotta tell ya, casting doesn’t get any better than that. His looks had all the characteristics of the descriptions in the books, and not just his looks; Brooks played him to perfection. From the first time I saw him in that role, whenever I read a Spenser book, I saw and still see the face of Avery Brooks as Hawk’s face; his voice as Hawk’s voice. They are one and the same to me!
Unfortunately, casting in most other roles for TV and movies (or plays, for that matter) is seldom as good or even close. I recognize that everybody who “knows” a character first, before seeing him or her portrayed on stage or screen, sees the character differently in their minds. That is if, as a reader, you do imagine the looks and voice of the characters as you read. I always do – always have – since childhood. The “Little Bear” books by Maurice Sendak are a case in point. I know exactly what Little Bear sounds like, and he looks, of course, exactly as Sendak draws him.
How many of you were disappointed in the voices of the “Peanuts” gang when the cartoons first started showing up on TV? I have never really been able to enjoy them because they have never sounded right, and it throws the stories off-kilter for me. And as the children with the voices grew up, the voice parts were given to other younger voices as they were recast. Each was as unsatisfactory as the rest. Maybe that’s just me.
Interestingly enough, I think one would expect that if the portrayal is seen before the book or story or comic strip is read, then as one reads, you would expect to identify the actor with the part. That only occasionally happens for me, and never completely holds true. Sometimes, in fact, it becomes annoying, because quite frequently the book is so different from the movie that it can really throw me off. “Forrest Gump,” for example, as a movie bears very little resemblance to the book – they are two entirely different stories in my mind. I usually read the book first. Generally, because the book had come out long before even the idea of a movie from the book was considered, or advertised anyway. The following are some examples of my opinions of “Perfect Casting,” “OK” casting, and “Lousy” casting. Please, feel free to add your own, and agree or disagree in your comments:
Avery Brooks as “Hawk” – Perfect!
Tom Hanks as “Paul Edgecomb” in “The Green Mile.” – Perfect!
as a matter of fact, the ENTIRE MOVIE was PERFECTLY cast, from every main character down to the minors and extras.
“The Shawshank Redemption” – perfect casting. All the characters embodied the author’s descriptions and voices. As far as physical descriptions goes, the fact that a black man – Morgan Freeman – played “Red” in the movie (in the story, a red-haired white man), did not in the least take away from the accuracy of the casting, and only enhanced the movie.
I’m beginning to wonder how much control Stephen King has had in the movie adaptations of his books, because others of his – for instance, the mini-series of “The Stand” and the first movie of “The Shining” had some perfect casting. However, there were also, in both of them some OK choices, and a few truly Lousy choices. When “The Stand” finally came out in a visual form, it was too late to cast the actor that I had always envisioned in the role of “Stu Redman,” a way underrated actor by the name of Scott Glenn. However, by the time the role was cast, he was too old. Gary Sinise was Perfect, and an actor I find mesmerizing and versatile – just plain great, and he embodied the character. The role of his girlfriend, “Frannie Goldsmith” was played by Molly Ringwald. She was entirely miscast – in other words Lousy – not necessarily her acting, which was OK, but she just was not Frannie. Most of the rest were at least OK, and several more were Perfect: Ossie Davis as “The judge,” Ray Walston as “Glen Bateman,” Ruby Dee as “Mother Abigail,” Rob Lowe as “Nick Andros,” Bill Fagerbakke as “Tom Cullen,” and Jamey Sheridan as “Randall Flagg.” Others that were OK were Laura San Giacomo as “Nadine Cross,” and Matt Frewer as “Trashcan Man.” Unfortunately, that pivotal character of Frannie was indeed Lousy!
The cast of the first adaptation of “The Shining,” was for the most part OK. Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, while I would never have imagined either in their roles, turned out to be all right. However, the role of “Dick Halloran,” played by Scatman Crothers was another perfect choice. I was horribly disappointed that he was killed in the movie (not in the book) – but it certainly added to the shock value when I saw the film!
Speaking of Jack Nicholson, his role as the “Devil” in “The Witches of Eastwick” was indeed inspired, perfect casting. Cher – who also was in the movie said at the time the movie was released that “Jack has eyebrows that were created to play the devil!” She was right. Some of the minor characters were very well cast. The choices for the three “witches” were OK. They neither added nor detracted from the story.
I’ll mention one more movie (I could go on and on!), because Hubs and I discussed this tonight on our way back from choir practice: “Gone With the Wind.” The roles that I feel were perfectly cast were Clark Gable as “Rhett Butler,” Thomas Mitchell and Barbara O’Neill as “Gerald and Ellen O’Hara,” Butterfly McQueen as “Prissy,” and of course, Hattie McDaniel as “Mammy.” The rest of the cast was good. Hubs considers Olivia de Havilland as “Melanie” worthy of a Perfect designation. I give her an OK – but probably because I was not a huge fan of the stereotypical Southern Belle character she played. Hubs also gives Vivien Leigh as “Scarlett O’Hara” a Perfect, but I am ambivalent about her. Don’t get me wrong, she as very good, but having read a list of other actresses who were considered for the role has led me to believe that there was possibly another actress who would have been just that much better, to get a Perfect designation from me.
As I said, I could extend my list, but I will ask you to do that for me! I know there must be at least one or two who have their own ideas for the casts of the movies I’ve mentioned, as well as some other movie/TV examples of their own. Hey! How about the “Harry Potter” films? Lots of inspired casting in those!
Another related topic that could be considered is the casting of original TV/Movies – i.e., those that were not adapted from another source. I forgot to mention a favorite Broadway play, “1776,” that I saw with the original cast, and could compare with the movie. There were at least three perfects in that one, and one Lousy, but as I’m over 1200 words, I’ve written enough. . .