Carl Brisson, Master of Nuance

The many faces of Danish songster Carl Brisson, as seen in Alfred Hitchcock’s THE MANXMAN ~

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Joy.

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Elation.

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Doubt.

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Querulousness.

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Despair.

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Fury.

He is a happy chappie. I mock, and quite unfairly, for in fact Mr. Brisson has plenty of range. He just tends to play joyousness with a certain bouncing-on-the-couch dementedness. It’s easy to see why he didn’t work with Hitch again after this film — his yumping yiminy accent (as heard in MURDER AT THE VANITIES) would make him hard to cast, and he was probably sick of having his love interest abscond with other, sallower and pudgier men  — yet it’s equally easy to see his appeal. A bit like Frank Borzage’s main man Charles Farrell, Brisson is strapping, hearty and handsome, in marked contrast to the anaemic circus geeks, choleric bachelors and dyspeptic couch potatoes who made up most of British cinema’s leading players.

The tendency, which continued well into the ’40s and ’50s, was to cast successful stage actors in lead roles, regardless of whether they had pleasing physiognomies, athletic builds, or the ability to play cinematically. On the plus side, this meant that marvellous screen presences like Roger Livesey and Alec Guinness would get major roles which a more glamour-centric industry might have denied them. On the minus side, we got a veritable gallery of goats, feebs and bloaters uglifying our screens with their oiled hair and overbites. It’s incredible to think, at this distance, that all of the actors below were once considered leading man material ~

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Again with the exaggerations! But it’s kind of true.

8 Responses to “Carl Brisson, Master of Nuance”

  1. Christopher Says:

    almost mistook Carl there for Liberace!….Great Marijuana number…why that Peyote cactus is sproutin’ Dames!

  2. Love the photos of Brisson’s different expressions. Wasn’t there something similar in Patrick Dennis’ book “Little Me,” displaying the many faces of actress Belle Poitrine?

    And wasn’t there a quote in David Chierichetti’s to the effect that Brisson only used that accent ’cause he thought it made him sound more adorable?

  3. Oh, I’m so glad that number’s on YouTube!

    You’re right Chris, I see there’s a story that when Leisen corrected Brisson’s pronunciation, he said “Oh, I know how to say it, but isn’t it cuter the other way?” No, Carl, it isn’t. I think the accent was real, but he played it up (like Marion Cotillard at the Oscars last year).

    Leisen also says that Brisson was trying to appear younger, so he hid his wife away and pretended his son was his brother! In Murder at the Vanities, he’s got his mother working anonymously as his maid, so that must have been easy for him to imagine.

  4. titirangistoryteller Says:

    Hi! Do you mind if I link back to you? I’m putting up a piece on The Ring and The Manxman – which of course, starred Carl Brisson…
    Cheers, Veronica aka Titirangi Storyteller

  5. Please do! I’d be delighted to read more about Carl, too.

  6. […] actor Carl Brisson stars in both – his startling blue eyes, dimples and boxer’s physique  resulting in one of […]

  7. titirangistoryteller Says:

    I think Matthew McConaughey bears a striking resemblence…
    I think the link is called a pingback… Cheers, Veronica

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