Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
Every week on Monday morning, the Council and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum with short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture or daily living. This week’s question: If You Could Play One Character In The Movies, Whom Would It Be?
Robert Avrech, Seraphic Secret: I am a screenwriter and producer. The idea of playing a role in a film is way beyond my imagination. In fact, the very thought of playing a role totally creeps me out.
However, if you had asked me what character I wish I had written the answer would be that of Lola Burns played by Jean Harlow in “Bombshell” (1933) a pre-code screwball comedy with some of the smartest dialogue ever written for a Hollywood film.It is certainly the most incisive portrait of Hollywood and a Hollywood star being leeched upon by greedy family members and grubby press agents ever committed to celluloid.
The brilliant script was written by one of Hollywood’s most important and underrated screenwriters, John Lee Mahin. Because Mahin was politically Conservative—he had zero sympathy for the Hollywood Ten who were a bunch of Stalinists—liberal Hollywood historians have written Mahin out of history. In fact, Mahin made important contributions to every film directed by the great Victor Fleming, including “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone With The Wind.”
But Harlow in “Bombshell” holds a special place in my heart. She is is breathtakingly beautiful, funny, and touching. She spits her lines like a coiled cobra and her comic timing is impeccable. Harlow’s premature death at the tender age of 26 of kidney failure, ended the life of Hollywood’s most promising comedienne.
Okay, so I have not answered the question. But as a savvy screenwriter I have ended up rewriting your entire premise in order to write what I really want to write, and in the process convince you that it was your brilliant idea in the first place.
Welcome to the Hollywood Lola Burns via John Lee Mahin found so absurd and amusing.
Liberty’s Spirit: As an admitted Star Wars fangirl, I would have to say that the character(s) I would want to be is actually alternating between Jedi and Sith. Of course this all depends on my mood. When I am feeling magnanimous towards my fellow human beings, then I would love to have the ability to right wrongs and make this world a better place. It would be nice to be a champion of peace and justice. Being a Jedi and using the force for good and following the rules would add calm and a positive direction in my world. Yes, Yes, Yes, Jedi’s are not supposed to be selfish. So contemplating using the good side of the force to benefit myself in some way, even if it were to create a sense of the ultimate level of enlightenment in my soul, what kabbalists call ye’hida, does go against the Jedi code. However, in the end, I am human, and I do need more of a reward than a gold star on my “good-doobee” chart for all that hard work of righting wrongs and seeking justice. (Guess I have to admit I really am not ready to be a Jedi.)
On the other hand, when I get my hackles up, when someone attacks or tries to hurt members of my family or brings harm to the innocent, I would then like to turn into a Sith so that I could met out justice in my own inimitable way. (In truth, it would have been nice to be a Sith when my children were dealing with bullies in school. And I am certain that the vast majority of parents would agree with me here.) In my humble opinion, channeling the dark side is not entirely a bad idea when you use it to destroy a pernicious political system. It’s what we call fighting fire with fire, and does work when trying to contain a malevolence of any size, duration and conception. Now I do realize that the SIth are actually representative of the “ultimate evil,” (Lucas’s use of Joseph Campbell’s philosophy of the Hero’s Journey to write the Star Wars series is well known), but I can think of a particular Syrian dictator, Islamist Regimes along with their agents, and some Russian oligarchs who give the Sith a run for their money in the “who is truly the most depraved” department.
Ultimately, I understand that the channeling of evil does at some point consume the individual, as the actual story of Anakin Skywalker proves. I would, however, be willing to take that chance, if it benefited the greater good. Admittedly, it would be a “greater good” defined by myself. Since making yourself the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong is the Sith way, is it not? Remember though, that Anakin’s son Luke, was able to fight off the all-consuming-soul-sucking-dark-side of the force and return to his points-of-light-Jedi-ways during his ultimate fight against Palpatine. NOTE: This actually didn’t occur in the movie. Palpatine returns using the darkside of the force. You have to have read the book series to get the jist of this story arc.
Meanwhile please read: The Hero’s Journey, Autism and Your Child to see how this interplay between Jedi and Sith (with a little Iliad thrown in of course. Honestly, who could really talk about heroes without discussing Hector and Achilles), is actually lived in my family’s day-to-day world. As if you thought this was really the first time I had ever thought about this subject. HA.
