The Best Man

Everyone’s seen this East of Eden audition clip in which Paul Newman was trying for the role of Aaron, the older brother of Cal (i.e., James Dean‘s role). It’s clear who the more delicate and vulnerable actor is. Newman has that jokey-gruff streetcorner thing down as a covering mechanism while Dean is a bit more open to whatever. He obviously senses this, and so he throws Newman a line he knows will tap him off-balance.

You can see Dean’s idea beginning to happen around the eight-second mark. At the 14-second mark he says “kiss me” and Newman quickly says “can’t hear.” They both laugh it off, but it’s obvious that if Newman had been receptive Dean would have been the woman in the relationship. I mean that in a complimentary way.

A year or so later Dean had landed the role of Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me. Newman got the part, of course, after Dean’s car-crash death in September 1955.

The Robert Wise-directed boxing drama came out in December 1956. I saw it sometime in the mid ’90s. It hasn’t aged well. Newman’s dese-dom-dose accent feels conspicuously “acted” each and every second. The film has moments (the ones with Pier Angeli, the final fight scene) but it mainly feels too “scripted” in the then-popular vein of ’50s televised drama. It’s a little too sentimental, emotionally underlined, on-the-nose.

If Dean had played Graziano, though, it would probably have a more elevated reputation today. Who cares about this movie today?

Bottom line: in the mid ’50s Dean was twice if not three times the actor that Newman was. Newman found a more naturalistic, less-actorish groove starting with his legendary performance in Hud in ’63, and for all we know Dean, had he lived, might not have grown or developed as successfully. But in the mid ’50s Dean was the live-wire hare and Newman was…well, not a tortoise but a hare who hadn’t yet figured himself out.

20 thoughts on “The Best Man

  1. scooterzz on said:

    let the annual hear/here debate begin……

    i believe he’s saying ‘can’t here’ as a joke….

  2. oh, and actually on topic: i think dean was too ‘sensitive’ to play graziano……newman might not have dad dean’s chops but he had an entirely different presence….

  3. Great clip — the cool and comfortable Dean versus the jumpy and jokey Newman. Dean has a calm presence that draws your eyes to him. Newman is a twitchy, jangly adolescent. But he has a raw energy that just needs focus to become powerful. Wells’ speculation is apt. Would Dean have evolved? Hard to say. We know Newman did.

    A fascinating 41 seconds.

  4. It’s difficult to speculate what would have happened with Dean. He was hugely charismatic, had an extraordinary presense…..but his acting technique lacked the polish of his heroes Brando and Clift. He had a tendency to really overdo things. I think he very much believed the myth of Method acting, of pure emoting rather than acting, whereas Brando was more poetic, more controlled and desciplined.

  5. “Can’t, here.”

    What’s with the bow tie, Tucker?

    There’s a definite ghey vibe.

    I don’t think Newman would’ve been that big of a step down in “Giant”. In fact he would’ve been quite good, I believe.

  6. Is the thinking that Dean’s death cleared the roles and path for Newman’s career? I can see that. Dean likely would have been Eddie Felson for sure. I wonder if Dean would have also usurped Jack’s rise in the late 60′s and early 70′s, or whether 6 years senior was enough to prohibit Dean from those roles.

  7. If it is “can’t here”, then that takes away from Jeff’s thesis, because that’s a pretty quick and fluid response, and Dean liked it.

  8. If Newman meant “can’t here” he would have said “not here.” That would have been the way to say it, obviously. He was clearly saying “Not only am I not processing that thought, Jimmy….I’m not even on the same planet…hah! But don’t sweat it.”

  9. He would have said “Not here” if he wasn’t caught off gaurd, sure. But, he’s saying “Can’t here”. A liitle awkward? Yes. But that’s what he’s saying.

  10. Paul Newman, such a great actor and one of hte truly, great last movie stars. PIR, good sir. Got to meet him years ago. Such a gracious man. As fo Dean, the best thing he ever did was dying. It took his mediocre, Brando-stolen tics and made them legendary to a bunch of other ninnys. His schtick is so tiresome.

  11. James Dean is the guy all you “boys” want to, would if yuh could, fuck. Period.

    Worst, overated, overhyped, bullshit, over-actor. Ever.

  12. this East of Eden audition is a classic, I can’t believe that still exist people how doesn’t have idea what East of Eden film is about.

  13. Bottom line: in the mid ’50s Dean was twice if not three times the actor that Newman was. Newman found a more naturalistic, less-actorish groove starting with his legendary performance in Hud in ‘

    Vimax

    Vimax Pills

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>