The Joseph Wiseman appreciation thread

in Actors Posts: 12,130
The idea for this thread came to me when I saw that the "Jew Bond" thread was closed. It struck me that:

1)Joseph Wiseman was Jewish
2)He was a fellow Montrealer
3)He set the benchmark to Bond's villains with Dr. No.

We owe Joseph Wiseman a lot. Because a movie is only as good as his villains, and a Bond movie even moreso. So let's talk about Joseph Wiseman and what he brought to the series.
«1

Comments

  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    edited March 2015 Posts: 15,963
    He gave us an amazing first villain, and set a high bar.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited March 2015 Posts: 23,883
    Having shamefully not read the book, I'm afraid I can't add too much value to this discussion thread.

    However, Wiseman brought us the first Bond Nehru jacket (& not Spectre #1), the first Bond villain deformity (used again in countless movies), the first dinner with our captive hero (done again so many times), and of course, he has a movie named after his character (only Goldfinger & Octopussy also have that privilege).

    He also was the first to commit the cardinal error (sadly repeated by many of Bond's foes) of trying to devise an interesting death for our hero rather than just shooting him in the head when he first caught him.

    Seriously though, he was great as Dr. No. Chilling. Although he did not seem Chinese to me (voice was too deep). Maybe they should have dubbed him.
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    edited March 2015 Posts: 15,963
    bondjames wrote: »
    Having shamefully not read the book, I'm afraid I can't add too much value to this discussion thread. Although he did not seem Chinese to me (voice was too deep). Maybe they should have dubbed him.
    He was half German.
    Wiseman was cast in a similar role 12 years later in a TV movie called Men Of The Dragon, an Enter The Dragon clone where he pretty much phoned it in, I'm afraid. Couldn't blame him though...
  • Posts: 532
    He was one of the few villains to actually fight Bond man to man.
  • Posts: 12,130
    His metal hands gave him a dangerous advantage.
  • CommanderRossCommanderRoss The bottom of a pitch lake in Eastern Trinidad, place called La Brea
    Posts: 5,298
    1) I couldn't care less
    2) I understand it's a nice place
    3) and so he did, he's still one of my favorite villains. I think he deserves more appraisal then he normally gets. He might've been the first to fail to kill Bond, but he does so in a believeable fashion. He's continually in control, even though Bond oes try to provoke him. And it's because of him I still want a Neru jacket.
  • Posts: 1,548
    Ludovico wrote:
    The idea for this thread came to me when I saw that the "Jew Bond" thread was closed. It struck me that:

    1)Joseph Wiseman was Jewish
    2)He was a fellow Montrealer
    3)He set the benchmark to Bond's villains with Dr. No.

    We owe Joseph Wiseman a lot. Because a movie is only as good as his villains, and a Bond movie even moreso. So let's talk about Joseph Wiseman and what he brought to the series.

    Who cares if he is Jewish? What does that matter?
  • BennyBenny Moderator
    Posts: 8,686
    Dr.No recently placed #2 in the Great Bond villain elimination game.
    http://www.mi6community.com/index.php?p=/discussion/8966/the-great-bond-villain-elimination-game-completed-review/p88

    And rightly so. He was the first and as many others in this thread have said, set the benchmark of how Bond villains would follow.
    Despite not being seen for much of the movie, he left a huge impact on not only the film, but the series.
    Less is sometimes more. Joseph Wiseman played the role superbly. The voice. The look, the mannerisms. He's brilliant. I don't think he's underrated. But his service to the series is immense.
    Joseph Wiseman / Dr. No I thank you for your services to the Bond films that are so appreciated by so many.
  • Posts: 12,130
    LeChiffre wrote: »
    Ludovico wrote:
    The idea for this thread came to me when I saw that the "Jew Bond" thread was closed. It struck me that:

    1)Joseph Wiseman was Jewish
    2)He was a fellow Montrealer
    3)He set the benchmark to Bond's villains with Dr. No.

    We owe Joseph Wiseman a lot. Because a movie is only as good as his villains, and a Bond movie even moreso. So let's talk about Joseph Wiseman and what he brought to the series.

    Who cares if he is Jewish? What does that matter?

    Don't get on your high horse. I said this because I don't think it was mentioned on the Jew Bond thread which is now closed. And he contributed in an important way to the franchise.
  • suavejmfsuavejmf England
    Posts: 3,829
    A great villain and actually believable as half Chinese.

