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Happy 80th Birthday James Caan 26th March 2020!

A sincere birthday shout out to the magnificent actor James Caan who celebrates 80 years on the planet today. He had the usual start in TV series before making an impact on the big screen terrorising Olivia de Havilland in Lady in a Cage and thereafter he had an amazing ten years, scoring his first lead with Howard Hawks in Red Line 7000 (again with Hawks on  El Dorado) and led Countdown, Rabbit, Run and The Rain People; he gave a masterclass in the classic TV movie Brian’s Song. In a strange way his brilliance as Sonny in The Godfather threatened to overshadow him, as though he were born anew, all strutting machismo and bravado and little else, and it is true that I for one cannot go through a toll booth without looking out for lousy hit men following his wretched death in that legendary performance. He was all heart, if foolhardy, as the sexy Corleone. But he has a sweetness and a complexity beautifully exploited in Gambler, Comes a Horseman and Thief, in which he gives perhaps his greatest performance; comedy chops in Silent Movie and Harry and Walter Go To New York; he does romance well for Claude Lelouch in Another Man, Another Chance and Bolero.  In the Eighties he made his debut as director in the moving drama Hide in Plain Sight;  he was highly emotive as the ageing, saddened Vietnam sergeant in Coppola’s Gardens of Stone. In the Nineties he’s good fun as Spaldoni in Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy;  astonishing as the truly unfortunate author in Misery; he seemed perfectly at home backstage in For the Boys, just as he had done as Billy Rose in Funny Lady; and he gives great Philip Marlowe in that marvellous TV movie from Bob Rafelson, Poodle Springs. He slips between big and small screens including co-starring with son Scott, and he did five seasons on the series Las Vegas, which was appointment viewing in the Noughties. He has worked with everyone who’s anyone. He can do crime and action – villains seem to be easy for him; yet he can do emotion to wrenching affect; he can do funny (watch Elf again!); he can do show. He has a bearing that is always striking (look at how he moves) and despite an immediately identifiable voice he can inhabit a huge range of characters but retains an essence of total enigma. Named Italian of the Year for playing Sonny Corleone although he is German Jewish,  he tried to refuse the award, but, well, you know how that might have gone. He wisely accepted. What a mensch. Happy birthday James Caan. We adore you and want to watch you forever!

About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

One response to “Happy 80th Birthday James Caan 26th March 2020!

  1. Caan is always great! BTW, Hide in Plain Sight is a surprisingly compelling drama. Too bad that he didn’t direct more movies!

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