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Monday, April 05, 2010

The last of Ben Harper

"I'm going now, children... Goodbye"

While most obituaries about the recently deceased Peter Graves remember his work in the TV series "mission impossible", many of you may also remember him as Ben Harper, the good man whose only day of dishonesty takes him to the gallows, a short but relevant role in The Night of the Hunter...
I was working with John Ford in a picture. One day I started to say: "About this scene. This part I'm playing. I think that–" Ford snapped me shut. "Don't think in my picture, " he growled. Moving from Ford to Charles was like moving from hell to heaven

So stated Graves when asked about his memories of The Night of the Hunter. Laughton is sometimes pointed as a "difficult" actor by some directors, but Peter Graves' comment makes evident that even actors without a feisty reputation on the sets resented being treated by directors as if they were objects. It should be no surprise that, when Laughton was behind the camera, wouldn't forget what it felt like to be in front, and in consequence, be considerate towards them, to the point that he wouldn't interrupt takes with a "Cut!", and keep the camera rolling, in order to preserve his actors' concentration (this curious proceeding, by the way, left a remarkable lengtht of precious celluloid).

Laughton directs Preacher trying to convince Ben Harper about making a substantial donation to his holy cause

I'll give you again a link to a recent interview with Peter Graves .

Plus a few homages in the blogosphere: Plumas de Caballo , Bright Lights after dark , Screensavers , Edward Copeland on Film.

...And in the online press: The Guardian , The New Yorker , The Times , The New York Times , Los Angeles Times , El Pais.


Matthew Coniam said...

Instantly, when I heard, I thought: this is what he means to me... I wonder if anyone else thought the same...
if anyone, only Gloria...
and I came here to find out.
And you didn't let me down!

Gloria said...

Glad that I didn't let you down! ;D

I'd have liked to make a better post, but I'm not too well sourced on Graves' career (Hope the links make up for it!)

Anonymous said...

That was interesting and very considerate of Mr. Graves with the actors. Thank you for sharing.