For an actor (asexual term) to define an era they must in some way represent the culture of that time, transcending what we know to become larger than life. If they are not the people we know, they are the people we wish to be. So few have actually managed to do it. Over seven articles I am exploring the actors who best define their eras, the ten year period in which they became synonymous with their characters, who were representative of a time now gone past. We can in many ways place these performances and films in a time capsule and in one hundred years would understand exactly what the decade was about. They defined their time, they were who we wished we were, who we might want as friends, lovers, they gave us something to aspire towards. Here’s the list of top actors of 1950s.
1. John Wayne
John Wayne was a massive man, huge on the screen and came to personify what the American male wanted to be. He was big, he was tough and strong, tender and kind when he had to be. Men liked him and yet feared him, women wanted to be with him and protected by him. In the years after WWII, Wayne became what America needed, and what the men of America wished to be. For forty years Wayne roamed the movies screens, most of the time as the top box office draw in cinema. Usually his movies were westerns and in them we found he had a code of honor that incredibly he lived his life by as well. Wayne dominated the fifties with superb performances, the best of which The Searchers (1956) would earn him the best reviews of his life, but no Oscar, not even a nomination.
As the towering, racist Ethan Edwards, he went to a place he had never gone before, deep into the heart of the psyche of the American west, when at war with the natives, they saw them as savages. In The Searchers (1956) it becomes clear throughout the film that Ethan is every bit as savage as the natives, and has more in common with them than the white men. Face to face with the niece he has been searching for seven years, he cannot kill her as he planned, for she is part of him, and he realizes he has at last found his humanity. Sweeping her into his massive arms he pulls her close to his chest and whispers, “Let’s go home Debbie”. The last shot of Ethan in the film has him outside, away from the rest of them, forever to wander. Wayne followed that with the perfect John Wayne performance in Rio Bravo (1956), portraying John T. Chance the local sherriff as a brave, stand alone sort of guy. American could count on John Wayne, and he took that role very seriously. He defined for many what the American male should be. Virile, strong, massive, kind, gentle, he was a man, he was America or at least who American wanted to be.
Read More: Famous Gay Actors Working Today
2. Marlon Brando