Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In Memoriam: Paul Muni

Paul Muni and Warner Bros. were made for each other...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThroughout the 1930s Muni was the top leading man the studio had, and in role after role his performances gave a face and voice to the social messages which the studio not only held dear but sought to publicize via their films. Every socially-conscious actor in Hollywood today owes him a debt of gratitude for blazing their trail, while every neocon blogger in the world should give thanks to him for giving them so much in the way of progressive politics to whine about.

Muni's movies were the kind that got legislation passed: from his pre-Code classics Scarface (1932) and I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (1932), to later fare such as Bordertown (1935) and The Life of Emile Zola (1937) just had that effect on people.

Muni often played a man wrongly accused, or else a good man trapped by circumstance in a world awash with corruption; and when he played a villain (as he did in Scarface), it was clear that it wasn't some inherent evil that drove his character to a life of crime, but a society which rewarded (rather than punished) such a choice.

Muni also excelled at that old Hollywood standby, the biopic; his research was meticulous and his performances masterful. He was nominated for an Oscar for playing Zola, and won in 1937 for his portrayal of Louis Pasteur.

Born on this day in 1895, Paul Muni died in August 1967.

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