    I couldn't care less if he was Jewish or not. Just that he was a good actor.
  • Posts: 532
    First, let me begin by saying I don't believe anything pejorative was intended by mentioning that Wiseman was Jewish. So none of this is personal.

    But, does pointing out that Wiseman was Jewish change perceptions? Now that I know, do I view him any differently? On some level might I attribute motivations or ideas to him that I might not have previously? If Villain B is identified as a Christian, Muslim, or Atheist, do those labels automatically saddle him with the baggage of my opinions about those groups?

    How about these labels: Villain C is gay. Villain D is diabetic, Villain E is short, Villain F is transgendered, Villain G doesn't look black, but he is.

    As one who personally relates to Villain E, I never cease to be amazed by the number of people I have met who point out the obvious--you're short. As if somehow I might be the last to know. Is there some inference that I don't measure up? Thus if we say, "Of the Bond actors, XX is the shortest," are we doing more than stating fact? No, question, height is a fact--case closed--but, can that fact be stated whereby no judgment is implied?

    If I say, "I had my car repaired last week. The shop did a nice. The mechanic was black."
    We can easily argue that's fact, not judgment. Or we might ask, "Was it important to know the race of the mechanic?" If no, then why mention it? If it was necessary to mention it, why?








  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 15,963
    Dr. No was played by a human.
    Why a human? A Romulan could have done it.
    Racism persists... [-(
  • KerimKerim Istanbul Not Constantinople
    Posts: 2,631
    So a Jewish Canadian guy played a Chinese guy. Big deal. As others said, he did an amazing job with what little screen time he had and je set the bar for future Bond villains.
  • Posts: 12,130
    Okay enough of that rubbish. I mentioned his Judaism as the thread about contribution of Jews to the franchise was closed. And Wiseman was a major contributor to it. I can close the thread if someone thinks I'm stygmatizing a group.
  • CommanderRossCommanderRoss The bottom of a pitch lake in Eastern Trinidad, place called La Brea
    Posts: 5,298
    Ludovico wrote: »
    Okay enough of that rubbish. I mentioned his Judaism as the thread about contribution of Jews to the franchise was closed. And Wiseman was a major contributor to it. I can close the thread if someone thinks I'm stygmatizing a group.
    And by doing so you started a discussion which had started in that thread also. Many feel that his beliefs had nothing to do with his acting. He's a damn fine one and his contribution is immense. Would it have been different If he hadn't been jewish? It's a question that automatically pops up If you state his religion alongside appraising him. And that's Just a stone throw from either claiming his atchiefments in the name of religion or the other way round.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited March 2015 Posts: 23,883
    Ludovico wrote: »
    Okay enough of that rubbish. I mentioned his Judaism as the thread about contribution of Jews to the franchise was closed. And Wiseman was a major contributor to it. I can close the thread if someone thinks I'm stygmatizing a group.
    And by doing so you started a discussion which had started in that thread also. Many feel that his beliefs had nothing to do with his acting. He's a damn fine one and his contribution is immense. Would it have been different If he hadn't been jewish? It's a question that automatically pops up If you state his religion alongside appraising him. And that's Just a stone throw from either claiming his atchiefments in the name of religion or the other way round.

    That is true enough. The link can be made one way (that his being Jewish was a positive factor in his contribution) or the other way as well (that it was not).

    It's also true that the link is made subconsciously if his religion is stated alongside appraising him. The two are not linked as far as I'm concerned (obviously) but it is possible to feel a sense of pride in his achievements if one is Jewish.

    @CrabKey as you rightly pointed out above, it all about how we relate and define ourselves (which is very tribal and goes back to how we were raised) - from my perspective, being short should not disadvantage you in any way (even in basketball - the great Isiah Thomas was only 5 ft 9 - and look at Tom Cruise, Sly Stallone or Daniel Craig for that matter).
  • Posts: 12,130
    Ludovico wrote: »
    Okay enough of that rubbish. I mentioned his Judaism as the thread about contribution of Jews to the franchise was closed. And Wiseman was a major contributor to it. I can close the thread if someone thinks I'm stygmatizing a group.
    And by doing so you started a discussion which had started in that thread also. Many feel that his beliefs had nothing to do with his acting. He's a damn fine one and his contribution is immense. Would it have been different If he hadn't been jewish? It's a question that automatically pops up If you state his religion alongside appraising him. And that's Just a stone throw from either claiming his atchiefments in the name of religion or the other way round.

