James Caan experienced a Hollywood career spanning 60 several years, his muscular physique and open, expressive, handsome face producing him eminently castable in any and each kind of drama, nevertheless not particularly as a intimate lead. It was his destiny to be affiliated with one good purpose: Santino “Sonny” Corleone, eldest son and putative heir of mob chieftain Vito Corleone in Coppola’s typical movies The Godfather and The Godfather Element II – Sonny is the raging hothead, the uneducated loudmouth, the undisciplined id of the mobster intellect, without the need of his father’s strategic wisdom or his brother’s watchful presence, the Corleone who hysterically needs all-out war from the family’s gangster enemies when they transfer from Vito but with no genuine idea how this is to be prepared or executed. But Sonny is certainly a superior soldier devoid of the duplicitous weak spot of his other brother Fredo.
Caan is caught in between the two brilliant performances of Brando as his ageing, ailing father and Al Pacino as his young brother Michael who initially desires practically nothing to do with the spouse and children organization. In comparison with these two, Caan’s is the considerably less hypnotically seductive character, and nevertheless it is Caan’s brawn, Caan’s sweat, Caan’s directness (which is not the identical as unsubtlety) and his grandstanding machismo which sets off these performances and is a essential aspect of the mob atmosphere. In his uncredited cameo at the incredibly stop of The Godfather Portion II, he is unforgettable in his rage at Michael signing up for the military, almost punching him at the meal table for his disloyalty to the loved ones and – a amazing contact – contemptuously grabbing the hand that Fredo had provided him in congratulation and wrenching it away.
James Caan’s Sonny epitomised all the boorishness, all the unthinking male entitlement of the mob spouse and children, particularly in the legendary wedding ceremony scene at the commencing of The Godfather, in which he is sneaking away from his wife and children to have intercourse with a bridesmaid: he is predatory, uncaring, furtive and by some means also utterly forthright, totally at ease with the male environment which eventually is to get rid of him: ambushed and shot at a highway toll booth: a warrior’s dying, maybe, a macho dying of the form Sonny might have imagined for himself if he were being not so unimaginative.
James Caan was the very epitome of all this, and in simple fact did get some additional “mob” roles later on. He was the ageing, totemic gang boss in Lars Von Trier’s Dogville in 2003 – and a great deal far more curiously, in James Gray’s The Yards in 1999 as Frank Olchin, the careworn manager of a New York rail car or truck engineering company that is the beneficiary of town hall graft and corruption. Just as in The Godfather, Caan has some excellent family members meal scenes, presiding around a huge food and earnestly telling all people that it’s a “clean plate club”: he is now nearer to a Vito character.
Caan gave one thing sinister to the concept of a sporting activities celebrity in the dystopian satire Rollerball in 1975 about a bread-and-circuses violent activity introduced in to divert humanity’s warlike impulses. That identical 12 months, Caan was good-natured and open up in his portrayal of Fanny Brice’s impresario husband Billy Rose in the significantly-panned Humorous Girl, the sequel to Funny Girl, enjoying reverse Barbra Streisand: it was boilerplate 70s casting and Streisand was a performer with whom Caan didn’t have much chemistry.
Nevertheless he was easily genuine as Frank in Michael Mann’s Thief in 1981, the experienced jewel thief and ex-convict who is as really hard as they come but however yearning to settle down and have a thing like a usual human existence with the younger lady he’s been courting, and to have a child, which is to lead him into the black market place in adoption. James Caan exhibits us a person who has experienced to steal everything all his life, and obtain another person to fence what he’s stolen: now this transaction is likely to underpin his goals of becoming a father and a frequent person. Caan’s confront: so difficult, so truculent and disillusioned, also displays us the soreness.
My favourite Caan functionality is likely one in which he had to cede the spotlight to a gigantic feminine guide general performance: Rob Reiner’s black comedian nightmare Distress, dependent on the Stephen King novel, in which he performs the bestselling creator of a sequence of romance novels showcasing a recurring character known as Misery – but now yearns to halt creating them and department out into some thing else. But an obsessive enthusiast, Annie Wilkes, performed by Kathy Bates, kidnaps him, tethers him to a bed, breaks his legs and forces him to write a different “Misery”. As with so many of Caan’s roles, this was available to many people today ahead of they received around to contacting him. But Caan introduced just the right variety of rugged everyguy persona: not an owlish bookworm, not a tortured mental, but a normal person who seems to be like a sports writer, or a productive attorney or a newsreader. James Caan experienced just enough outdated-university machismo for his humbling at the fingers of a terrifying woman to truly mean something.
Caan was component of the home furniture in Hollywood for so extended, and he kept doing work simply because of his actor’s savvy, his strong display existence and his wise perception of humour. The Godfather produced him a legend, and this superb, hardworking actor carried on producing great motion pictures and bolstered the status of everything he appeared in.