The Colossus of Rhodey: If there is only ONE character in all of movies I could become, it’d be Dave Bowman of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Who wouldn’t want to be the first (and perhaps only) human to transcend his mortal boundaries to become an omniscient entity?
Simply Jews: Since my playing ability is nil (unless it’s poker we are talking about), the only person I could play easily and persuasively is Avigdor Lieberman, whom I happen to resemble somewhat (urghh), thick Russian accent completing the likeness. Since there is no market for that role, I shall remain unemployed in the movie industry.
On the other hand, and assuming for the purpose that I could play and were looking like, say, Cary Grant, I would remake all the Richard Gere movies so SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) could forget that slick, no good, limp-wristed…. oh well.
Being more to the point of the question, Inspector Jacques Clouseau, of course. No doubts and no substitutes.
Bookworm Room: Believe it or not, I’d like to play Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, which I think is one of the greatest movies ever made. Throughout the course of the movie, Connors is learning how to “get it right” — how to live a life that is not centered on himself and his needs but, instead, looks outward. Without becoming a martyr or slave, Phil learns over the course of about ten years that true happiness comes when we figure out core values and gain happiness from supporting those around us. (Yeah, that’s a pretty inadequate summary of the movie. Jonah Goldberg does much better.)
Phil makes a journey that all of us make — or that, at least, we should make. I’m in the process of making that journey, but I’m aging as I go. That means that it’s too late for me to make the best of some of the most important life lessons I’ve learned. Phil, however, gets to learn those lessons out of time. When his experience ends, and he’s finally gotten it right, he hasn’t aged a day and is therefore in a position to optimize these lessons.
And that’s why I’d like to be Phil Connors. I’d like to learn my life lessons in time to be able to enjoy the benefits of that knowledge.
JoshuaPundit: Ha ha! To me , this question is simply about what character I would have the most fun playing in a film, no deep meaning whatsoever. So let’s see…Toshiro Mifume in Yojimbo, Harpo in any of the Marx Brother’s flicks, Chris Guest’s Nigel Tufnell in Spinal Tap, maybe Steve Martin in The Jerk, or Kevin Cline’s roles in Fierce Creatures. Any of them would be a hoot!
AskMarion: Wow, you’d think this would be an easy question, but as soon as I read it 5 names came to mind: Margaret Thatcher, Nancy Reagan, Jackie Kennedy, Sarah Palin and if I were a man it would be Ronald Reagan hands down!! I am a huge movie buff, at least I used to be; am finding it harder and harder to separate most of Hollywood’s politics and political statements from their work. Perhaps it is because their propagandizing has become so blatant? But I never was one to want to be a fictional character so I would have to play a real person. But after ruling out Ronnie, the choice between the other four was/is tough! All four of the women are people I admire greatly.
Engaging the analytical side of my brain, something I have had to develop since by nature (after reading, taking the corresponding test and then speaking on Florence Littauer’s book(s): Personality Plus: How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself (Kindle), now in its 32nd printing), I tested out as an expressive-driver personality, heavy on the driver side, without a single mark in either the analytical or amiable columns; I think I’m a bit more balanced these days… I had to go through a process, which took my experiences and awareness of casting into account (Wow… I have become analytical):
Jackie Kennedy: I do not look like Jackie in anyway and am definitely not nearly as pretty; I primarily see her in my mind as younger… during her days in the White House, and she has been written about and has had movies made of her life by the scores. She represented the United States with class, updated a White House in sad need of a face lift, and filled in the gaps when JFK needed them… speaking several languages and having the ability to charm almost anyone. Jackie’s strength and ability alone to pull off and plan the state funeral of the century to the smallest detail without a hitch, after witnessing her husband’s death, which included her crawling up on the back of the limousine to pick the top of his skull, makes her someone worth playing and researching further. America’s Queen is on of my favorite books about Jackie: America’s Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the TV drama that almost didn’t get made The Kennedys (video preview) is one of favorites.
