March 16, 2009

Great Cinema

While Glen Ford would be respected as one of the movie greats, it amazes me that no one mentions one stunning performance which I regard as the greatest death scene in cinema history. Ordinarily most people would quickly change the channel when the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie comes on the TV, but I am riveted to the screen (as I was last night) until Ford's scene. He plays Jonathan Kent and only has two scenes in the film - the first one the Kent's find the baby superman just arrived from Krypton and in the second he puts a fatherly arm around the Clark's teenage shoulders and speculates about whether there is some cosmic purpose to the boy being 'super'. The conversation ends and Clark runs ahead to the barn calling back "race you". The camera turns onto Ford as he walks up the slope. His heart attack happens in seconds, if you blink you could miss it, but it is, I think, unbearably moving. A realisation passes across his face, then a panic but slight because there is no time, he grips his wrist, and simply says: "oh no". And he is dead. The subtlety of his performance is appalling.

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