Once again, I turned to Twitter friends to create a film list. As always, the final selection is entirely subjective, and I hope you will forgive me for excluding some notable titles, such as Raging Bull, Pinocchio and Apocalypse Now.
The list is in no particular order.
Jose Ferrer in Cyrano De Bergerac (Gordon, 1950).
“Is this the nose that launched a thousand ships?”
Ferrer plays the tragic Cyrano, a genius at life but hapless in love. Quite simply, Ferrer creates a masterpiece of screen acting, note perfect in what is the finest screen version of Rostand’s play. Precise, disciplined, intense, creative, Ferrer’s work here belongs in the very top bracket of screen performances.
Rudolph Klein-Rogge in The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Lang, 1933).
“Humanity’s soul must be shaken to it’s very depths. Frightened by unfathomable and seemingly senseless crimes. Crimes that benefit no-one, whose only objective is to inspire fear and terror. The ultimate purpose of crime is to establish the absolute reign of crime…a condition of complete insecurity and anarchy, built upon the perished ideals of the world. As soon as people are ruled by the terror of crime, when they have been driven insane by fright, when chaos is established as the governing law, then it will be the time of the reign of crime”.
Klein-Rogge plays criminal genius, Dr Mabuse, now living in an insane asylum, in Fritz Lang’s brilliant & beautiful crime film. Watch too for some of the most ingenious ways to conceal a gun.
Laurence Olivier in Richard III (Olivier, 1955)
A frequent employer of the false nose, Olivier produced and directed in addition to playing the lead role. He apparently based his characterisation on a theatre producer, Jed Harris, whom he described as “the most loathsome man I’d ever met.” The cast also includes John Gielgud & Ralph Richardson, who demonstrate the power of superb diction.
Jack Nicholson in Hoffa (De Vito, 1992).
Nicholson employs the false nose to transformative effect as he delivers one of the great, bravura screen performances. Nicholson is literally phenomenal playing the man who used his sheer force of will to build The Teamsters union. The script from David Mamet is pyrotechnic, and Danny Devito’s direction is classy.
Robert Helpmann in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Hughes, 1968).
“Here we are children! Come and get your lollipops!”
Helpmann as the Child Catcher is surely the creepiest character in all cinema.
Sleeper (Woody Allen, 1973).
“He’s bluffing. He wouldn’t shoot the nose.”
In his brilliant sci-fi farce, Woody Allen is cryogenically frozen for a couple of hundred years, and wakes-up to find that America has become a totalitarian state. He discovers that the reigning dictator, known as “The Leader”, suffered a fire at his home and all that is left of him is his nose. The plan is to create a clone of The Leader from the nose, but Allen, along with Diane Keaton, steal it and use it to bargain their way to freedom.
Jack Nicholson in Chinatown (Polanski, 1974).
“Hold it there, kitty cat! Hold it!”
In this retro-noir, Director Polanski’s ‘midget’ slashes Jack Nicholson’s nose resulting in surely the most iconic bandaging in cinema history.
Leslie Neilsen in Airplane! (Abrahams/Zucker, 1980).
Watch Leslie Neilsen go full Pinocchio as he lies to passengers about their plight in this wonderful spoof.
Orson Welles in Touch Of Evil (Welles, 1958).
Welles was apparently self-conscious about his nose, and regularly employed a false one for his characterisations. In Touch Of Evil, he gives one of his greatest performances, as the weird Captain Hank Quinlan. Welles directed too, although the film had originally been taken from him, re-shot and re-edited, and released as a B-movie. A new edit was undertaken in 1998 based on Welles’ notes.