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RIP Ron Silver

March 16, 2009

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I was very sorry to hear about the death of Ron Silver. He was only 62 and died from esophageal cancer.

Silver was a terrific character actor of TV, film, and stage and an indefatigable, and sometimes downright irritating (to me), political activist who was one of a slew of liberals of various stripes to become something different after 9/11. In his case, that meant someone who described himself as very liberal on most domestic matters but was, in my view, way, way right/hawkish — and way, way wrong — on war/peace type issues with those issues largely trumping the others…think a Jewish, non-soused, and way more civil Christopher Hitchens.

Brian Doan has saved me an enormous amount of verbiage on Silver’s fairly gigantic acting talents by basically saying what I was going to say, though possibly better. I will take a moment to echo Brian’s praise for Silver’s best known film performance in Barbet Schroeder’s Reversal of Fortune, a personal favorite of mine. Silver’s very focused onscreen energy was perfect for the role and an apt counterpoint to Jeremy Irons’ more coiled performance. It also occurs to me that Silver’s Alan Dershowitz on film is way more charismatic than the real Dersh  — but not just in the usual Hollywood manner where real people are played by prettier versions of themselves — and, in fact, Ron Silver was a great deal more likable throughout his own personal political perambulations than the similarly controversy-prone Harvard law prof. Though I stopped watching The West Wing after Aaron Sorkin left the show, I will echo Brian’s praise for  what I saw of his borderline amoral political consultant, Bruno Gianelli — who at first I thought was supposed to be stand-in for Dick Morris, but I can’t imagine Gianelli/Silver sucking anyone’s toes, so that’s out.

Huffpo has a pretty good obituary in which Silver makes the usual statement that his loud turn to the right on foreign policy hurt his career to some degree. I tend to be extremely skeptical about charges of anti-conservative oppression in Hollywood and tend to think that any political controversy can occasionally harm certain actors if they’re not superstars (just ask Ed Asner). Still, it’s possible certain narrowminded or insecure liberal producers and directors didn’t want to work with “Ron ron the neocon”– and then it was their loss, and the loss of their viewers.

Huffpo also has some very interesting reminiscences from double-plus Orwellian pollster Frank Luntz, kneejerk liberal director Alan Greenwald (who names Silver as a mensch), affable yet untrustworthy Clintonian/liberal pundit Paul Begala and, most of all, Ben Stiller, who remembers Silver doing a very fun thing he probably shouldn’t have done. And, though almost everything about the site makes me want to shred a pillow, I need to point you to a piece at Big Hollywood on the loss of his friend by conservative and similarly menschy producer-writer-director Lionel Chetwynd, who reminds us that my Christopher “The Trail of Henry Kissinger” Hitchens comparison is just a bit ironic, given that he actually played the old war criminal. But the one clip I found wasn’t…well, it wasn’t.

So, I’ll leave you with a more characteristic Ron Silver acting moment…

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