29 March 2012 | david-greene5
A Treasured Record of a Great Portrayal
The only slight reservation I have about this TV version of the play is the fact that it was clearly shortened for the medium. The greatest thing about this recording is that it preserves Lee J. Cobb's interpretation of the lead role. I was enrolled in a drama school in the early 60s, a time when several of our teachers had actually seen him in the 1947 stage play. They would frequently speak, in reverent tones, of the scorching great performance that Cobb delivered. This 1966 television revival makes Cobb seem all the more remarkable to me due to the nearly twenty year interval that had passed since the New York run of the play. No matter how great a performance he might have initially delivered, many an actor would have lost a lot of the original intensity in that span. On top of this, Cobb had experienced a battering ordeal at the hands of the House on Un-American Activities Committee toward the end of the run of the play. There is a fascinating story behind Cobb's development of the role. During rehearsals, the director was considering replacing Lee, as his work was not showing promise. The story goes that, at a critical point, Cobb had been staring at a crack in a wall in the rehearsal space. Suddenly he was seized by a strong sense of the character which immediately endowed his reading with uncanny feeling and intensity. Late in the run, it is told that the characterization took such a pervasive hold on the actor that he started to take it home with him, unable to snap out of it.