There’s something wonderful about a profile of an actor done when the artist has nothing current to peddle. In today’s print edition of The Wall Street Journal, associate editorial-page features editor Matthew Hennessey delivers a sterling example of this type of profiling.
The article, for which Hennessey traveled to the 86-year-old actor’s 360-acre Byrnley Farm compound in northern Virginia, speaks for itself. Then there are the article comments, sort of the soundtrack to this journalistic movie. They remind how deeply Duvall’s work has reverberated and also confirm he remains, at all times, a gentleman:
Keith Edwards: As a boy growing up in Tuxedo Park, N.Y. I played tennis with Robert Duvall and his girls. In the 1970s he told me: ‘Life gives you four things to keep: your health, your job, your family and your home. But God put time for only three. So you cheat: forget your health and you get ill; forget your job and you fail; forget your family and divorce ensues; and then forget your home and the roof leaks. To my shock, he repeats this line in the movie The Paper decades later. Fine words of wisdom. Make no mistake, Robert is a gentleman of the finest stock. He was forbidden to join the Tuxedo Club as his profession as an actor prevented it. Despite that, he is the kindest person and always made you feel welcome.
Warren Roche: I met Bob Duvall at Richard Widmark’s house in Mandeville Canyon in about 1980. He was wearing tennis whites and was shorter than I expected. He was a gentleman for sure. I told my girlfriend at that time “I just met the man who’s been in just about every movie since the early ’60s.
John Rogiz: Met him standing in line at a sandwich shop in northern Virginia and could not help myself. Told him I loved his work. Thought I’d get a Hollywood brush-off but what I got was a soft, “Thank you sir.”
Roche in his comment wrote ‘Richard Richards’ house,’ but we believe he meant Widmark. Tantalizingly, Duvall told Hennessey that if the financing forces align, he would like to star in an adaptation of Elizabeth Crook’s forthcoming 2018 Western novel The Which Way Tree.