In your Sunday Times make sure you don't miss the Magazine feature on Rip Torn, who, before his eccentric roles on film and tv, was once one of the powerhouse stage actors of the 50s. Oh what we have lost...
He was the kind of performer who won rave reviews for the convincing way he tore doors off hinges. The actress Sally Kirkland remembers one time when Torn, playing Richard III to her Lady Anne, spontaneously lifted her by her shoulder and dress to deliver an angry speech as he held her suspended in the air. By that time, James Dean had died, Brando had distanced himself from the Actors Studio and Torn, says Kirkland, "had totally inherited the throne of that combination — he was young and gorgeous, and he was that guy."
Offstage, Torn worked to racially integrate the theater world. He vehemently defended every line, no matter how shocking at the time, of James Baldwin's unsparingly violent play "Blues for Mr. Charlie" and helped coax Baldwin, who was procrastinating, into finishing it. According to "A Player's Place," David Garfield's authoritative history of the Actors Studio, Torn was ultimately dismissed from his role in a London production of the Baldwin play for his "corrosive attitude" after he insulted both Baldwin and the play's director for making changes to the script (including softening the language to appease British censors).
Okay, maybe the Baldwin story is a bit self-serving. But given the context of the times, man deserves some props for that, as well as his raw talent.
Personally my favorite Rip Torn performance is his insane Nixon (delivering lines straight from the tapes) in the 70s TV mini-series made of John Dean's "Blind Ambition." Not reissued on DVD, and good luck finding a copy.
Make sure you do miss, by the way, the new page in "Arts & Leisure" devoted to "Video Games." For the first time, this appears today in the printed section not in the back with the tv coverage, but right up front, oddly sandwiched between Theatre and Dance. Huh? There's the "Leisure" part, I guess.
Yes, I know Nintendo and Playstation are at the frontier of the new narrative arts. And I'm even curious, though not a player. But too soon, I say. Too soon!