January 17

1863, 1942

Two of the modern world's greatest heavyweight actors, born on the same day.

Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior, in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1942 - named, like his father, or so I presume, for, or at least after, Cassius Marcellus Clay, abolitionist, (see October 19); and then self-renamed Cassius X when he first joined the Nation of Islam; finally Muhammad Ali... and I mean what I have just said, beause I can think of few who met the standards of "Method Acting" better than Ali, off-stage as well as on - sometimes even better off-stage, like those memorable pre-fight verbal sparring sessions in which his mostly brain-dead opponents hadn't a clue what he was jibing, teasing and generally mocking about them, though in the end it was he who died of brain-death, pummeled into a refusal to submit by the white racists of America, who tried to take his title away by conscripting and then jailing him - not the first black heavyweight to suffer that fate... but eventually pummeled by Joe Frazier, and then finished off by George Forman, into a state of such severe Parkinson's...

Konstantin Sergeievich Stanislavski, in Moscow, in 1863. An actor by profession, he specialised in creating characters so well that audiences wondered who the actor was, rather than instantly recognising the same-old same-old stars, who delivered the lines in exactly the same way, regardless of whether they were dressed up as Hamlet or Caesar, Romeo or Shylock. His ability to do this was the source of his fame, his book "An Actor Prepares" giving the game away before you even read a line; and the two books that followed, "Building A Character" and "Creating A Role", likewise.

Stanislavski didn't call it "Method Acting"; that was Lee Strasberg's American take, and there were some minor variations, but very minor, unlike the actors whom the system, or the method, produced: Brando, Hoffman, De Niro, Day-Lewis, and an even longer list here of the women of Method.

I first came across Stanislavski as a drama student, and used him in my own amateur and semi-pro acting attempts, but mostly as a writer, because writers too need to prepare in exactly the same way.

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