Friday, February 6, 2015

Robert Ryan (1909-1973)

As the cruel and narcissistic magnate in
Marcel Ophuls
 Caught (1949). 

“I have been in films pretty well everything I am dedicated to fighting against.


Looking menacing even as the hero of
Berlin Express (1948) with Merle Oberon.

[1971 Films and Filming interview] 
“The myth about the actor being one thing and portraying another is not true. He may play a part which has nothing to do with his own life, but his size as a person shows through no matter what he does.


Getting knocked around by Hal Baylor
in The Set-Up (1949).


[1949 AP interview] 
“I like stories about guys who get knocked around, because most people do get knocked around.


As an unhinged big city cop in On Dangerous Ground (1951), with Ida Lupino.

[on Joseph McCarthy and the HUAC hearings
“I was involved in the things he was throwing rocks at, but I was never a target. Looking back, I suspect my Irish name, my being a Catholic and an ex-Marine sort of softened the blow.


With John Ireland in a quintessential B picture, Horizons West (1952).


[1971 interview on Hollywoods classic era
“The conformity of the material was a problem, true. But the old system had virtues. [They] would gamble once in a while on an offbeat picture.... We all had to go to film school, and we worked in hordes of pictures — B pictures — which were shot very fast.


As the minatory crime boss looming over Robert Stack and
Shirley Yamaguchi in House of Bamboo (1955).


“...young actors often play for themselves and overlook the mechanical skills an actor must have like speech, or how to ride a horse, or at least look right on one.... [they] wait for their magic moment as if their mere presence is Gods gift to humanity, and find out over the years that this isnt the case.



The eminently unlikable Colonel Everett Dasher Breed
in The Dirty Dozen (1967).


[1967 Films and Filming interview on his role in The Dirty Dozen
“[Colonel Everett Dasher Breed] is a West Point officer, a very obnoxious character who feels that this whole operation is very irregular, besides having a great dislike for Major Reisman (Lee Marvin] personally. There are no subtleties at all...he becomes as close as anyone...to being the villain of the piece.



Embittered sheriff Cotton Ryan in the underrated
western Lawman (1971).


[1971 Films and Filming interview on Lawman
“[Michael Winner] creates a really electric atmosphere on the set because hes an unpredictable man, and thats good because the repetition and boredom of making movies can have its effect on the whole picture, and Id say that nothing like that ever happens when hes around.... His approach is radically different. Every other director Ive worked with followed more or less the usual pattern — they film the whole scene in what we call master shots with all the actors involved and then move to medium shots, close-ups and so forth. Winner doesnt work that way. In fact, Ive never shot a master in this picture. He does something we call cutting with the camera.... Cutting with the camera means you only shoot what youre going to use. It has one disadvantage, at least to the older ones of us. We, in this case, have to rely on [Winners] camera technique to give what we call a sustained performance, but Im perfectly willing to see the results.



Ryans charismatic villain steals the spotlight from
upright James Stewart in The Naked Spur (1953).


“Im fated to work in faraway, desolate places. I envy Cary Grant because he makes all his pictures in Monte Carlo, Paris or the Riviera, while I make mine in deserts with a dirty shirt, a two-day growth of beard and bad food.


An outmoded example of dark, complex masculinity.

My favorite Robert Ryan films: Crossfire (1947), Berlin Express (1948), Caught (1949), The Set-Up (1949), The Racket (1951), On Dangerous Ground (1951), The Naked Spur (1953), Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), House of Bamboo (1955), Day of the Outlaw (1959), Billy Budd (1962) The Professionals (1966), The Dirty Dozen (1968), The Wild Bunch (1969), Lawman (1971), The Outfit (1973).

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