ANATOMY OF A LEADING MAN : ARTS

Every actor, they say, has one great part in him. It may be his mouth, it may be his knees, or it may be something less tangible. If you could piece together the perfect male lead, which bits of whom would you choose? David Thomson plays fantasy film- maker and zooms in on the Hollywood great who had 10 shoulders, the one who lived in the shadow of his own moustache, and the one who let his walk do the talking

HAIR

For seven years, from Bonnie and Clyde to Hea-ven Can Wait, Warren Beatty had and did terrific hair. Technically it was long, chestnut and voluptuously waved. But emotionally it bespoke a desire and folly that Beatty the actor was always too shy, ortoo grim, to disclose. Shampoo was the hair's moment of glory: Beatty hurried all over LA, doing lovely heads without ever, by so much as a nod or a wink, leaving Goldie Hawn, Julie Christie, Lee Grant or Carrie Fisher as more than a shopgirl next to his Monsieur de Pompadour.

EARS

You could count Clark Gable's ears - one, two - without turning him sideways. They stood out from his head like handles on a jug. They weren't very noble or artistic, it's true. But the thing about Gable was that if he hadn't had ugly ears, he'd have been impossibly handsome and svelte for a guy from Ohio or an actor who was set to play regular parts. So the ears were like the handles on a boy's bike. They let you grab hold of the dream. They helped you sit in the saddle.

MOUSTACHE

Look at Errol Flynn before his moustache and there's a man wanted for murder, never mind rape. That simple addition made him as merry as Robin Hood, as playful as the elderly John Barrymore. It served as the smile his rather anxious eyes had trouble

with. Later on, his moustache got a life of its own: Flynn had to order two drinks at a time, and the hairy circumflex usually got the pretty girl while Flynn was left with the sad one, sadder still that there wasn't quite the tickle she'd expected.

MOUTH

Why did Marlon Brando mumble? To make us look at his mouth. This was a mouth that could have played Dracula even if its teeth fell out, a mouth in which the upper lip was like a crest, a supercilious overhang, while the lower lip waited in sensual repose. The mouth was Jekyll and Hyde, and so the voice was always a struggle between different accents, the wish to be heard and the feeling that nothing made sense. The mouth was arrogant and needy, austere and abandoned, a thug's and a poet's. And now it is sneering at us for buying his wretched autobiography.

SHOULDERS

A medical phenomenon, James Dean had 10 shoulders - for looking over, hiding behind, a place for Natalie Wood's head to rest on, the Californian hill beyond which Eden lay, the promontories of self-pity and peekaboo, a way to mask his 57-year-old eyes, the crest behind which he could always be alone, the barricade for his sly come-hither stare and, one last one, the cold shoulder you might melt, the shoulder as erotic peak.

ARMS AND HANDS

Whenever James Stewart started to go "er - ooh - ah", his arms came up and his hands began to dance. They were the gentle eloquence at which words failed - the kindness that cupped the distraught face of Margaret Sullavan or stroked a rabbit that wasn't there. Later on, these hands grew tougher - they learned to grasp a Naked Spur as well as the telephoto lenses in Rear Window. They played Glenn Miller's trombone and Duke Ellington's piano. They moved the Senate, but they couldn't keep Kim Novak from falling.

GAIT

Walking, walking, here comes John Wayne, a little like a sailing man, with hips unhinged or needing oil. He had a way of coming at you, a stance to be reckoned with. He stood like a tree in John Ford's open doorway, then turned away, braced against the wind and the solitude. Later, near his end, he came down the Academy's slippery stair-case one step at a time, dying but resolute. "Believe me," he said, "when I tell you I'm mighty pleased that I can amble down here tonight."

EYES

These eyes are the eyes of Montgomery Clift and oh, how they lead us astray. They were the eyes you would want to have look at your girl; they were eyes you would dream for in a mirror. They stood up to the early violet glory of the young Elizabeth Taylor, and took in her blancmange breasts, too. The eyes that were filled by the flood of Red River, that gazed on the chance of A Place in the Sun, and saw all the way From Here to Eternity. But they were the eyes left behind when the rest of his face had been broken and wired.

