August 8

Amber pages

There are actors, and then there are people who put on costumes, learn lines, and pretend to be other people. Actors are rare, very rare. So rare that, in any generation, you can name the half-dozen at most without having to really stop and think about it. Eddie Romayne. Laurence Olivier. Ben Kingsley. Vanessa Redgrave. Billie Whitelaw. By all accounts Richard Burbage and David Garrick. 

One way you can tell that this is an actor, and not just an overpaid celebrity in make-up, is that you are half-way through the movie on your TV, which you switched on after it had done the opening credits, and you came to it by chance, so you have no idea what it's called, but it looks worth watching, and George Clooney is playing George Clooney, as he always does, and Anthony what's-his-name, that Welshman who got knighted, ditto, and that voice-over is obviously Gielgud's - shame he had that amazing voice but was dead from the throat down - and there's six more stars looking exactly as they always look, sounding as they always sound, creating a character who is the same person they always play, the only character they know, themselves...

   ... but who is that? Best character in the movie, the only one who's fully 3-dimensional - but who is it? And you watch to the end, and you still can't figure it, not a single give-away, and then the credits come up and you go, bloody hell, I should have known it was Dustin Hoffman. I saw him in "Tootsie", and I saw him in "Rain Man" and I saw him on stage as Shylock, and as Willie Loman, and do you remember "The Graduate", and "Kramer vs Kramer"... born today, in 1937. The illustration is him as Ratso Rizzo in "Midnight Cowboy".

Today in 1940, German Luftwaffe began daylight raids on Britain. Blitzkrieg. Mum's evacuation to Luton, then south Wales. Dad's Streatham stories before he got called up to the RAF. Personal history.

Richard Nixon announced his resignation, today in 1974 - another Hall of Famer for GER Day (see May 2).

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