Thursday, 26 January 2012
I've long had a soft spot for the American actor Rip Torn - crazy name, crazy guy - not least for his brilliant performance as the ineffable Artie on The Larry Sanders Show, one of the all-time great TV comedies. His off-screen antics are good stuff too - like the time he whacked Normal Mailer with a hammer (who wouldn't? The ensuing brawl actually ended up on-screen, in the film Maidstone, with Mailer chewing off some of Torn's ear). And the time he broke into his local bank under the impression it was his house (we've all been there...). But what I didn't know, until I came across a passing reference in a Guy Davenport essay, is that Rip Torn played Walt Whitman in a 1990 movie called Beautiful Dreamers. This recounts Whitman's reforming work at a Canadian insane asylum with Dr Maurice Bucke, who became a close friend and one of Walt's biographers. There's a review and a clip here. It doesn't look like a great movie, but Torn's Whitman comes across pretty convincingly. And it's good to see that cricket plays a key part in Whitman and Bucke's reforms. Very sound. Has anyone out there seen this film?