Hollywood, the Dream Factory: An Anthropologist Looks at the Movie-Makers

By Hortense Powdermaker | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XI
Acting, in Hollywood

ACTING and directing are closely interwoven and neither can exist without the other. This is a natural union and, unlike the producer- writer relationship, not imposed by the power situation. Many of the actors' and directors' problems spring from the same causes. The actors came into a medium which concentrated on movement and cared relatively little for meaning, and one which was becoming increasingly skilled in using props for emotional effects. The new medium which had started as a small entertainment business was becoming a big industry with mass production, and, at the same time developing as an art, taking over many elements from theater and literature. The directors, who formerly had considerable power and control, were losing much of it to producers and executives, many of whom had very little understanding of acting. The technical aspects of camera and cutting provided limits and assets to the structure in which actors performed.

It is obvious that acting in Hollywood cannot be quite the same as acting on the Broadway stage. The essence of all acting, whether on stage or in films, is to give reality to make-believe. This does not make acting into a unique art, and the need to make believe is not confined to artists: children, insane people and normal ones all have the same need in varying degrees of intensity, but they lack the artist's talent and training, which give an illusion of reality to an audience. While creativity in all the arts has something in common, the actor's talent differs from others because it is so intimately tied to his body. A writer and composer project their fantasies onto a piece of paper; a painter uses a canvas; a musician has his instrument; the actor has his body. His art is projected through his voice;

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