Lee J. Cobb: Characters of an Actor by Donald Dewey

By Donald Dewey

Or a lot of his theater contemporaries, Lee J. Cobb (1911–1976) used to be the best actor of his iteration. In Hollywood he grew to become the definitive embodiment of gangsters, psychiatrists, and roaring lunatics. From 1939 till his demise, Cobb contributed riveting performances to a couple of movies, together with Boomerang, at the Waterfront, The Brothers Karamazov, 12 indignant males, and The Exorcist. yet for all of his conspicuous achievements in movies, Cobb's identify is so much pointed out with the nature Willy Loman within the unique level creation of Arthur Miller's dying of a salesperson (1949). Directed via Elia Kazan, Cobb's Broadway functionality proved to be a benchmark for American theater.

In Lee J. Cobb: Characters of an Actor, Donald Dewey seems to be on the existence and occupation of this flexible performer. From his reduce East part roots in big apple City—where he used to be born Leo Jacob—to a number of accolades on degree and the massive and small displays, Cobb's lifestyles proved to be a tumultuous rollercoaster of highs and lows. As a number one guy of the theater, he gave a few compelling performances in such performs as Golden Boy and King Lear. For the Hollywood studios, Cobb healthy the outline of the "character actor." not anyone larger epitomized the performer who all at once seems at the display and instantly grabs the audience's cognizance. in the course of his forty-five-year profession, there wasn't an important star—from Humphrey Bogart and James Stewart to Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood—with whom he didn't work.

Cobb was once additionally through controversy: he seemed prior to the home Un-American actions Committee within the Nineteen Fifties and was once a witness to a movie-set homicide case within the Seventies. via all of it, he by no means misplaced his style for speedy vehicles and gin rummy. A undergo of a guy with a voice that both accommodated growls and sibilant sympathies, Cobb was once undeniably an actor to be reckoned with. during this interesting e-book, Dewey captures all the drama that surrounded Cobb, either on display and stale.

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The closer ties between the Group Theatre and the Theatre Union enabled Cobb to jump back and forth between the companies for the next couple of years. indb 36 12/18/13 7:38 AM Group Experiences 37 stage voice in a second production of Odets’s Waiting for Lefty. When Clurman paired the play on a bill with another Odets piece, Till the Day I Die, Cobb took the stage for the first time with the company in the minor role of a police detective. Till the Day I Die, churned out by Odets in five days and running 136 performances into the summer of 1935, deals with a German Communist driven to suicide when the Nazis persuade his comrades that he has betrayed them.

220. 20. , p. 49. 21. Helen Krich Chinoy, “Reunion: A Self-Portrait of the Group Theatre,” Educational Theatre Journal 28, no. 4 (December 1976), p. 528. indb 32 12/18/13 7:38 AM Chapter 4 Group Experiences Cobb’s second return from California was nowhere near as abject as his first one. His résumé from the Pasadena Playhouse helped him get radio work that, while not paying much, verged on the steady, and there was no more talk of taking up another trade. Further, he found a New York theater scene that had expanded significantly even in his short time on the West Coast.

16 Some of the Group’s organization problems were idiosyncratic, others reminiscent of those that had plagued Stanislavsky in Moscow. Stella Adler, a member of the first family of the Yiddish Theatre and the company’s most prominent female player, sardonically acknowledged that collegial playing didn’t come easily to her. “You could not put me into an ensemble. I was a princess. My father was a king, my mother was a queen. You couldn’t do that to me. I hated it. I hated everybody. It was part of my tradition.

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