Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Racket - Great Story, Dialogue, Acting, Direction



Here is a clip from one of my favorite movies, directed by John Cromwell and Nicholas Ray. "The Racket" along with other Robert Ryan movies was the inspiration for my web series "Weekend Pussy Hunt".

This movie works on almost every level. It has a good story, great dialogue, brilliant direction and what I look for most of all in movies- wonderful interaction between rich personalities portrayed by distinct charismatic actors.


The Racket stars Robert Ryan and Robert Mitchum and they play wonderfully against each other. Mitchum is usually an underplayed character. He has such a strong natural presence that he doesn't really need to act much, although he fills these scenes with subtle amusing expressions that contrast and color Ryan's more active character. Robert Ryan is a methodical thinking actor who adds inventive quirks, expressions and actions to his own natural charisma. These distinct nuances make his best characters positively gripping - and ominous. Watch all the things Ryan does with his tongue-even with his mouth closed!

I'm gonna guess that none of these actors' touches that make the movie come to life have anything to do with the script - even though it's an excellent script. The directors may have helped the actors bring out their best, but at least they didn't hinder their performances as some other directors had. (I always wonder how anyone can make a boring movie with charismatic actors, but it's happened often.)

My favorite part of this sequence is the way Ryan violates a poor apple that he is munching. He turns a simple and innocent prop into an instrument of filth and horror.

This whole clip is full of ideas and is the opposite of stock generic acting. The rest of the movie is too.


*** The movie credits John Cromwell as director, but Nicholas Ray did a lot of reshooting.

13 comments:

Steven M. said...

All I can say for that clip was this: Brillient.

ncross said...

I thought that your favorite part was where Robert Ryan bitch-slaps his brother...but the whole movie is great!

ncross said...

Oh, and since you brought up tongue acting, Robert Ryan does a virtuoso performance with his tongue in "Caught", another classic!

JohnK said...

Hi Nick

yeah, his tongue is a genius during the ride in the car with Barbara Bel Geddes.

Jorge said...

Samuel Fuller wrote part of this movie, too. Howard Hughes ran such a mess of a studio, with his constant reshoots and rewrites that every film there is the hand of a few people.

I have the Screenplay for this movie and On Dangerous Ground, should I post it?

Each script is prefaced by writing that says "ABSOLUTE FINAL SCRIPT!" and then near the end it says "ADDITIONAL SCENES."

And each rewrite has the initials of a different writer on it. I did some detective work and figured out all the different writers on On Dangerous Ground once.

Paul Penna said...

I can watch Robert Ryan in anything.

mike f. said...

Yeah, but can they play moody teenage vampires?? Give me Seth Rogaine and Justin Twinkletoes over that fusty old black & white, Golden Age stuff any day.

John said...

Needs a good titty-shot.

Robert said...

Brings back some good memories of a certain Weekend Pussy Hunt scene.

Peter Saunders said...

I haven't seen the whole movie, but what's great in that scene is the constant battle for status. When Ryan slaps his brother around, he unwittingly gives him the upper hand, so to speak. That dynamic makes the proceedings far more interesting than they would be on the basis of script alone ....

Bwanasonic said...

John, do you have the 5 movie noir boxed set with The Racket, On Dangerous Ground? It also has one of my faves, His Kind of Woman. Great Mitchum and Russell vehicle with great Vincent Price role too. Robert Ryan used to kind of scare me as a kid, but I love his movies now.

Chris S. said...

" ... speak up, junior." What a great moment.

Happy New Year!!!

The Noir Guy said...

Not only is the acting top notch, the shots are perfect! The camera pans along to make room for each character beautifully, and each shot gives everyone enough space! Even when there are four people in one frame, they still find a way to fit them all in with breathing room! That's how to do cinematography.