Thursday, June 26, 2014

Il cattivo

The above fellow is Eli Wallach, aka "the Ugly" starring in his film stealing role as Tuco Ramirez. M. Wallach made his appearance as a "Hero of the Day" back when I was writing those posts, and he has become, much to my sadness, the first of my live heroes to pass on to the great silver screen in the sky. There is a saying that you should never meet your heroes because they will disappoint you. That is probably as true as statement as any saying can be, and luckily for both him and me, I never met Eli Wallach.

M. Wallach died on the 24th of this month, a day before my birthday. We all die, and few of us get to pick the time of our departure, I must confess that I was relieved that M. Wallach did not die on my actual birthday.  It is a sad enough occasion in my life as it is, and to have a 'hero' die on it would have made it even worse. Sharing my birthday with another hero, one George Orwell, is enough of a burden for me to bear, to have to share it with the death of another might be more than I could bear. M. Wallach lived to the ripe old age of 98, and still managed, in my opinion, to die way too soon. His career was mostly a raging success, and the length of his filmography would be quite long. I am not here to go through his career role by role. I am here to mourn Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez. The role that cemented his place in my hero worship.

The 1966 film that was the last of the 'Dollar Trilogy' was also, in my opinion, the best of the films and the best role in the film. It is my considered belief that Clint Eastwood, who famously said that 'in the first film there was me, the second there was two, and in the third there were three, what is next me and the 7th Calvary?" did not make anymore films because he realized that Eli Wallach had stolen the film from him.  He did with equal parts buffoonery and consummate acting skill. That skill that allows us (along with the screen play) to understand Tuco as the deepest character of the three main characters. We see his humanity, and his religion (semi-fake though it may be), we see his brother, and hear of the recent death of his father. The Good, and the Bad do not get to possess the depth of character that Tuco shows us.

Mourning is a tricky business, and mourning what is in many was a complete stranger or a 'person' that never really existed is even more tricky. Of course, Tuco is not 'real' in the sense of being a person that exists beyond the screen on which he plays out his role. But, in many ways all of our lives are our own screen be it big or small, and each of us is playing a role that may or may not be the one we chose for ourselves.  It does become imperative upon us to play that roles or roles to best of our acting ability. Much like M. Wallach we get a chance to play more than one role in our lives, and hopefully we have the chance to steal the screen from our co-stars.

Mourning Tuco is made even harder by the fact that he isn't really dead. All I have to do is turn on my TV, and put in a DVD of 'The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly' and there is Tuco in all his glory alive and well playing the part that will forever make Eli Wallach a hero of mine. Today, while mourning the 'real' man that played the 'fake' character of Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez, I will watch that performance, and shed quite real tears in the hopes that it will make everything all right. And will that fails, which I am sure that it will, I will go out with my own co-stars, and drink a few Peronis in tribute to a man who played his role so very well. Goodnight sweet prince.

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