Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


THE LIVES OF ROBERT RYAN. J. R. Jones. Wesleyan University Press; 2015.

Robert Ryan was never quite in the front rank of iconic movie stars such as Newman or Redford, but he was definitely a movie star and left a long body of work behind him. This excellent biography takes a discerning eye to the actor and his films, and uncovers some difficulties in his long-time, mostly happy marriage. Although some critics unfairly saw him as "wooden," he could be extremely effective in such films as Clash By NightBorn to Be Bad with Joan Fontaine, About Mrs. Leslie with Shirley Booth, and especially On Dangerous Ground with Ida Lupino, although he could be defeated by bad material such as Back from Eternity with Anita Ekberg. As he got older, Ryan offered fine character parts in such films as The Outfit and Executive Action, and was often the only good thing about the movie. Despite his gruff appearance and the conservative roles he often played, Ryan was a liberal, taking a stance against the blacklist when it wasn't quite safe to do so, and espousing liberal causes throughout his life. Always wanting to be seen as a serious actor and not just a movie star, Ryan even appeared in Shakespeare and many good theater pieces. Ryan had occasional affairs, most famously with Merle Oberon.

Verdict: Highly interesting and readable book on a very interesting actor. ***1/2.

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