Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Well, whaddaya know

So tonight I'm in front of the TV, just spinning the dial, and look who I come upon: Robert Redford at age 25. He has a pivotal but still supporting role in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, billed after Gig Young and Martha Hyer.

Considering the time I spent taking A Walk in the Woods with him this past Sunday, it was fascinating to see him at the beginning of his career, 53 years ago.

In 1962, Gig Young was a star who moved smoothly back and forth between movies and TV. At the time of this episode, he was married to a promising actress named Elizabeth Montgomery (yes, Samantha from Bewitched). In a few years he would win an Oscar for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? -- the film that paired him with one of Redford's frequent leading ladies (Jane Fonda) and favorite directors (Sydney Pollack). Then he drank himself out of a career and died of his own hand in a hideous murder-suicide when in his 60s. Today Gig Young isn't relevant at all, and this past weekend, 78-year-old Redford scored at the box office.

I wonder why some people succeed and others don't. Yes, Redford was gorgeous. But he's also obviously short (Gig Young towers over him in this show) and he has that cluster of moles on his cheek. I'm sure that in 1962 Los Angeles you could find boys who were as good looking. Yes, the camera loves him. But he's an unassuming actor who specializes in small moments, not showy ones. (Richard Burton was relieved that Redford dropped out of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf because he considered Redford quite dull.)

A lot of it has to be luck and timing. But I think it's also think it's intelligence, taste and stubbornness. There are so many Hollywood tragedies, like Gig Young. It must take serious tenacity and drive to survive and thrive.

Good for you, Sundance. Good for you.

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