Love and Acting Don’t Mix, 1938

Love and Acting Don’t Mix

by Fred Colton

[…] Now perhaps it is time to seek a logical reason for the failure of off-screen sweetheart to deliver their rated love-power when they face each other on the screen. Among those who have tried to explain it is the astute Leslie Howard. Says he: “So few outsiders seem to understand a point that is perfectly clear to most actors. It’s that no actor can adequately express the emotions of a character he is portraying without first thrusting his own emotion into the background.  He cannot entertain two sets of emotions at once!

“It’s absurdly obvious, then, that an actor’s real-life love for his leading lady, or his consciousness that she is in love with him, is a very distracting influence. Just about the most distracting he could have in playing love scenes. It is the actor’s job to clear the decks of his mind of all distracting influences–worry about his unpaid bills, his stage fright, his health, his bet on the races. Mentally, he should cease his own existence, take on instead the existence, characterics, thoughts and emotions of the character he is playing. If the woman opposite him reminds him powerfully of his real-life being and experiences, because he is in love with her, he’ll probably do a bad job.”[…]

(Motion Picture, December 1938)