Research Paper: Actors Studio David Garfield's Glossy

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[. . .] Nonetheless, there is a kind of anti-capitalist insistence here -- which recalls Lewis Hyde's argument in The Gift that all art in the twentieth century was affected by the uneasy role played by any artistic creation within a market economy which aims to estimate its cash-value -- but not in the direction of anything resembling Communism. Instead, what Strasberg seems to be preaching is a kind of deeper spiritual dimension beneath material values -- if The Actors' Studio in any way was intended to be a politically conscious community like the earlier Group Theater (and to a certain degree, the pivotal role played by Crawford -- who was a founder of both -- in addition to the large number of members who belonged to both suggests that we should understand a certain degree of continuity between the two actors' collectives) then it is a community that is only political by virtue of its retreat into seriousness about craft. It opposes the socialism of the late 19th century artist and visionary William Morris to the soulless bean-counting of Hollywood's William Morris Agency. To some extent what Strasberg offered actors was not politics but a refuge from politics, just as the basic aesthetic practice of The Actors' Studio overall represented an inward turn from the praxis of the Group Theatre. This inwardness was registered not only by the insistence on an internal performance style not offered up for market consumption, but also the growing influence of Freudian psychology upon the original Stanislavskian practice. Indeed, Freudian therapy would be de rigueur for a number of years among method actors and alumni of The Actors' Studio, and even Marlon Brando would lie down on the analyst's couch and recount his dreams -- but overall, it merely represented the sort of inward turn that The Actors' Studio would take, as an ideological contrast to the superficiality of Hollywood, while at the same time training actors in a kind of focused emotionally-raw realism (with little regard for textual fineries) that seemed particularly well-suited to film, especially as the traumatized post-war mood of the American 1950s began to explore the psychological margins. Indeed, a production like A Hatful of Rain -- which would turn Actors' Studio alumni Shelley Winters and Ben Gazzara into star actors -- presented heroin addiction with a meticulous and grim realism. Drug addiction had been handled in the theatre before -- Noel Coward's The Vortex is about a society junkie -- but never with Stanislavski's level of realism. To do so represented a triumph of not only the realism, but also the willingness to look with egalitarian generosity upon all sectors of society, and thereby address large-scale problems that neither the government would address nor could Hollywood represent in its 1950s mode of Technicolor triumphalism.

Of course, the heyday of The Actors' Studio would also correspond with the U.S. Government's House Un-American Activities Committee and their investigation into Communist sympathies in Hollywood. It was at this point that various alumni of the Group Theatre and the Actors' Studio would part company: the actor John Garfield, who was an alumnus of the Group Theatre and Odets' work, would drop dead of a heart attack shortly after being forced to testify before HUAC. Meanwhile, the director -- and founder of The Actors' Studio -- Elia Kazan would go before the committee and "name names," a betrayal that was still remembered almost half a century later in 1999 when Kazan was given an honororay Oscar, and a number of politically committed leftist actors (including the likes of Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Nick Nolte, and Ed Harris) refused to applaud or rise from their seats. To a certain degree, the political origins of The Actors' Studio and method acting can still be observed even to this day.

Works Cited

Beguiristain, Mario E. The Actors Studio and Hollywood in the 1950s: A History of Theatrical Realism. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2006. Print.

Frome, Shelly. The Actors Studio: A History. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005. Print.

Garfield, David. A Player's Place: The Story of the Actors Studio. New York: Macmillan, 1980. Print.

Gordon, Robert. The Purpose of Playing: Modern Acting Theories in Perspective. Ann Arbor: Univ. Of Michigan Press, 2006. Print.

Hirsch, Foster. A Method to Their Madness: The History of the Actors Studio. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 2002. Print.

Strasberg, Lee, and Robert H. Hethmon. Strasberg at the Actors… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Actors Studio David Garfield's Glossy."  Essaytown.com.  March 31, 2011.  Accessed April 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/actors-studio-david-garfield-glossy/7329739.