Thursday, 26 January 2012

Rip's Walt

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?

9 comments:

  1. On the strength of that clip I would say that I'll not be ordering it from Netflix any time soon - but yes Nige, Rip is surely one of the last of the true Hollywood hellraisers - doubt if he's been near a gym or a mirror. He enjoys driving and has a weakness for drinking at the same time - and has paid the price over the years in bail bonds. As far as I can tell, Rip is Artie incarnate, and when HBO released all 89 episodes of 'Larry' a year ago, guess who was first in line?

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  2. Ditto, Mahlerman. In the rankings of dubious false beards, his must come pretty high.

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  3. At least Beautiful Dreamers looks better than this one...
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2012/01/25/145837558/what-should-liam-neeson-punch-next

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  4. When Woody Allen directs the movie 'Fred', the life story of Sir Shred, Rip must surely take the role of Tom "it wasn'a me" McKillup, mirroring his part in The Cincinnati Kid, as a shifty sod. Any actor who cannot read, write or do sums will suffice for the lead part.

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  5. He had a fantastic feud with Dennis Hopper - death threats, libel, scuffles, etc. - who got him kicked off Easy Rider and proceeded to nick his part on the file, as well as a directing credit.

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