    Well, technically it is not his belief but his cultural background. Given the contribution of Jews towards the arts, great or small, and entertainment, it is a valid observation. I would have mentioned it in the locked thread, since it was not possible I mentioned it here. Being from Montreal myself, I also mentioned he was born there. because I do think his background matters. It's not the only thing that matters of course. But it does have its relevance when one wants to praise someone.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited March 2015 Posts: 23,883
    Ludovico wrote: »
    Ludovico wrote: »
    Okay enough of that rubbish. I mentioned his Judaism as the thread about contribution of Jews to the franchise was closed. And Wiseman was a major contributor to it. I can close the thread if someone thinks I'm stygmatizing a group.
    And by doing so you started a discussion which had started in that thread also. Many feel that his beliefs had nothing to do with his acting. He's a damn fine one and his contribution is immense. Would it have been different If he hadn't been jewish? It's a question that automatically pops up If you state his religion alongside appraising him. And that's Just a stone throw from either claiming his atchiefments in the name of religion or the other way round.

    Well, technically it is not his belief but his cultural background. Given the contribution of Jews towards the arts, great or small, and entertainment, it is a valid observation. I would have mentioned it in the locked thread, since it was not possible I mentioned it here. Being from Montreal myself, I also mentioned he was born there. because I do think his background matters. It's not the only thing that matters of course. But it does have its relevance when one wants to praise someone.

    So you feel a sense of pride that he was Jewish and that he was from Montreal. You can identify with that.

    I am not Jewish and I am not from Montreal so I cannot feel that sense of pride or connection.

    I think his performance was excellent regardless.

    Whether his being Jewish (culturally) contributed to that performance remains to be discussed.
  • Posts: 12,130
    bondjames wrote: »
    Ludovico wrote: »
    Ludovico wrote: »
    Okay enough of that rubbish. I mentioned his Judaism as the thread about contribution of Jews to the franchise was closed. And Wiseman was a major contributor to it. I can close the thread if someone thinks I'm stygmatizing a group.
    And by doing so you started a discussion which had started in that thread also. Many feel that his beliefs had nothing to do with his acting. He's a damn fine one and his contribution is immense. Would it have been different If he hadn't been jewish? It's a question that automatically pops up If you state his religion alongside appraising him. And that's Just a stone throw from either claiming his atchiefments in the name of religion or the other way round.

    Well, technically it is not his belief but his cultural background. Given the contribution of Jews towards the arts, great or small, and entertainment, it is a valid observation. I would have mentioned it in the locked thread, since it was not possible I mentioned it here. Being from Montreal myself, I also mentioned he was born there. because I do think his background matters. It's not the only thing that matters of course. But it does have its relevance when one wants to praise someone.

    So you feel a sense of pride that he was Jewish and that he was from Montreal. You can identify with that.

    I am not Jewish and I am not from Montreal so I cannot feel that sense of pride or connection.

    I think his performance was excellent regardless.

    Whether his being Jewish (culturally) contributed to that performance remains to be discussed.

    For the record I'm not Jewish. I do think someone with acting talent and ambition growing up in an orthodox Jewish community would have influenced his approach to some characters. Apparently he truly grew up in New York, but being from Montreal, an island filled with both cultural diversity and tensions, may have also influenced him to a degree in the way he approached his roles. It's speculative of course, ;but actors channel things in their performances. Boris Karloff bullied because of his foreign face at school, for instance.
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    Posts: 23,883
    Ludovico wrote: »
    bondjames wrote: »
    Ludovico wrote: »
    Ludovico wrote: »
    Okay enough of that rubbish. I mentioned his Judaism as the thread about contribution of Jews to the franchise was closed. And Wiseman was a major contributor to it. I can close the thread if someone thinks I'm stygmatizing a group.
    And by doing so you started a discussion which had started in that thread also. Many feel that his beliefs had nothing to do with his acting. He's a damn fine one and his contribution is immense. Would it have been different If he hadn't been jewish? It's a question that automatically pops up If you state his religion alongside appraising him. And that's Just a stone throw from either claiming his atchiefments in the name of religion or the other way round.

    Well, technically it is not his belief but his cultural background. Given the contribution of Jews towards the arts, great or small, and entertainment, it is a valid observation. I would have mentioned it in the locked thread, since it was not possible I mentioned it here. Being from Montreal myself, I also mentioned he was born there. because I do think his background matters. It's not the only thing that matters of course. But it does have its relevance when one wants to praise someone.

    So you feel a sense of pride that he was Jewish and that he was from Montreal. You can identify with that.

