Bangs of Profundity

The top slot for Best Shakespearean Interpretation in a Film has been compromised—-Van Heflin’s sincere, tortured 50-second portrait of Lady Macbeth in Presenting Lily Mars (1943) gives way to John Barrymore’s Richard III as portrayed in an excerpt from The Show of Shows (1929). Loath as I am to displace Heflin, whose technique is as always a beauty, Barrymore does something here with his choice of hairpiece that is surpassingly brilliant. The combination of his dome-like head and the frame of greasy black bangs gives something to the role one scarce could dream of existing in a stagebound performance. It’s something to do with nitrate, the way it makes black that much blacker, and his eyes come blazing out from beneath the crest, the spots of light like two pins that move alike, it is eerie, impressive, and who knows about the dialogue.

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~ by levantor on November 6, 2008.

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