“The Best of Us”, Part 2 — 4 Comments

  1. Jim, some well-chosen anecdotes here that give insight into Wyler's working methods with his actors. I always get the impression with his films that other elements–the set design, the photography, the staging of scenes–were largely worked out, at least in his mind, in advance. I know from what I've read, on the other hand, that he often adjusted the scripts as he shot when he sensed that a scene or dialogue wasn't working or could be strengthened for more impact. This semi-improvisation seemed to apply also to his methods with actors.

    It occurs to me that he might also have realized that when actors are worn down from doing numerous takes, their performances become less studied and "actorly" and give the impression of being more spontaneous. Whatever his motivation, there's no denying that he consistently got impressive performances from his actors. That so many actors worked with him more than once shows they must have recognized his instinct for quality in performance, no matter how arduous it was satisfying him.

  2. Jim, another story about Bette and Wyler. When they first started working together and he wasn't giving her any feedback she said something like: You know, Mr. Wyler, I've come accustomed to a director making some sort of comment about my work. And for a very brief time after she said this he started ending every take with "Fabulous work, Ms. Davis, let's do it again" and "Tremendous, Ms. Davis, how about another one?" Davis got the point and then asked him to go back to the way things were before. True story.