Sunday, May 25, 2008

Anti-D Supporters Cup, No. 1 [Melvyn Douglas - Being There]


[NOTE: In my continuing efforts to find a way to talk interestingly about classic movies, I'm instituting the Anti-D Supporters Cup, an irregular award dedicated to highlighting small performances that bring much to these films.]



The challenge of Melvyn Douglas' role as dying Senator Benjamin Rand in Being There is this: what at first must seem like an act of folly - mistaking the idiot gardener Chance/Chauncey (Peter Sellers) for an oracle of deep insight - must later seem like a perceptive moment of deathbed intuition. When an aide comes to reveal the secret, Douglas simultaneously must seem a fool and a man possessing a deeper wisdom that's lost on the mortals who will live beyond him. He also must give a touching portrayal of a dying man that is noticeably short on explicit Tuesdays with Morrie moments. A veteran of films since working with Greta Garbo in the 1930s and a veteran screwballer, Douglas deservedly would take his second Best Supporting Oscar for this role, his first coming as Paul Newman's father in Hud.

2 comments:

Craig Kennedy said...

Interesting and unconventional take on a film that doesn't get talked about enough anymore.

K. Bowen said...

It's such a mysterious movie. Ashby's feel is so straight and quasi-deadpan, like proto-Jarmusch in a way. I really enjoyed it. But it's so famous for Sellers' last major performance, it's odd that it was the same for Douglas. And does Shirley MacClaine get enough credit anymore?