Newman and Glenn Abide and Endure
Two Actors Studio alumni of deep provenance share today as a birthday, one a legend of Hollywood and Broadway history and the other a chameleonlike presence whose gruff exterior and cool authority have made him one of the screen’s most prolific character actors. Born 91 years ago, Paul Newman (1925-2008) blended skill, good looks, action chops and intelligence into a package of uncommon strength and versatility. His two Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray titles highlight his radiance as a charismatic leading man. In the John O’Hara-based, Mark Robson-directed From the Terrace (1960), he displays his flair for topical melodrama as the World War II veteran scion of a rich but dysfunctional family, driven by ambition to strike out on his own and make his way through the treacherous byways of business and social status, marrying one woman who disillusions him (real-life wife Joanne Woodward) and falling in love with another (Ina Balin) who becomes his romantic soulmate. Amid lush surroundings and peak studio production values, Newman is a solid anchor as a determined striver among an ensemble of veteran pros like Myrna Loy, Leon Ames and Felix Aylmer. At the center of another fine ensemble is his half-white, half-Native American John Russell, the nebulous hero of Hombre (1967), directed by Martin Ritt, who would work with him to standout effect on six films (the others being the considerable quintet of The Long, Hot Summer, Paris Blues, Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man, Hud and The Outrage). Dealing with the desperate travelers (among whom are Fredric March, Diane Cilento and Martin Balsam) on a stagecoach menaced by bandits (led by Richard Boone) while facing down their racist hostility during their battle to survive, he crafted one of his most quietly unique performances that deserves to join the pantheon of his best-known roles like Fast Eddie Felson, Hud Bannon and Frank Galvin of, respectively, The Hustler/The Color of Money, Hud and The Verdict. TT will deliver more great Newman work in the future.
As Newman was riding a mid-career high on his The Verdict triumph, another talent was starting to become a welcome asset to movies following a decade of TV work and attention-grabbing performances in Nashville, Urban Cowboy and Personal Best. Scott Glenn turns 75 today, and he flew highly and mightily as astronaut Alan Shepard in 1983’s The Right Stuff and crack gunslinger Emmett in Silverado (1985). Glenn has endured as the go-to guy for playing shadowy law enforcers, capable professionals, shady bureaucrats and determined activists (The Silence of the Lambs, Backdraft, Courage Under Fire, Training Day, The Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum, W.) along with the occasional military man (The Hunt for Red October, Buffalo Soldiers) and lower-key characters of great heart and decency (My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, The Shipping News). In TT's hi-def Blu-ray of director Ken Loach’s powerful, politically urgent thriller Carla’s Song (1996), Glenn’s character, a scruffy ex-CIA agent living in 1987 Nicaragua and working for a human-rights organization giving aid to Sandinista revolutionaries. He reluctantly assists a visiting Glasgow bus driver (Robert Carlyle) and his beleaguered lover (Oyanka Cabezas) find her former flame lost in the fog of war, and find closure amidst the backdrop of a nation roiling with civil conflict sparked by corporate interests. An angry voice of conscience in a seemingly hopeless struggle, Glenn fills what could be a preachy and pedantic role with the righteous fury and moral bluntness that Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty seek to convey. In a 50-year screen career, Glenn still delivers the bad and the ugly – but primarily, the goods.