The Players Are the Thing

I wish I had the time to formulate a proper response to J.W. Hasting’s wonderful post on film acting, which features insightful comments like this:

Rather than thinking of good actors as people who can convincingly “be someone else,” I’d argue that good actors are people who can convincingly find themselves in the roles they play.

Yes. Exactly. It’s no accident that this statement follows a paragraph on the career of Jimmy Stewart. And I would argue that a director’s most important task is to facilitate these inspired “self-insertions” into the text of the film (Stanwyck, Arthur, and Stewart’s work with Capra; Hepburn in Stevens’ Alice Adams; Hepburn, Rogers, et al in LaCava’s Stage Door, etc.)

J.W. deplores the fact that not enough film critics pay attention to the acting in the works they study, and I agree with him (Ray Carney’s American Vision–particularly the chapter on “Deeds, Words, Gasps, and Glances”–and Elizabeth Kendall’s The Runaway Bride are two magnificent exceptions to this rule!)

J.W. also has some very interesting things to say about Anthony Hopkins’ (whom I loved, along with Debra Winger, in Attenborough’s Shadowlands, which you often hear discussed as if it were just another damned Merchant/Ivory “ahc-ting” fest, but man, it’s not!) varied career, and this prompts me to go completely off the rails in search of your advice, dear blogosphere:

You may remember that Hopkins played fibre impressario Dr. Kellogg in The Road To Wellville…and it just occurred to me that I am on the verge of moving to a location that is within an hour’s bus ride of Cereal City USA! My question–has anyone been there? And is it worth visiting? (Keep in mind now that I eat various forms of cereal three times a day!)

Good afternoon friends!



  1. Thanks for the link. I like Shadowlands quite a bit, and I almost always like Hopkins when he’s playing stiff-repressed class-conscious Brits (Elephant Man, Remains of the Day, etc.). His performance in Wellville, however, is just plain strange.

    I’ve never been to Cereal City, but I’m sure it’s worth visiting (although I am a fan of oddball museum-type attractions).



  2. I’ve never been to Cereal City either, but I’d say it’s worth visiting if only to see what they have to say about the “phenomenal impact the cereal ind ustry and Kellogg’s products have had on American culture.”

  3. Cereal City is definitely not worth visiting, at least not based on a love for cereal alone. If you have a love for the stranger mis-steps of corporate PR as well as a love for cereal, you might find it interesting enough for an hour, as the most interesting thing about it is how goofily sad it is. Visiting the Kellogg’s factory used to be one of the great field trips for midwestern kids of a certain era, and this is more like something you’d see in an airport.

    Tom Spurgoen

  4. One assumes that the organizers of Cereal City can at least spell their names correctly, so I’ll just shut up.


  5. thanks Tom–I’m saddened to hear that they haven’t done a better job with this, but I may check it anyway… For some reason, I yearn to drink in the “goofily sad” vistas behind those “whimsical facades”…


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