WolfmanOz at the Movies #92


Jack.

Jack Nicholson is one of cinema’s all-time greatest actors. Now retired, he has throughout his five-decade career, appeared in 80 films, for which he has received numerous accolades, including 3 Academy Awards (including 12 nominations) 3 BAFTA Awards (including 7 nominations) and six Golden Globe Awards (including 17 nominations). He has also received the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award in 1994. In many of his films, he played rebels against the social structure. He is one of the few remaining legends of cinema that is still alive today.

Born on April 22nd, 1937 he was actually raised by his grandparents as his mother was unmarried, a situation which he did not know until 1974 when he was informed that his sister was actually his mother and his other sister was his aunt. On finding out he said it was “a pretty dramatic event, but it wasn’t what I’d call traumatising. I was pretty well psychologically formed”.

After military service in the California Air National Guard he trained to be an actor with a group called the Players Ring Theater, after which he found small parts performing on the stage and in TV soap operas.

He made his film debut in a low-budget teen drama The Cry Baby Killer (1958), playing the title role. For the next decade, Nicholson frequently collaborated with the film’s producer, Roger Corman, most notably in The Little Shop Of Horrors (1960) as undertaker, and masochistic dental patient, Wilbur Force.

In the mid-1960s his acting career was stagnating, and Nicholson seemed resigned to a career behind the camera mainly as a writer where he wrote the 1967 counterculture film The Trip and co-wrote the 1968 movie Head which starred The Monkees.

Nicholson’s first big acting break came when a role opened up in Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda’s 1969 mega-hit Easy Rider where he played alcoholic lawyer George Hanson, for which he received his first Oscar nomination. Now I’ve never really cared for the film but when Nicholson is on screen he just dominates the movie.

In 1970, Nicholson starred in Five Easy Pieces in what became his persona-defining role, and his first Oscar nomination as Best Actor. The film was another huge hit and established Nicholson as a serious Hollywood leading man to be reckoned with.

During the 1970s Nicholson put together an amazing list of leading performances in Carnal Knowledge (1971), The Last Detail (1973), Chinatown (1974), The Passenger (1975), The Fortune (1975) and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) where he won his first Oscar.

After directing the western comedy Goin’ South in 1978 he then starred in arguably his signature role as Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick’s supernatural psychological horror masterpiece The Shining (1980).

He was again outstanding in the 1981 remake of The Postman Always Ring Twice and, in a supporting roles, as Eugene O’Neill in Reds (1981) and another Oscar winning role (supporting Actor) in Terms Of Endearment (1983).

He was excellent as the dim-witted mafia hitman in Prizzi’s Honor, deliciously evil as The Devil in The Witches Of Eastwick (1987), and he was a lot of fun as The Joker in Batman (1989).

Returning to directing in 1990 he made The Two Jakes, a sequel to Chinatown. Although not in the same league as Roman Polanski’s masterpiece it was still an excellent film although it failed at the box office.

He accepted another memorable supporting role as Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in A Few Good Men (1992), and although he only had 3 scenes they were totally unforgettable.

His output started to slow down in the 1990s although he won another Oscar in the romantic comedy-drama As Good As It Gets (1997) playing a misanthropic, bigoted and obsessive-compulsive novelist.

He started the 21st century with one of his best performances as a retired actuary in About Schmidt (2002) where he gave a marvellously subdued performance.

Nicholson could still play the romantic lead to both ladies of his own age and much younger in Something’s Gotta Give (2003) and in 2006 he gave probably his last great performance as mobster Frank Costello in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed (2006).

His output over 50 years has been simply amazing and if there’s one thing you could always say about Jack Nicholson is that he is never dull. Every time he’s on camera he has that magical spark that always lights up the screen whether he’s playing drama, comedy, romance or horror.

For me, Jack Nicholson, is not only one of Hollywood’s greatest ever actors, he’s also one it’s greatest ever stars, the type of which I’ll doubt we’ll ever see again.

Enjoy.

and the tease for next week’s post . . . Music was his passion. Survival was his masterpiece.



19 responses to “WolfmanOz at the Movies #92”

  1. Christine Avatar
    Christine

    Agree with all in this review. Certainly a star.
    I don’t know how I missed “About Schmidt”.
    Thank you

  2. ianl Avatar
    ianl

    In my view, unlisted here, his best role was as a foil to Marlon Brando in Missouri Breaks. A brilliant film, with tension constantly built and maintained.

  3. SandyK Avatar
    SandyK

    Wolfman I think you forgot Bucket List. Jack never had to act, he just played himself in each movie.

  4. WolfmanOz Avatar
    WolfmanOz

    I have to admit I have struggled for the last few months in composing a weekly film post.

    In the context of what is going on in the world, both here in Australia and overseas, it seems somewhat unimportant and pointless, especially as the medium of film making is fast approaching irrelevance today as the quality of output is rendering what was once a great art form into an expensive exercise of nothingness; something which I greatly lament for.

    Still I’m managing to get just through, and, I’ve even pretty well finished the post for next week which has particular relevance to what is happening today.

