Let's Stop Comparing Living Actors To Dead Actors

No offense to Jake; I'm sure he's awesome. But what's with Hollywood and their mutually-admiring hackneyed comparisons? After all, Natalie Portman only called him "the Cary Grant of our generation" after he called her "the Audrey Hepburn of our generation."

First High Grant was the Cary Grant of our time. (And look how that turned out!) Then George Clooney was the new Cary Grant, but I think he kind of lived it down. The latest contender? Gyllenhaal — who, about ten years ago, was named one of the "new Holden Caulfields," for what that's worth.

Of course, we all get where they're going with it: it means someone is suave and charming; can do light comedy or be a Hitchcock muse; and can rock a tux. When you think about it though, it's kind of a strangely-faceted comparison, especially when you consider that Grant was in some ways the ultimate Hollywood creature — totally reinvented, from name to accent — and is nowadays pretty much accepted as a byword for closeted Golden Age of Hollywood closely-closeted bisexuality. In short, a creation of the studio system and publicity departments, as much as a terrific actor.

But without wishing to ascribe back-handed motives to stars (who really just like telling the world how much they love each other), can we get a moratorium on the following comparisons?

  • The new Audrey Hepburn (Carey Mulligan has had the title for the past year)
  • The new Carole Lombard (Anna Faris)
  • The new Marilyn Monroe (Scarlett Johannson must be pretty tired of this one)
  • The new Lucille Ball (Jenny McCarthy, Anna Faris again)
  • The new James Dean (although I think Franco has outlived this one through sheer dogged weirdness)

...because the thing is, no one ever benefits from the comparison. Plus, why is it always the same people? Why can't we get a little David Niven action? Jimmy Stewart? Rita Hayworth? I'm ready for the new Fred Astaire to stand up! Have people just not heard of anyone else? But maybe when you think about it, all the on-message hyperbole is kind of in the Old Hollywood tradition. So they've got a point.

Natalie Portman Calls Jake Gyllenhaal 'The Cary Grant Of Our Generation' [New York Post]