Weaving through time

It could be argued that Hollywood stars ascend to the firmament because the culture needs an embodiment of a particular archetype — and the movies are all about embodiment of archetypes.

I’ve written on this topic before: Top Hollywood actors are often the cultural reincarnation of some iconic actor from an earlier era. Which makes sense, for these people are the vessels by which our society expresses timeless psychological themes that weave through the culture.

But yesterday in particular, a friend was telling me that she had just rewatched the great 1933 James Whale film “The Invisible Man”. We discussed Claude Rains’ masterful performance in a difficult role — for almost the entire length of the movie you can hear his voice, but you cannot see his face.

Which works out well, since although Rains is a pleasant enough looking fellow, his speaking voice is one of the great wonders of the cinema. You can probably still hear in your head Rains’ perfect reading, as Captain Louis Renault in “Casablanca”, of the classic line “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

And I suddenly got a twinge of recognition. What current Hollywood actor is not all that much to look at, possesses a magnificent voice and diction, generally plays highly self-assured characters on the side of the devil (always with a mordant sense of humor), has a tendency to be cast in roles where you can hear his voice but not see his face, never gets the girl (you don’t even think he wants the girl), and is easily able to steal scenes away from major stars when he feels like it?

Why, Hugo Weaving of course.

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