Sarah Palin: Again I do not look like Sarah in anyway and am definitely not nearly as pretty as Sarah, but she reminds me a bit of myself 20-years ago. And she is ‘my gal’, the most Reaganesque politician out there in my view who could lead America out of the abyss we are in, so I would love to play her. And what a great example she is for women, having gotten closer to ‘having it all’ and doing it the right way; something the liberal women of ‘NOW’ have generally only talked about while their lives were too often devoid of a fulfilling personal side. And just ask the former members of the “Corrupt Bastard’s Club” of Alaska; Sarah can and will take on anyone. She changed the politics of Alaska and has come out at the other end Undefeated (video preview). As Roger Ailes put it, “The only two people I knew who got worse press than Palin were Richard Nixon and George W. Bush”, which we now know was part of organized mainstream media collusion. Everyone should see Undefeated (trailer) as well as Palin’s vice presidential acceptance speech from 2008 before making up their mind for a candidate in 2016 and perhaps it is time for a sequel?
Margaret Thatcher: Of all of them, she is probably the closest to my personality and would probably be the easiest for me to play. She is generally my type, so make-up would love it. Margaret Thatcher was a women to be reckoned with and could hold her own with all the big boys at any table! President Ronald Reagan, Blessed (Pope) John Paul II, Prime Minister (Baroness) Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev (the General Secretary Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) ended the Cold War and changed the face of the world without a single shot being fired. What more needs to be said… The grocer’s daughter who helped changed the world. Plus Meryl Streep did an excellent job portraying Thatcher, albeit in her late years… that would be a a definite tough act to follow!! Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage & Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship are two great books if you haven’t read them and the video of the Eulogy to Reagan by Thatcher shows her fortitude even after she had entered the murky world of on-set dementia. Thatcher, like Reagan and Palin, did not have an easy road; many thought she was a revolutionary (video below), but many disagreed with her.
Nancy Reagan: I probably look most like Nancy Reagan and playing her would be an honor. Nancy came along just in time to spruce up the White House after Jackie’s refurbishment had faded, was her husband’s eyes and ears without interjecting herself publicly and brought class back into the People’s House. She and Ronnie represented the United State beautifully, as they did in the California’s Governor’s mansion, and as did the Kennedys… but added a little ‘old Hollywood’ charm. Let us remember, both Nancy and Ronnie were actors and had careers before politics, but Nancy stayed out of the spotlight after her husband chose a political career. (Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis met making the film Hellcats of the Navy, their most watched movie in the White House theatre.) I believe Nancy’s job as a loving wife and protector is her greatest accomplishment! When President Reagan retired and announced that he was suffering from on-set Alzheimer’s Disease, something I have become all too familiar with as a caretaker in my own family, Nancy took care of him and preserved his image for all eternity by keeping him our of the public eye, a much more difficult and sacrificial task than many can imagine… But theirs was a beautiful love story; A role of a lifetime as Nancy has said she considered her years as First Lady and her marriage of Ronald Reagan. And because they were conservatives, even though they were part of the Hollywood community and Ronald Reagan was President of SAG, Nancy Davis Reagan has not been portrayed well or fairly by the today’s Hollywood in movies like the Butler.
So after over analyzing this… I guess ‘playing Nancy’ is my first choice, but I’m up for any of these parts and could use the job, so casting: Call Me… I am ready for my close-up… after a lot of time in make-up that is! 😉
The Glittering Eye: It would have been easier to answer this question 30 years ago than it is now. Any part played by Frank Morgan, I guess, like the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz. Or, maybe, any part played by Monty Woolley, say, Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner.
The Independent Sentinel: I have to go with Harriet Beecher Stowe for her work in the underground railroad and for writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin. That was required reading once and it did make quite an impression on me. She made a difference in the war against slavery, a terrible crime against humanity. She saw an injustice and she fought against it. Lincoln gave her credit for helping to sway peoples’ opinions against slavery. I greatly admire her.
Well, there you have it.
Make sure to tune in every Monday for the Watcher’s Forum. And remember, every Wednesday, the Council has its weekly contest with the members nominating two posts each, one written by themselves and one written by someone from outside the group for consideration by the whole Council. The votes are cast by the Council and the results are posted on Friday morning.
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