I said earlier this week that I would use Lame Post Friday to consider the term “marvelously theatrical.” Regular readers (if any) may remember that George Zucco was described thusly in a summary of a Horror Classic I once saw.
The term “theatrical” to me seems a little silly. I would think that if something is on a stage in a threatre it is, by definition, theatrical. Kind of like looking your age. My dad says, how can you not look your age? I’m 50. This is what I look like at 50. Hence, I must look 50 (I know, I KNOW some of you probably think I DO look 50 or worse. It’s just an example) (And when my dad was 50, everybody said he didn’t look 50) (but I digress).
Perhaps it is one of those words that “I can’t give you a definition, but I know it when I see it.” I could explain this better in person. I would sit demurely and say in a quiet tone of voice, “I am in a theatre. I am theatrical.” Then I would leap to my feet, make a wide gesture with one arm and shout, “I am in a THEATRE!” Then a wide gesture with the other arm, “I am THEATRICAL!” Can you picture it?
I bet some of you have been sitting there trying to get a word in edgewise and point out to me that George Zucco was in a MOVIE not the THEATRE. Oh silly me. Did I even realize there is a difference?
Of course I did, stop looking so smug. I would submit that the difference may be less than we think. And I believe audience expectations are similar: they want to be entertained.
There is a wonderful scene in All About Eve where Gary Merrill tells off Ann Baxter for scorning movies vis a vis Broadway. He basically says that theatre encompasses all sorts of entertainment, “wherever there’s magic and make believe. So don’t approve or disapprove. It may not be your theatre, but it’s theatre for someone.” (I may be misquoting; don’t judge.)
“I just asked a question,” she replies, in that demure, well-modulated voice she uses when she’s got everybody fooled.
Steve and I always say, “Yeah, right,” because she used a horrified tone of voice, as if Hollywood is the antichrist.
Hmmmm… Do you suppose that’s kind of what the summary writer meant? That George Zucco is way better than an ordinary movie actor — he’s THEATRICAL (with gesture)! Perhaps he was just looking for a more impressive way of saying, “George Zucco is really, really good.” I eventually came to the conclusion he meant that George Zucco chews the scenery in a good way.
He is a pretty good actor. His presence will certainly be a selling point in my ongoing quest for movies to write about. Maybe one day I will even write a marvelously theatrical blog post.