Monday, June 4, 2012

The Ten: Best All-Time Actors Relay Race

In March, Nostra at My Film Views came up with the idea of listing the 10 greatest actors of all time and then passing the list on. Each person tagged got to remove one person, add one person, and then pass the baton to another blogger. Three months later, here we are. David at Taste of Cinema has passed this on to me, making me the latest leg in what has become something of an Olympic torch relay rather than a simple race.

I won't say that the power and responsibility are awesome, but they are important. I am the 28th person to have this in my hands since Nostra. Picking the right person to remove and selecting only one of the five or six swimming around in my head...I have some tough choices to make.

to give you an idea of where the list has been, here's the laundry list of the ups and downs of the list itself. Starting with Nostra's original post, the list has gone in the following directions and places:

My Film Views (created the original list: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Daniel Day-Lewis, Samuel L. Jackson, Charlie Chaplin, Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall)
The Focused Filmographer (Removed Hopkins, added Christian Bale)
Front Room Cinema (Removed Pacino, added Paul Giammati)
I Love That Film (Removed Jackson, added Edward Norton)
Flixchatter (Removed Giammati, added Gregory Peck)
All Eyes on Screen (Removed Norton, added Tom Hanks)
Time Well Spent (Removed Hoffman, added Leonardo DiCaprio)
The Warning Sign (Removed Hanks, added Paul Newman)
Movies and Songs 365 (Removed Duvall, re-added Anthony Hopkins)
And So It Begins (Removed DiCaprio, added Max von Sydow)
Cinematic Corner (Removed Bale, added Ralph Fiennes)
The Film Emporium (Re-removed Hopkins, added Jack Nicholson)
Duke & the Movies (Removed Oldman, added Humphrey Bogart)
Southern Vision (Removed Fiennes, added Harry Dean Stanton)
Defiant Success (Removed Stanton, added Jack Lemmon)
Cinematic Paradox (Removed von Sydow, re-added Ralph Fiennes)
Encore's World of TV & Film (Removed Peck, added Richard Burton)
Okinawa Assault (Removed Lemmon, added Bruce Greenwood)
Amiresque (Removed Greenwood, added Peter Sellers)
Flickers (Removed Chaplin, added Jeff Bridges)
Aziza's Picks (Removed Sellers, re-added Gary Oldman)
...let's be splendid about this... (Removed Burton, added James Stewart)
Being Norma Jeane (Removed Bridges, added Johnny Depp)
U, Me, and Films (Re-removed Fiennes, re-added Tom Hanks)
Eternity of Dream (Re-removed Hanks, re-added Leonardo DiCaprio)
Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions (Re-removed Oldman, added Amitabh Bachchan)
Surrender to the Void (Removed Bachchan, added Gene Hackman)
Taste of Cinema (Removed Depp, added Marcello Mastroianni)

Wow. So I'm the 29th person to touch the list, and the responsibility is pretty significant. All three of my decisions are big. So let's look at the list as it stands right now. Here are the 10 actors still on the list:

Humphrey Bogart

Marlon Brando

Daniel Day-Lewis

Robert De Niro

Leonardo DiCaprio

Gene Hackman

Marcello Mastroianni

Paul Newman

Jack Nicholson

James Stewart

So, before I add someone, let's trim the list down by one. All ten of these actors deserve to be here. There's not a single person I can remove without pissing someone, or multiple someones off. I don't want to remove any of them. But I have to, and here goes. Sorry, Marlon Brando.

I should say for the record that I have a great deal of respect for Brando. His early work is some of the best acting out there, and there's a reason that he's been on this list from the start and hasn't been removed. But, Brando made some cheese in his career that is almost unforgivable--The Island of Dr. Moreau comes to mind. And really, someone has to pay for Last Tango in Paris and he's my only available victim. I'm certain he'll be added back eventually, but for now, he's out.

The question now becomes who to add. I decided when I first saw this meme going around that if it ever got to me, I would add someone whose resume was unimpeachable, and that I'd add someone who had never been put on the list. I also figured that by the time it got to me, there wouldn't be that many great actors who hadn't been tapped. Boy, was I wrong. Actors who qualify under those twin criteria include Alec Guinness, James Mason, Spencer Tracy, Peter O'Toole, Gene Kelly, Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, and Cary friggin' Grant. How is this possible?