  5. dopey Avatar
    dopey

    Missouri Breaks. All I remember is Nicholson and a woman sitting on a horse, with the woman facing the wrong way.

  6. Bruce of Newcastle Avatar
    Bruce of Newcastle

    The Devil in The Witches Of Eastwick (1987), and he was a lot of fun as The Joker in Batman (1989)

    I rather liked him in both of those. As someone said once the baddies always get the best lines, and he looked like he was having fun in those two movies.

  7. Alamak! Avatar

    Liked him a lot in Easy Rider, a good contra against the two hipsters on bikes and shocking when he gets beaten at the camp site.

    As for world events ‘trumping’ cinematic art … Art can always provide us lessons and experiences to help make sense of current news, even if we need to go back a bit to find the good stuff. For examples, see Dr Strangelove, Battleship Potempkin, The Great Dictator etc.

  8. hzhousewife Avatar
    hzhousewife

    I haven’t seen his early films but from Easy Rider on, I always admired Jack Nicholson’s performances, he is so natural, and such a bad boy!
    I sympathise with you Wolfman, trying to search for the gems in the dross, especially the last ten years. Fortunately, I don’t mind watching the good stuff over and over, nice to have the list of Jack’s work.

  9. johanna Avatar
    johanna

    Stuff world events, Wolfman.

    The whole point of cinema is to take us out of ‘world events.’

    Back to topic, I never liked Jack Nicholson, although he was a very good actor. Somehow, he always came across as a sleazebag.

    I suppose sleazebags are part of Life’s rich tapestry, so we have to have them.

  10. Roger Avatar
    Roger

    I never liked Jack Nicholson, although he was a very good actor. Somehow, he always came across as a sleazebag.

    I always thought Nicholson personified Hollyweird in its counter-cultural phase (along with his buddy Polanski).

  11. Diogenes Avatar
    Diogenes

    In the context of what is going on in the world, both here in Australia and overseas, it seems somewhat unimportant and pointless, especially as the medium of film making is fast approaching irrelevance today as the quality of output is rendering what was once a great art form into an expensive exercise of nothingness; something which I greatly lament for.

    Mate, the guys at Unauthorised History of the Pacific did an episode of Pacific Theatre war movies as a break from the grind of Tarawa Saipan and Guam.

    Agree modern film is utter white.

  12. jupes Avatar
    jupes

    In the context of what is going on in the world, both here in Australia and overseas, it seems somewhat unimportant and pointless, especially as the medium of film making is fast approaching irrelevance today as the quality of output is rendering what was once a great art form into an expensive exercise of nothingness; something which I greatly lament for.

    Don’t stop Wolfie. Your posts are a joy. There are plenty of old movies and stars to write about.

    The Shining is the best horror movie ever. I also enjoyed a lot of Jack’s other movies. In as Good As It Gets, his performance was superb. I try to use the phrase “Is there any other way to see it?” in similar circumstances when I can. Classic comedy.

  13. Louis Litt Avatar
    Louis Litt

    Thanks Wolfie
    Agree with your comments re the world and film, and all art forms.
    With the advent of CD for memory, this encouraged more classical recordings, but the recordings went back further in time.
    Perhaps look at the 1930 and 1940.
    There were crackers then, goodbye Mr chips, King Kong, san Fransisco , Alice Adam’s, Anna kerrinin, king Vidors fils about Catherine the Great, Gilda, gaslight.
    With what’s happening today, I look back on film, literature, painting and think nearly all of it from 1965 on wards is leftist trade – devoid of talent and celebrations bad behaviour.
    Jack was a big part of it.
    Five easy pieces still sticks with me, especially when he pulls the sweater off that lady.
    Keep going and like a real artist only produce what is worthwhile.

  14. Louis Litt Avatar
    Louis Litt

    Wolphie
    I forgot to mention captain courageous with Spenser Tracy, the hunch back of Notre dame with Charles Laughton, the yearling with Alan Ladd,
    These movies were deeply emotional. Sex, violence and foul langauge were not needed. It was all about people in life.

    Oh – have you done a review of the best screenplay written by a woman – slapshot.
    The goodbye girl by Neil Simon is a delight.

  15. Louis Litt Avatar
    Louis Litt

    Wolphie
    Watch “it’s a wonderful life” again – it will pick you up

  16. WolfmanOz Avatar
    WolfmanOz

    Thank for the positive comments . . .

  17. Fair Shake Avatar
    Fair Shake

    Wolfman, you produce tremendous work. For me it makes me think about movies sometimes from a different perspective… like listening to different elements of a well listened to song. Thank you.

  18. Fair Shake Avatar
    Fair Shake

    This afternoon I attended free Opera in Fed Square Melbourne. The music takes you too different emotions and memories. For me one was Shawshank Redemption . The scene where the opera music is played thru the jail pa. …so beautiful. The jail scene reminded me of Melbourne. Lockdown and culture war anyone?

  19. WolfmanOz Avatar
    WolfmanOz

    Fair Shake
    Feb 3, 2024 7:29 PM

    Yes it’s a sublime scene . . .

    https://youtu.be/TN7YwSVVUgg

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