Tony: Isn't it a shame Ms. Grady could not be more positive!
I tend to agree with her about Welles' performance, but perhaps that is only because critics of the poorer versions of MR. ARKADIN have tugged away at Welles' false beards and hair pieces so much. It would have been a master touch, almost suggested in Sophie's remark about Gregori Arkadin's beard, to have had a a shot of him actually applying the beard or wig. After all, MR. ARKADIN is a film about, among several themes, the recognition of true identity. Such a quixotic character as Arkadin might well indulge himself in disguises. He does not want to be seen, or to see in the mirror, the Van Stratten he once was.
I like Robert Arden as Van Stratten more than Ms. Grady does. Wellesnet correspondents have thrown out speculations about what Welles was thinking of in casting him. Drossler or Naremore posit that he was projecting the model of Fred McMurray in DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944), that kind of gruff anti-hero with the voice-over regretful narration Welles pioneered in radio and earlier films. Another model possibility would have been John Garfield in THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Let me suggest a third one: Stanley Baker.
He was, as David Wishart describes him in his IMDb mini-biography, ". . . unusual star material to emerge during the Fifties – when impossibly handsome and engagingly romantic leading men were almost de rigour. Baker was forged from a rougher mould. His was good-looking, but his features were angular, taut, austere and unwelcoming. His screen persona was taciturn, even surly, and the young actor displayed a predilection for introspection and blunt speaking, and was almost wilfully unromantic. For the times a potential leading actor cast heavily against the grain. Baker immediately proved a unique screen presence - tough, gritty, combustible – and possessing an aura of dark, even menacing power."
Here was a young Welsh actor who for the early 1950's had considerable range, displaying the same kind of brutish attractiveness McMurray and Garfield had shown: Bosun Harris in CAPTAIN HORATIO HORNBLOWER R.N. (1951); Modred in KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE (1953); Bennet in THE CRUEL SEA (1953); Edgar Alan Poe in THE TELL TALE HEART (1953); Mike Morgan in THE GOOD DIE YOUNG (1954); Erik Bland in HELL BELOW ZERO (1954); Louis Galt in TWIST OF FATE (1954); and Henry, Earl of Richmond in Olivier's RICHARD III (1955).
[I remember how my Army pals (the ones who accompanied me to MR. ARKADIN in London, that Summer of 1955) raved about Baker in THE GOOD DIE YOUNG, a "bloke" picture, they called it, that I didn't go to at the Base theater, earlier that year. That they would have had praise for a British film with an unknown star was evidence of his potential appeal to American audiences.]
Not many Stateside heard of THE GOOD DIE YOUNG, but, indeed, Baker later hit the American market in films like ZULU, which he helped produce, and pleased in little gems like PERFECT FRIDAY. He was even knighted, but was dead of lung cancer at 49, before he could kneel before Queen Elizabeth II.
Had the history of MR. ARKADIN been different, Robert Arden's career might have resembled that of another "obscure radio actor," Joseph Cotten, who after CITIZEN KANE went on to play a deadly gigolo in Hitchcock's SHADOW OF A DOUBT -- and then, in middle age, become a rather unlikely romantic leading man.