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#206. Robert Duvall

Certain actors just seem to be in absolutely everything. However, it can be difficult to take center stage for as often as these actors are on the screen (Nicholas Cage of course being the exception). Many times their roles are merely supporting, but they’re still there. It then stands to reason that people who have been in many films would eventually win awards for these performances, even if they are just supporting. On the flip side of this phenomenon, they are also bound to end up in some terrible films as well. Acting for over 50 years, Robert Duvall is just such an actor. His filmography is impressive, not only by its length, but also for the timeless movies in which he has appeared, many of which are Best Pictures. This week’s two films will highlight the bookends of Robert Duvall’s lengthy and illustrious career.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
Year: 1962
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 129 minutes / 2.15 hours

Actors always have to start out somewhere. While To Kill a Mockingbird is a great film on its own, it also holds the distinction of being Robert Duvall’s first film. In the subsequent years after this breakout performance, he went on to act in such films as Bullitt (1968), True Grit (1969), M*A*S*H (1970), and The Godfather (1972), the latter of which was his first nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Repeating this role in The Godfather: Part II (1974) did not earn him a nomination, but acting in Apocalypse Now! (1979) and The Great Santini (1979) did: each earning him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor, respectively. Not until 1983, with his role in Tender Mercies, did he actually win his solitary Oscar for Best Actor. And to think that this award came a mere 20 years after a bit part in an American classic.

Arthur “Boo” Radley (Robert Duvall) is a shut-in who has not been seen in many years, thereby causing rumors to grow and spread in the small Alabama town of Maycomb. Jean Louise “Scout” Finch (Mary Badham) and Jem Finch (Phillip Alford) are two local children who try to get a look at Boo Radley, as their curiosity drives them to figure out why he doesn’t come out of his house. Their father, Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), is a lawyer who is defending a black man accused of raping a white, teenage girl. As such, Scout and Jem soon become the targets of the town’s anger toward their father. After Atticus’ defendant is killed, his children are attacked by the drunken father of the wronged teenager. Their sole salvation comes when the attacker is killed by a mysterious stranger. This stranger is not so strange to Scout, who recognizes it to be Boo Radley.

Get LowGet Low
Year: 2009
Rating: PG-13
Length: 103 minutes / 1.71 hours

After his Best Actor win in 1983, Duvall’s career went into a bit of a slump. Sure, he was still acting in movies, but now he was receiving Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Supporting Actor. Rambling Rose (1991) and The Scarlet Letter (1995) marked the low point in his acting, but a few years later he would be back on top again with a Best Actor nod for The Apostle (1997) and Best Supporting Actor nomination for A Civil Action (1998). Soon he was acting in top-notch movies again like Secondhand Lions (2003), Thank You for Smoking (2006), and Get Low (2010). His most recent nomination for Best Supporting Actor in The Judge (2014) just shows that he still has what it takes to act and act well. And, although he didn’t win any awards for Get Low, he certainly was nominated for a lot of them: seven in total.

How often do we wish to attend our own funeral? We all want to know what others think of us. Quite often, their true feelings only surface once we are gone. Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) has decided that he wants to pay for a “funeral party” where he will hear what the townspeople think and know of him. Through this process, everyone begins to remember how Felix supposedly killed Mary Lee Troup (Arin Logan) and her husband forty years ago. Part of the reason that Felix wanted to have this funeral was to let everyone know the truth of the matter. While Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek), the sister of the late Mary Lee, was Felix’s girlfriend at the time in question, he reveals how Mary Lee was his one and only true love. An attempt to run away together went horribly wrong, resulting in the two deaths, even if Felix tried to save his love.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 delightful Duvall roles

Bacon #: 1 (Jayne Mansfield’s Car / Kevin Bacon)


5 responses to “#206. Robert Duvall

  1. Pingback: End of Act Four | Cinema Connections

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