Top 7 Coolest Actors (Dead Edition)
In the previous edition of this idea, I went through a bunch of cool actors that were living so that I could join them for a beer. This group is not available for that bit of bonding (but I will tip a glass to them tonight), so instead you’ll just get a movie that is a much watch just to see what makes them cool. Believe me, it will get you started on the rest of their filmography post haste.
Cary Grant. “The Philadelphia Story.” When I think of some of my favorite Cary Grant movies like “Bringing Up Baby” or “Arsenic and Old Lace,” cool is not the first word that comes to mind. (Screwball is the word.) However, as C.K. Dexter Haven, Cary Grant takes a back seat to the antics of Jimmy Stewart and Katherine Hepburn and watches with a bemused smile as he waits for his second chance at marriage to Tracy Lord. (Not that one. Yet, I feel we can’t escape from the word ‘screw.’) “The Philadelphia Story” will introduce you to the many reasons that Cary Grant was a romantic leading man until he was 60 acting alongside girls like Audrey Hepburn who were about half his age.
Humphrey Bogart. “Casablanca.” If you need help, you go to Humphrey Bogart’s Rick. He’s the guy. He owns a bar in Casablanca and works both sides of the law as long as there’s something in it for him. Only one thing throws him off his game, and Ingrid Bergman is that one thing. In one of the best endings of all time which about everyone knows, it’s still pretty amazing to watch Bogie go against everything in his heart to make the girl of his dreams fly away. Does he break? Does he waver? Does his plan go off without a hitch? Well, the plan gets a great assist from Claude Rains’ Captain Renault, and leads to the best ending line, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” If this movie were made today, the sequel would have Rick with Renault as his wingman in some French Army outpost.
William Holden. “Stalag 17.” I don’t know what living in a prisoner of war camp is like. I can’t imagine that it is comfortable or pleasant by any stretch of the imagination (or if in today’s version of war if they even exist). If they did, I would hope that I could figure it out like William Holden did as Sgt. Sefton. He always knows the angle and that means he can score fresh eggs to cook on the barracks stove or score with the new crop of Russian women that are imprisoned next door. Is he a bit of a jerk? Sure. Does he care about what is happening around him? No. But, once he’s pulled into the barrack’s turmoil, he’s the only guy that is used to leading and not just following the rest of the sergeant herd.
John Wayne. “The Searchers.” If this movie taught me one thing, it’s that if John Wayne is on your trail, you’re done for. Picking one John Wayne movie was tough because there are so many and because he is always the ultimate in composure. Maybe it’s all the John Ford movies put together as John Wayne sits tall in the saddle and looks over Monument Valley that adds to the air of cool. That’s probably because I’ve been regularly playing “Red Dead Redemption.” (John Marston = John Wayne/Marion Morrison, John Wayne’s birth name.)
Steve McQueen. “The Great Escape.” Pa pa pop. Pa pa pop. I’m not sure exactly how to correctly put into letters the sound that a tennis ball makes while you sit in a small room in solitary confinement, but I can still hear the sound in my mind and I can still picture Steve McQueen bouncing that ball. As opposed to Sgt. Sefton, McQueen’s Captain Hilts doesn’t care about comfort, the only thing running through his mind is escape from his WWII POW camp and that the escape should preferably be on a really cool motorcycle. Pa pa pop. Pa pa pop.
Paul Newman. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Heck, even though the line, “Sometimes nothing is a pretty cool hand,” and the movie “Cool Hand Luke” itself are just cool touchstones, I still have to go with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Maybe it’s because the writer William Goldman is one of my favorites, but there is still something about the scene where Butch and Sundance are cornered on a cliff with no way out. They’ve been hunted for days and could not figure out a way to escape the ultimate posse sent specifically for them. There seems to be no way out except in a coffin. Newman’s Butch has a great idea to jump down to the river while Robert Redford’s Sundance wants to shoot it out. When Butch presses him, Sundance finally breaks down and yells in admission that he can’t swim. In the essence of cool, Newman pauses and then lets out a belly laugh while being surrounded by his own demise and says, “Are you crazy, the fall will probably kill you.”
Marlon Brando. “The Godfather.” My first time really seeing Marlon Brando was in “The Freshman” and I thought, sure, this guy is ok, but what is the big deal about him being a legend? Of course, I didn’t realize that he was just rehashing his role as Vito Corleone and it took me a few years to watch and appreciate just how cool he was in this movie. I mean if you want to watch Brando in his prime be cool, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “On the Waterfront” and even “Guys and Dolls” are probably better. But, there’s still something about him slapping Johnny Fontaine and saying, “You can act like a man,” that pretty much says it all about Brando and the rest of the men on this list.
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About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."