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Archive for the ‘Ron Moody’ Category

The Twelve Chairs

15 Mar

The Twelve Chairs — Directed by Mel Brooks —— Slapstick Comedy. The jewels of a Russian duchess sewn into the seat of one of twelve dining room chairs are the focus of a madcap treasure hunt. 93 minutes Color 1970.

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Frank Langella comes before us fully equipped as that rare creature, a classic romantic actor. Which means he has a big, beautiful voice, is gorgeous, and has the speed, economy, and inner-power-to-spare for the big gesture. The instrument both physically and internally is dark velvet moved by the breeze of circumstance. Here he is young, 32, and quite at home in himself. He seems to know what he is and is not fooled by it. Other actors looking at him, or any audience for that matter, might sense that the parts he plays when young do not either inspire or require his full power, and that he is never operating to the limit of his capacity. But that was not so important as that, still, we know we are getting our money’s worth; he was easily sufficient. The older he has gotten the better he has gotten. The more he has lost his rich thick, glossy black hair the closer he has come to the great actor inherent in him. I remember seeing him at Williamstown in the summer with Blythe Danner and Mildred Dunnock in Anouilh’s Ring Around The Moon, and thinking, “That young man has a great ass; I wonder if he will ever get beyond the prerogatives it grants him.” He has. It would be interesting to see him perform now the great roles in Sophocles or Euripides. Why he has, to my knowledge, never done Oedipus, gives me hope that one day I shall see him play it. Or Coriolanus. Here, as the Russian mountebank, he is delightful, fluid, kind, direct, and smart. And quite impenitent about everything that must be done to secure the fortune. Mel Brooks is hilarious as the peasant servant and Dom DeLuise is amazingly and admirably entertaining as the priest also after the jewels. Ron Moody fares less well because the role wants variety. He is always Drooling Greed. That’s the way it’s written and that’s also the way it’s directed. It’s a part Brooks must have written for himself, so it offers nothing for us to revel in but but the idea that consistent vulgarity of imagination is funny.  The other actors have more scope offered to them, and they seize it, and play it out with silent film frenzy and panache. It makes me want to see all of Brooks’ films. After Blazing Saddles I wanted to see none of them. After Young Frankenstein I wanted to see all of them. Now I shall.

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