THIS POST IS PART OF THE SYDNEY POLLACK BLOGATHON
Will & Grace was a tv show that ran from 1998 to 2006, and if you’re a regular listener of our podcast, it should come as no surprise if I say that this is one of my favorite shows. Evidently, it follows the lives Will and Grace: two adults sharing an apartment in NYC, but who are in no way romantically involved — which is only natural; you see, Grace is an interior designer, and straight, whereas Will is a lawyer, and gay. Also starring are friends Jack and Karen — a charismatic aspiring actor (also homossexual) and a rich, spoiled and frisky woman (sexual orientation not clear), who happens to be Grace’s “secretary”.
Somewhere in season two, Will’s father pays a visit. He is someone Will idolizes and loves very deeply, having the fortune to see these feelings reciprocated. However, their seemingly perfect relationship is soon to be shaken at its core, as Will finds out that his father has lied to his co-workers about his son’s sexual orientation. It is then that Will suffers the most atrocious pain any child can feel: the realization that his father is not perfect; he’s just a guy.
Though everything seems to be fine between them by the end of the episode, this incident will become a recurring theme throughout the show, until it reaches its climax towards the very end of the series, when his father returns for his final appearance. Despite having very few scenes, George Truman has proven to be crucial to Will’s development as a character, and was certainly one of the better accomplished characters on the show. Even though Will & Grace is a comedy series, the final moments between them remain some of the show’s most emotional, serious and dramatic moments. Such a memorable figure could only be brought to life by a greatly talented actor, and that man was precisely Sydney Pollack.
But Pollack’s dexterity in front of the camera revealed itself many, many years before, in tv series such as the iconic The Twilight Zone, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents: In The Contest for Aaron Gold (aired October, 1960), Pollack plays Bernie Samuelson, a ceramic arts teacher working at children’s summer camp. The camp’s Director goes to great lengths to make the parents happy, keeping everything running efficiently. In a class where no one cares about ceramics, it wasn’t hard to notice young Aaron Gold, a quiet but talented student who seems immersed in Samuelson’s assignment. Aaron begins skipping activities to work on his piece, with Bernie successfully covering for him, until the day of the parents arrival approaches, and the Director is alarmed by the fact that Aaron’s sculpture is not finished — his Knight lacks an arm.
It’s not one of my favorite episodes, perhaps because there’s nothing suspenseful about it, but it makes a compelling case in favor of Sydney Pollack’s promise as a relatively young actor. The times were different and so were the acting methods, but still the director we’ve come to admire and respect vanishes behind Bernie Samuelson. Though looking at his acting roles one might wonder why Pollack decided to devote himself to directing, it takes merely a glimpse at one of his movies to understand his decision. The truth is, we are in the presence of one those rare men who can excel at more than one thing, and one that has proven just that over the course of many decades.
These roles may be small, but remain two that I’ve always adored: one is, if not for anything else, is compelling merely for the fact that it is Syndey Pollack in Alfred Hitchcock’s show; while the other always strikes me as fascinating, for Pollack’s ability to not only pass as an ordinary man, but for his great character work that thrives in just a couple of minutes.
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