My husband and I have been ailing for about a week and during that time we’ve spent a lot of time napping in front of TV and watching old movies. Westerns, if we can find them, are usually our faves and we’ve seen several this past week, among them “Broken Trail” and “The Long Riders” with Robert Duval. Seeing him in those movies set me to thinking about all the great movies I’ve watched and enjoyed featuring this fine actor, going all the way back to “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
IMHO, Duval is just about one of the best cowboy actors I can think of. Many have had more star power. John Wayne comes to mind. Many of the popular older western actors played themselves within the confines of the movie story. But with Robert Duval, the character he plays *is* the story.
I know little about acting and even less about movie-making, but it seems to me that the mark of a fine actor is one who can make you forget who *he* is for a moment and instead, concern yourself with the character he plays. In “Broken Trail,” I could feel his character’s inability to say the words that were in his heart. In “Tender Mercies,” again, I felt his pain.
And who could ever forget him in “Lonesome Dove?” He owned the character of Gus. When I first heard who had been cast in that movie, my first thought was “Oh, no, that’s all wrong.” Now, after watching the movie more times than I can count, I can’t imagine any other actor in that role. When I’ve re-read the book, I picture Duval as Gus. If I were an actor, I think it would be a great inner satisfaction to have had so long a career portraying and branding so many great, unforgettable characters.