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December 2012, Week 3


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"Larsson, Donald F" <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 17 Dec 2012 06:16:36 +0000
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Depends on how the student intends to define both "incompetent" and "hero," I guess.  Lots of comic actors (Don Knotts, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope--who is supposed to be one of Woody Allen's role models, Red Skelton, Eddy Cantor, Danny Kaye, Lou Abbott, Laurel & Hardy, the Three Stooges, Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, etc.) played pretty incompetent types, but they (especially the great silent clown trio) often rose to competence of some sort to save the day (although more often in feature films than in shorts).  Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby comes pretty close, even though Hepburn lifts him to some type of competence before collapsing his hapless dinosaur skeleton at the end.  (Grant and others play somewhat similar roles in other Hawks comedies.)  A more contemporary list might include Steve Martin in The Jerk and various films by the Farelly Brothers, including There's Something about Mary and the Dumb & Dumber movies.  For a bit of diversity, see Forest Whitaker in A Rage in Harlem.  

Going abroad, M Hulot and Mr. Bean would also seem to fit that comic type even better. Almost all of the characters in Dr. Strangelove would seem to fit the bill (when Sellers' Cpt. Mandrake is the closest thing to "competent" among those characters who aren't actually keen on blowing up the world).  

 If your student wants to go beyond comedy, some of the anti-heroes of film noir who are snookered by someone (usually an evil woman) might be an interesting contrast--Edward G. Robinson in Scarlet Street, for instance.  For something even darker, maybe Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley.  How about James Stewart in Vertigo?  Some "neo-noir" (William Hurt in Body Heat. )  Your student might also consider male leads in melodramas who fall prey to their own weaknesses--any of the male leads in any of the versions of A Star Is Born would be prototypical.  More tenuously, what about the "hero" whose own professional competence ultimately undoes him? (Lots of lawyers there--Stewart in Anatomy of a Murder, Peck in The Paradine Case, or even Laughton in Witness for the Prosecution).  (A number of Robert Altman's films--McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Thieves Like Us, The Long Goodbye--also have protagonists whose ultimate competence denied.)

A few suggestions, anyway.

Don Larsson
"I don't deduce.  I observe."
--Roger O Thornhill

Donald F. Larsson, Professor
English Department, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Email: [log in to unmask]
Note: I am currently on sabbatical leave until Fall Semester 2013.  For IFO and contractual matters, please contact IFO President Nancy Black ([log in to unmask]) or Mankato faculty President Jim Grabowska ([log in to unmask]).

From: Film and TV Studies Discussion List [[log in to unmask]] on behalf of Frank, Michael [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2012 10:03 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [SCREEN-L] QUERY:  the incompetent hero

i have a student who's interested in writing about the incompetent hero in american movies, and asked me about such figures in movies from before the current century . . .  i immediately thought of woody allen but then drew a blank . . . can anyone suggest either a movie [or set of movies] featuring an incompetent hero, or an actor who regularly played the part of the incompetent hero?

many thanks


-----Original Message-----
From: Film and TV Studies Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Dana Polan
Sent: Friday, December 07, 2012 9:11 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [SCREEN-L] critical studies of MacMahonism?

Does anyone know a good study (essay or otherwise) of that French cinephilia phenomenon known as MacMahonism?  I assume there's some material in de Baecque's history of its rivals at Cahiers du cinema.  And I came across a few pages here and there, but I'd love to come across a fuller treatment of the phenomenon.

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