April 6, 2015

Gary Cooper, For Whom the Bell Tolls

as ROBERT JORDAN
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The Role: as an American expatriate traveling to Spain to fight for the Republic against fascists and tasked to blow up a key bridge, Gary Cooper is back once again as yet another "noble" and "heroic" figure, and he's really outdone himself this time with the sheer amount of nothingness he brings to Robert Jordan. I have a feeling that it's not entirely his fault this time around--doing some quick background reading on the character, I found a particular website asking: "Robert Jordan: Stud or Dud?" before describing the character as "a piece of cardboard". Even still, to ask Cooper of all actors to play a character that's considered by anyone as a piece of cardboard is not only ironic but kind of agonizing.

 photo Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 1.47.39 AM.jpgWhat I Didn't Like: Simply put, there is nothing about this performance that struck me as noteworthy. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a nearly three hour film (and a boring three hour film at that) and for 95% of those three hours Cooper does...just about nothing. He literally looks as though he's here for that check--Cooper boringly goes through the motions and is taken from one scene to another without any semblance of excitement or determination or enthusiasm whatsoever. He looks supremely bored and lifeless, and it doesn't help his case at all that Robert Jordan in essence is a rather uninteresting character without much pizzazz to bring to the narrative. Thus all we have is Cooper mingling with a bunch of colorful characters more intriguing than he, but I was just plain dumbstruck by how dull he is in this film. At times it seems like Robert is overpowered by every member of the supporting cast--he gets lost and he severely lacks a strong presence, which is a bizarre feat considering that he is the hero of the story. What's more, Cooper hasn't any charisma that made him at least dorkishly likable in Sergeant York and The Pride of the Yankees; he's just a forgetful bore. I may not enjoy him generally as an actor, but considering he was one of the leading leading men of the decade, I at least expect him to carry the duties of leading a film in a manner that is appealing, and he is far from appealing here; he is lethargic and he is meaningless here in every sense of the word.

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What I Liked: Cooper does show a spark here and there in some of his scenes with Ingrid Bergman, but then again, with someone as radiant as Bergman it'd be a damn difficult task to mess that up as well. And I did enjoy his last scene--it's just about the only moment in the film where I was drawn in by him and felt the desire to continue watching him. But with that said, this was one of the most forgettable pieces of work turned in by Cooper that I have seen, and the fact that he managed yet another nomination for this shows a severe and frustrating lack of consideration on the Academy's part during this era, because I can't make heads or tails of how something so mindblowingly dull could have racked up enough support to make it onto the shortlist (blame it on the extras I suppose?). This would be Cooper's last nomination of the 1940s, and what a horrid note to end his run on.


4 comments:

  1. Okay, now I'm all the more scared to face it. Nevertheless, I still feel I can't ignore a Bergman movie made in the era of Casablanca, one that brings her a nomination too. Thanks for the warning though; I'll make sure the liquor is stocked first.

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    1. I'll always be tepid towards Gary Cooper--definitely watch it if you're feeling adventurous and curious. It's a slow burn kind of film for sure.

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  2. Ouch :) I actually liked him in here...I am not the biggest Cooper fan but I appreciate him on a little higher level overall than you .)

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    1. Well someone has to appreciate him, might as well be you Fritz :)

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