The Harder They Fall’s Cast Made It An Awkward Prospect For Humphrey Bogart

Conceived in the 1940s by future film director Elia Kazan and Broadway producer Cheryl Crawford, the Actors’ Studio brought acting techniques from turn-of-the-century Europe to America. It allowed American actors to learn the teachings of Moscow Art Theatre’s Konstantin Stanislavski.

In America, that became what we now call Method acting (which devolved into the kind of Method acting derided here by Jon Bernthal). The “Method,” based on tasks, circumstances, and actions, demanded concentration from its adherents, and they were rewarded with visceral performances. It’s no wonder the school made instant movie stars of its members, like Rod Stieger and Marlon Brando.

Meanwhile, Humphrey Bogart had needed some time in Hollywood before finding any appreciation. His lisp and sneering demeanor had led to his being typecast as a gangster, and his Warner Bros. supporting work kept the spotlight squarely off him. Even after a decade-plus of heroic roles, it wasn’t until 1952 that he won a Best Actor Oscar, playing the uncouth charmer Charlie Allnut in the warm-hearted but decidedly old-fashioned Katharine Hepburn romantic comedy, “The African Queen.”

His main competition that year was Brando, who lit up the screen as Stanley Kowalski in Kazan’s “A Streetcar Named Desire,” demonstrating the power of Method acting in giving audiences a sympathetic brute. Bogart might have won that particular contest, but he was losing the war to the “scratch your ass and mumble” gang. And then he had to make a movie with them.

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