FACIAL MUSCLES

Gary Cooper, as a young man, was maybe the most beautiful male the movies ever had - and he'd have blushed if you said it. Enough women did say it - and maybe he did have other things weighing on his mind - but by the late 1930s he had deep lines of

doubt arcing out like mouth lines, drawing his face down. Some-times they twitched; sometimes they stood out like canyons. But as Cooper grew older so his face stood alone as a monument to what Hollywood dreaded - ageing. By the time of Man of the West, those raised muscles were like scars of pain and wisdom.

CHEST

Robert Mitchum's chest was like Sir Lancelot's breastplate. It came into the room a second and a half before Mitchum, cavernous, sheer, a rock overhang that no one could climb. Was it the weight that made his eyes seem sleepy or mocking? What could it be that he was pushing before him - a wardrobe? A barrel? A card table for later? No, his drinks cabinet.

VOICE

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm James Mason, and, sadly, you are not. I know, don't rub it in - and really I won't, but you have to admit that no one else ever talked like this: absorbed Huddersfield, Dublin and Belgravia and ended up transatlantic. How did you like my Rommel? Not as much as Norman Maine? Never raised my voice; never lowered my class. Ladies (forget the gentlemen for a moment, shall we?), how far would you let talk go? And was there ever another voice that could have murmured "Lolita,

light of my life, fire of my loins"?

DOUBLE-TAKE

Cary Grant has to be here; he could have been nominated for every part of the body. But just as Wayne makes it on stance - physical bearing, the promise of movement, a way of crossing space, so Grant is here for what I call sidelong glance, or double-take, an intellectual and emotional promise, the readiness to tease and take things so seriously that you can make a joke out of anything. Cary Grant had attitude, a way of seeing and being seen, not quite full-face, but oblique, askance, between the lines, beneath the beat. He made other thoughtful actors seem solemn and complacent.

BEARD

There have been two Sean Connerys. One made up for baldness with a peaked hairpiece made of black styrofoam. He was a visual joke in those days, .007 on the human scale, but cruelly attractive. Then he gave up on vanity, and let his dome shine through, compensated by the most natural rugged, salt-and-pepper beard the movies had ever seen. He became himself; he grew warm. Women wanted him and not his brutal edge. And in this second stardom, his unaltered Scots accent seemed exactly what a beard hadto say for itself.

KNEES

When Wyatt Earp walked to Sunday meeting in My Darling Clementine or when Young Mr Lincoln took steps, the expedition was as perilous and pedantic as Henry Fonda's knees. He was tall, he seemed flat-footed; and he was like a Pinocchio whom Gepetto had not really screwed tight at the knees. There was an alluring prospect of collapse, a gingerliness that made for suspense. And so in The Lady Eve, when Barbara Stanwyck's cardsharp is always tripping up his studious stooge, when he's in a tangle at her pretty feet, the lewd glitter in Stanwyck's eyes means only one thing - arthroscopic surgery.

D***

There `s a part of the anatomy not to be named, at least not by me in a family paper. But Gary Cooper, it was said, was prodigiously hung. Of length and texture so many starlets had sung. Did he have clothes custom- constructed so that it could be concertinaed away? And how many handmaidens were needed to carry his train on formal occasions? No, it can't be true . . . but then think of the titles and marvel, my dear: Beau Geste, Meet John Doe, The Fountainhead, High Noon.

BUTTOCKS

Resolutely refusing body doubles, valiantly giving himself up for the movie, Michael Douglas in recent years has acted his ass off. He has done the thing actresses have had to do for 30 years: show us his bum. For Douglas is the actor who takes on those onerous roles of the more-or-less family man suddenly afflicted by a nymphomaniac. So Michael's rosy cheeks have turned ashen pale at the ministrations of Glenn Close and Sharon Stone. Yet there's a fond family touch for nostalgists, for isn't Michael's cleft the mirror image of the chasm that once split Kirk's chin?

LEGS AND FEET

I won't write, don't ask me;

I won't write on feet or legs;

It won't help if your readers im-

Plore me, or if the editor begs,

There's no point in even asking - With feet and legs, I'm not chancing

My arm, because there isn't any room for

Another when we're dancing!

Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most