Palo Alto

David Haglund writes:

‘Actors don’t lodge in the culture as once they did,’ David Thomson writes in the entry on Heath Ledger in the latest edition of his Biographical Dictionary of Film. ‘They are a type of celebrity now.’ He contrasts Ledger, who died three years ago at the age of 28, with James Dean, who died 55 years ago at the age of 24 and became the standard against which all young, handsome, would-be acting geniuses in Hollywood are measured. It’s not only, Thomson says, that Ledger wasn’t the actor Dean was. It’s that movies, and their stars, no longer occupy the same place in our imaginations. ‘Remember River Phoenix?’ Thomson asks, and answers himself: ‘Just.’

(LRB 17 March 2011)

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