And so it coms to this. There is not a single reason that any of those actors should have waited this long, and as much as I love Spencer Tracy and James Mason, Cary Grant shouldn't have had to wait this long to be here.

Why Cary Grant? If you're someone who doesn't know any of the classic films, Grant has a pedigree in film like few others. He has 75 films to his credit, and some of those rank among the greatest films ever made. He was a tremendous comic actor possessed of flawless timing and capable of making a glance a brilliant piece of comedy. He was also one of the great cinema idols, someone who absolutely defines the idea of movie star looks. He could work an action scene with panache, and no one looked as good as he did in a tux. Grant also had the sense to retire with dignity. He walked away from making films at 62, 20 years before he died, allowing us to keep that memory of who Grant was eternal--he never became anything less on the screen. He could do comedy, suspense, and romance with equal style. He was also smart enough to truly understand his own legend. When told in an interview that everyone would like to be him, he is alleged to have responded "Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I'd like to be Cary Grant."

Eventually, this meme will get back to someone who doesn't love the classics, and Grant will be removed, but at least I got to do the man proud.

So, who gets it next? Dan Heaton, you're up.


  1. Oh wow. Controversial stuff. I do like Grant. He's probably the first actor I think of when they say Golden Age of Hollywood.
    Nice pic :)
    Also, Depp went? :O :'(

  2. @Nikhat--thanks. It really was a hard choice, considering my gut was to go with Spencer Tracy or Peter O'Toole.

    @Chris--I did think of Mifune. I also thought of Ken Watanabe and Max Schell. Ah, Anglo-centrism!

  3. Cary Grant not being on the list to begin with is a disgrace!
    Good choice.

  4. I like that all that "removed/added" data is included now, makes the list easier to follow!
    Bold choice removing Brando, but of course everyone is entitled to their opinion. Morgan Freeman not having been added yet is surprising, I agree on that.
    Ha! Olympic torch relay indeed, I wonder if the actor race is going to continue all the way through the 1200 blog LAMB community, could go on forever ( :

  5. @TSorensen--while I might agree with you on that, the creator of this meme isn't much for the classics. And really, this is all about taste.

    @Chris--I really didn't want to remove Brando, but I had to remove someone. And really, once he became a parody of himself, I suppose his slide into insanity became inevitable.

  6. I agree with Chris that it is a bold move to remove Brando,but he did signed some silly contracts,like Superman.Grant is a descent addition,the quote about himself is classic.

  7. Well, I was in a position in which getting rid of any of them would have been something of a bold move, and Dan Heaton now has the same problem.

  8. You're right, it's tremendously difficult now to make any adjusments to this list of great actors. Although I consider Brando a way better actor than Grant, I like your choice because he's one of my favorite classic actors.

    Definitely glad that DiCaprio is still here. By the way, it's really cool that you added the information on who was gone from the race and who was new.

    1. If I'm honest with myself, Spencer Tracy (who was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar nine times) is better than both of them. Cary Grant, though, was too cool to not add, though.

  9. Great choice and great to see all the additions and removals in one list! Surprised at the removal of Brando though!

    1. Most of us had the same reaction, looking back. We all sort of thought, "I don't want to remove this guy, but..." That certainly went through my head.

      I almost (gasp) removed De Niro, but only because his career has sort of nose-dived of late.

  10. I guess I have not seen enough of Grant's films to see his versatility, but not surprised that he'd end up on this list. I still think Peck is at least on par if not better than Grant however. In any case, thanks for including the list of who was removed and added from previous rounds, very cool!

    1. I do not disagree. But there are a lot of actors who deserve a thought or two for this list who haven't been here, most of them from that sort of classic Hollywood period. more about image. In truth, he was a good movie actor, sometimes great. But he was in many ways the greatest movie star.

  11. This race is going so quickly I missed this one when looking for updates. Will update my post of where the race has gone immediately so people will be able to find your blog.

    Shame to see Brando go and am amazed he stayed on so long. Grant is an excellent replacement though!

    1. I did feel a little guilty bumping Brando, but I still stand by the choice. Like I said, it was a little bit of payback for Last Tango in Paris.