Sunday, January 13, 2008


I've been watching 'Burke's Law' on American Life TV Network, and twice now we've seen the murder victim and then be told their age. Based on the look of the actor playing the role, the murder victim looks to be younger than he really must be.

This weekend's entry was "Who Killed WHO IV?", and Mr. W.H. Otis IV was found in a stable stall, clubbed to death. We only got maybe three or four seconds to view the body, but it was apparent that the late millionaire had to be at least in his sixties.

Yet Captain Burke mentioned later that he was fifty-five.

In an earlier episode, "Who Killed Jason Shaw?", we saw the body of a businessman, fully clothed, in a running shower. Maybe I'm insulting the guy based on his lousy genetic inheritence, but he looked to be in his mid-forties. Yet he was described as being in his early thirties.

I believe that unless otherwise stated, a character's age should reflect that of the person who's portraying him. But when the age is given, the actor better be able to justify that with his looks. If not, he better be a damned good actor to pull it off.

Makeup helps, especially if playing someone far older, but it gets dicier when trying to play younger. When Richard Chamberlain played a Scottish youth in 'Centennial', I bought into it because Chamberlain threw himself into the exuberance of that young age.

This is something that's bugged me since I first began watching 'The Twilight Zone'. Like the Narrator in 'Pushing Daisies', Rod Serling seemed intent on the audience knowing how old his protagonists were in the episodes.

Sometimes the show got it right:

David Wayne, 45, as Walter Bedeker, 44, in "Escape Clause"

Inger Stevens, 26, as Nan Adams, 27, in "The Hitch-Hiker"

Roddy McDowall, 32, as Samuel A. Conrad, 31, in "People Are Alike All Over"

Howard Duff, 37, as Arthur Curtis, 36, in "A World Of Difference"

Some were a little off, but still believable, like Vera Miles, 30, as Millicent Barnes, 25, in "Mirror Image"

But then there were others, that I just couldn't buy into:

Gig Young, 46, as Martin Sloan, 36, in "Walking Distance"

Harry Townes, 46, as Arch Hammer, 36, in "The Four Of Us Are Dying"

James Daly, 42, as Gart Williams, 38, in "A Stop At Willoughby"

Joe Mantell, 40, as Jackie Rhoades, 34, in "Nervous Man In A Four Dollar Room"

Richard Haydn, 55, as Bartlett Finchley, 48, in "A Thing About Machines"

George Grizzard, 32, as Roger Shackleforth, "youthful twenties"

With some of these, the difference may not seem great, but the fault lies in the actor. They don't bring out what it was like to be that younger age; they now have the experiences of their own age and carry themselves as such.

Although Gig Young is the better example, I'll use James Daly in "A Stop At Willoughby" to illustrate my point since the age gap isn't so great. At the time of filming this episode, Young was already over forty, and there's just some kind of gravity that pervades the demeanor of most people once they pass that milestone. (Although I can't see Jonathan Winters having that happen to him!)

Even though Gart Williams is supposed to be a beaten man, there's nothing to suggest to me that he shouldn't be as old as the actor who's playing him. And for me, it's always been a drawback to that episode.

Just sayin', is all......

Toby OB

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