Tuesday, November 14, 2006

We'll miss you Jack

Sometimes people die, who you have never met, and quite unexpectedly you realise that they represented something important to you, and their passing means that a little of yourself has also gone. The world is a little less innocent, as a part of the security of your own past is buried with them.

So I was surprisingly moved to hear that Jack Palance had died. Partly of course I am mourning the character of Jack Wilson. Never has murder seemed so glamorous. In Shane, perhaps the greatest example of Hollywood film making, Palance plays a dandy gunslinger, a hired gun for the cattle barons. But you know that Alan Ladd’s Shane character has been no better than him in the past, and Wilson is an externalisation of the dangerous edge in Shane that Jean Arthur’s character is drawn to in preference to the dull farmer Van Heflin. Perhaps the most subtle and poignant portrayal in film of a shared love that can never be.

In one of the most gripping moments in the film Palance mercilessly guns down small farmer, Frank Torrey, played by Elisha Cook Jnr. It is a cathartic moment, as Torrey is an archetype of the 1950s western, the decent, nostalgic former confederate soldier (so often cropping up in John Ford westerns). Palance mocks “Robert E Lee and his rebel trash” and then shoots Torrey down like a dog. I cheer every time! This machine kills fascists!

Palance also starred in Attack in 1953. The full impact of this movie is hard to appreciate in these more cynical days, but it was political dynamite when it was made, while the corpses of WW2 were still warm in the memory. The first ever film to show political and financial corruption, and class conflict in the US military. A curiously European type of war movie, that ends not in patriotic catharsis and validation like so many American war films, but in betrayal, futility and anonymous carnage in a pointless and god-forsaken backwater of France. This was one of Palance’s most electric performances, and it is a must see film.

Palance also played Castro in the film, Che, but I have never seen it Perhaps it is best that way!


Louisefeminista said...

I liked Jack Palance (and even did a short obit on my blog on Saturday).

Shane is a classic tho' Cyborg 2 with Angelina Jolie is certainly not a classic (the things actors do to get the cash)And it was impressive of Palance, during his Oscar speech for winning the award for City Slickers, to show to the audience that he can still do push ups with one hand behind his back.... They sure don't make tough guys like that anymore...

Btw: Che! is an ok film. Sorry to be pedantic....But it was Jack that played Castro and Omar Sharif played Che.

Oh and he was good in Bagdad Cafe.

AN said...

I stand corrected, I will edit the post to say Castro!

But what do you think of Shane? One of the best?

Louisefeminista said...

"Shane! Come back..."

yes, it is one of the best but to be honest.... I was never a fan of Alan Ladd.... I think Jack Palance makes the film as the gunslinger

The film used to get shown a lot at the Students Union and borrowed frequently from the library where I used to work

I just remember seeing a biog. of Alan Ladd on telly years ago and there was an old interview with Jean Arthur. She walked around in the film Shane barefoot as the heels she wore made her taller than Alan Ladd and he didn't like it. Hence barefeet...

sappho said...

Yeah, dont watch the movie 'Che' with Palance playing Castro.
I made the mistake of watching it the other day on t.v. & it pissed me off the way they represented Che.

But he was a good actor, none the less.

Louisefeminista said...

Yeah Sappho, You are right I think I was being too positive by giving it an "ok" rating... Crap is a better rating! And he was a good actor.