The Magic of Film

We, all of us, owe a lot to Hollywood. The hours of entertainment. The marriages that last such a short time that our elementary school crush on Suzie Spoto seems epic in comparison, the rampant sexual scandals which make we who our mothers assured us would go blind and or grow hair on our palms, seem pretty timid, downright Victorian.

So, yes. We definitely have to thank Tinseltown for all of this. But do you know who owes Hollywood an even bigger debt than you and I, Joe and Jane Ticketbuyer? The real-life people portrayed in the movies and on TV.

I’ll start with the example that came to mind as I was watching “Masters of Sex” on Showtime last night. I studied psychology in college, and I remembered seeing pictures of both William Masters and Virgina Johnson. Mrs. Johnson wasn’t the most hideous woman to ever walk the face of the earth, but she was no Lizzie Caplan.ginnylizziecompare

Clearly, the real Ginny got an upgrade, but that’s nothing compared to Bill Masters. Take a looks at this side by side:


Notice any difference? And, no, I am not referring to the pattern on the two bowties. If we’re being honest, the consistency of bowtie usage is just about the only thing between the two that isn’t in opposition!

After I made these comparisons I thought of a couple others. The 1963 movie “Cleopatra” had a star-studded cast of people who were all way better looking than the characters they played. Let’s start with Julius Caesar. Played in the film by the dashing Rex Harrison, the real J.C. does not appear to have had his counterpart’s charm and good looks.


Rex’s hairline extended down a little further, for one thing, and he just pulls being Caesar off a little better than Caesar did.

You know who did even better? Marc Antony. A few of the images of Marc Antony that I found weren’t half bad, but after finding the one below, which is said to be carved in his lifetime, Richard Burton’s portrayal makes the original pale when viewed next to one another.


Even if part of his nose hadn’t been broken off, it would seem to me that boxer Gerry Cooney looked a lot more like him than Burton. See for yourself:


Naturally, I’ve saved the best for last. Because the real Cleopatra was to Liz Taylor what toenail fungus is to a bed of roses.


Um, yeah.

Moving on to another film that tells the story of historical figures, let’s look at 1967’s “Bonnie and Clyde.” Because it’s fun to romanticize murderers! We’ll start with Clyde Barrow.


If he isn’t still looking up from hell and thanking the gods of casting for letting him be played by Warren Beatty, then despite being brought down in a hail of gunfire, he still got off easy.

But once again, this disparity is nothing in comparison to the treatment Bonnie Parker got at the hands of Hollywood.


Could Fay Dunaway look any more sultry? Could the real Bonnie look any more like a cigar smoking pig-woman? Again I would suggest that had they been going for absolute realism, Gerry Cooney is your pick to play Bonnie.

In recent years we’ve seen this trend diminish somewhat. Think Charlize Theron playing Aieleen Wuornos  in “Monster.” I don’t remember if the makeup artists won an Oscar for doing that to Charlize, but I am pretty sure that when they die they will be in the furnace next to Clyde Barrow for destroying that kind of beauty, even temporarily.

Or of the upcoming biopic of my life, in which I’m to be played by Brad Pitt. Err, sorry. Typo. That was supposed to say “Brad’s Armpit.”

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