Friday, August 7, 2015

Raymond Massey plays John Brown

Tomorrow is Raymond Massey's day in Summer Under the Stars on TCM. I notice that there is an interesting pair of movies put together.

First, at 11:30 AM, is Santa Fe Trail. Errol Flynn is the star of this one, playing alongside Olivia de Havilland yet again. It's about the conflict in "Bloody Kansas" in the 1850s, with Raymond Massey playing John Brown. Brown, of course, was the famous abolitionist who had extremely strong views on the matter. So much so that he was willing to take the law into his own hands, both in Kansas and then later at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now in West Virginia).

That's followed at 1:30 PM by Seven Angry Men, in which Massey is the star, again playing John Brown. Again, Brown is a Kansas farmer whose life is turned upside down when he's subjected to violence from the pro-slavery side, and this is what makes him go so nuts in his zeal to end slavery.

To be honest, I can't recall if I've seen either film, which is why I'm not doing a full-length post on either of them. I have vague memories of seeing at least the end of something about John Brown, but I can't remember which of these two movies it was. Interestingly, John Brown doesn't show up in many other films from the studio era. You'd think he'd be at least an ancillary character, the way George Custer is in Santa Fe Trail, where he's played by Ronald Reagan.

It's also interesting seeing the same actor play the same historical figure 15 years apart, when it's not exactly as though somebody's made a career out of it. Obviously, there are Shakespearean actors, for example, who will often play the same characters in the Shakespeare canon over and over. There are also people who wind up in movie series, such as William Powell playing Nick Charles six times. And then there are the people who become identified with a character for playing him (usually) on stage. Theodore Bikel as Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, and Ralph Bellamy as Franklin Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello both come to mind.

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