Julien Neaves, Editor
On October 31 legendary actor Sir Thomas Sean Connery passed away at the age of 90. The news hit me like a ton of bricks and I felt like a kindly uncle had died. I had seen so many of his films and followed his career for so long that I just had to do a tribute article. But just one article seemed insufficient for the magnitude of the man, so I will be doing four articles, one for each Saturday in November. For the second article today I will be focusing on five dramatic performances.
Sean Connery appeared in more 70 films over a career that spanned more than five decades, so watching/rewatching/reviewing all those films would be a gargantuan task which I do not have the time for. So for this article I decided just to do a sample of his roles in dramatic films (I’ll be doing his genre roles next week). With a SPOILER ALERT let’s get right into it:
#5 Mark Rutland – Marnie, 1964
Combining Connery with master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock? What could go wrong? Well, a few things. Now Connery is great as the dashing businessman who tries to rescue the titular psychologically-damaged compulsive thief and liar played by Tippi Hedren. But some of his methods are questionable to say the least, including threatening to beat her up, forcing her to marry him, and a scene of implied non-consensual sex.
The pacing of the film is also not the best and it is less of a thriller and more of a overwrought psychological drama. But despite some issues with the plot and characterisation Connery and Hedren are very good in it and it is a very well shot film. So yeah, I would still recommend this one, dubious gender politics notwithstanding.
#4 Captain Marko Ramius – The Hunt for Red October, 1990
Connery was a very talented actor but doing accents was not one of his stronger areas. But he was so good we pretty much just gave him a pass. As rogue Russian submarine captain Marko Ramius the accent wasn’t that great but his performance was. He was fascinating as the wise, capable and war weary sub-commander, and delivered one of the most memorable performances of his career. And the film is chock full of intrigue and suspense and features an all-star cast including Alec Baldwin, Sam Neill, Scott Glenn and James Earl Jones.
#3 John Patrick Mason – The Rock, 1996
Director Michael “Boom Boom” Bay gets a lot of flack (I just gave him some right there) but he has given us some of the best pure popcorn action flicks. And The Rock is easily one of his best movies. The pairing of Connery and Nicolas Cage does not sound like it would work on paper, but Connery’s super cool suaveness and Cage’s batsh— wackiness go together surprisingly well, like fish fingers and custard (Doctor Who reference there) or milk and mauby (Trini reference there).
Connery is delightful as the wrongly-imprisoned British agent and he is fantastic whether he is dropping one liners (his winner/loser advice is so good) or dropping bodies. The Rock is just some pure adrenaline fun. And sometimes that’s just what you need.
#2 William Forrester – Finding Forrester, 2000
This is one of my favourites from his filmography because the story is just so touching, heartwarming and inspirational. Connery is pitch perfect as the curmudgeonly, reclusive writer William Forrester and watching the evolution of his mentor/mentee relationship with Jamal (Rob Brown) is a thing of beauty. The film delves into themes of race, stereotyping, grief, loss and hope, and fittingly ends on the last one. This is a must see for any Connery fan.
Honourable Mentions Private Flanagan – The Longest Day, 1962 & Colonel Arbuthnot – Murder on the Orient Express, 1974
My former drama mentor once paraphrased Stanislavski for the class when he said: “There are no small roles, only small actors.” And in both these films Connery featured in extended cameos among massive ensemble casts. But both as jolly, wisecracking Private Flanagan in the World War II epic The Longest Day and as hot-tempered, love struck Colonel Arbuthnot, Connery was able to shine brightly despite only being in a handful of scenes and swimming amongst a sea of stars. So while these roles were small there was nothing small about this larger-than-life actor.
#1 Jim Malone – The Untouchables, 1987
There was really no better way to end this list than with the role that copped Connery his sole Academy Award (Best Supporting Actor) – beat cop turned Treasury agent Jim Malone. The Untouchables is a crime drama masterpiece by Brian de Palma and even with great performances by the likes of Kevin Costner and Robert De Niro, it is Connery who steals the show. He commands every scene as the no-nonsense, play-by-his-own-rules lawman. From his first scene trading barbs with Costner to his bloody final breaths Connery is pure class, and it is no surprise he took home the top honour.
So did I miss any of your favourite Connery dramatic roles? For Part 1 of my tribute and my Seven Genre Franchises Connery Skipped On you can click here.
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”.
I can also be found posting on Instagram as redmanwriter and talking about TV and movie stuff on Facebook at Movieville.