I was thinking about the abrupt decline of a favorite film star of my youth and one of his best films.
In the early 1960s, a fictional President, made older than his age by the burdens of office, is about to support a candidate he does not like, does not enjoy being around. But Joe Cantwell is tough and decisive. And President Hockstader wants someone strong to lead the country through rough international times. When Cantwell threatens to release illegally obtained information, the President reacts:
And to think I was going to endorse you for President… You know, Joe. It’s not that you’re a bastard that I object to. I don’t object to that at all. It’s just that you’re such a stupid bastard that makes you insufferable.
Gore Vidal wrote the play The Best Man. It was made into a movie starring Henry Fonda. Cliff Robertson was the evil, slimy Joe Cantwell. The play, and that movie, may come closest to redeeming the truly awful public personna that Gore Vidal left as he departed this mortal coil. It was much harder to watch Vidal in televised interviews than it was to enjoy the movie script. He turned snide cynicism into an artform. One comment about Vidal stays with me: “He bites his betters on their kneecaps.”
Cliff Robertson played in other politically tinged films. John F. Kennedy asked that he be cast as young Kennedy in the movie PT 109.
Long before Harvey Weinstein exposed himself to us, years before he ever cast his eye on his first victim, Cliff Robertson convinced me of the deep down corruption of moviedom. He pretty much destroyed his career in 1977 through an unlucky bit of honesty. He accidentally discovered that a major studio had written a huge check to him for work he had never done. Robertson’s name was forged on the check, and the head of the studio pocketed the money.
Continue reading “The Difference Between a Bastard and a Stupid Bastard”