    I am not Jewish and I am not from Montreal so I cannot feel that sense of pride or connection.

    I think his performance was excellent regardless.

    Whether his being Jewish (culturally) contributed to that performance remains to be discussed.

    For the record I'm not Jewish. I do think someone with acting talent and ambition growing up in an orthodox Jewish community would have influenced his approach to some characters. Apparently he truly grew up in New York, but being from Montreal, an island filled with both cultural diversity and tensions, may have also influenced him to a degree in the way he approached his roles. It's speculative of course, ;but actors channel things in their performances. Boris Karloff bullied because of his foreign face at school, for instance.

    I agree with you. No doubt, growing up in New York and also with a Montreal background would have had very positive attributes on his acting capabilities (both are very rich cultural communities and New York is particularly rich in the arts). His appearance would have also contributed to this (and obviously would have had an impact on what roles he got). I'm not sure if the Jewish background would have necessarily been as much a contributor as the other factors mentioned, but of course one's background and experiences impacts one's outlook and mannerisms, as well as what one brings to the acting table.
  • Posts: 532
    Bondjames:

    Thanks for the comment. But I couldn't help but smile with the "look at Cruise,
    Stallone, and Craig" observation. They're short, but that didn't stop them.
    Which is undeniably true. And yet shortness seems to be something that has to be overcome or compensated for, or mentioned as a defining attribute, such as being gay, fat, or of color.

    Here's another way to think about this. "X, Y, and Z are great actors alright, but all three are tall and white." The reason we don't hear that comment, is because those
    attributes are considered the norm. Unlike Melissa McCarthy, that fat actress or that actor with the crazy eyes, Marty Feldman. How often are those two discussed without mentioning their physical attributes? If I want to describe Jason Bateman, I'll approach it by describing his character on Arrested Development, not what he looks like.

    Again, using myself as an example--and at this point in my life, I'm no longer hung up about it, I don't wish to be spoken of as Crabkey, that short guy.

    I realize we're in agreement, so I hope you don't read this as combative. It's just conversation and discussion with the hope of eliciting the thoughts of others.


  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    edited March 2015 Posts: 23,883
    We are in agreement @CrabKey. I only brought those fella's up because you brought up the short thing.

    At the end of the day, humans are not perfect. We all naturally gravitate towards an ideal or towards the centre whether we choose to deny it or not, apart from some eccentrics that stay on the fringes (and I'm all for that too).

    Since there is a human tendency to go towards a visual societal norm, anything that is outside that is looked upon a little differently perhaps and there is a need (whether imagined or real) to compensate.

    At the end of the day, we'd be foolish to think that Pierce Brosnan, Sean Connery or Roger Moore's looks or height did not get them at least some part of the way towards their goals. Daniel Craig inevitably has a harder time of it (because while he is a perfectly handsome average looking chap, he is not necessarily as conventionally handsome or as tall as the previous 3), but arguably he is a much better actor than all the other 3.

    I'm sure Barack Obama had to overcome a lot too for being black, but then he is tall and pretty good looking. He is still facing obstacles because some people think he was not born in the US or is not a 'true' American.

    Everyone has some good and some bad - that's what makes it interesting.

    Human nature I'm afraid.
  • Posts: 12,130
    Then again Falstaff is usually played by obese Actors. Appearance does have importance. Nimoy's face did help him define Spock.
  • OnlyManWhoCanOnlyManWhoCan Greater London
    edited March 2015 Posts: 202
    Dr No is an underrated Bond movie. Perhaps not so much by us, but because of the limited budget there is less of the spectacle that came to define the franchise and therefore I feel your average movie fan will gravitate towards the films after Goldfinger.

    This is a shame, as I think Joseph Wiseman as Doctor No is one of the greats. He is certainly the coolest, least emotional of the Bond villains and it's a shame he has hardly any screen time - although perversely I am sure that would have lessened my appreciation of the scenes he is in. I love how he is teased before his reveal, too.

    Wiseman nails the performance; managing to portray a calculating mind through minimal movement. If the Dr No movie came later I would expect the character would be held in a much higher regard than he is now, perhaps even rivaling Blofeld!
  • bondjamesbondjames You were expecting someone else?
    Posts: 23,883
    Very well said indeed.

    For the screen time he had his performance was fantastic, and the tease earlier set us up for a revelation that did not disappoint (like it sometimes can).
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger Back on Earth
    Posts: 32,985
    His Dr No was a template for the unseen Blofeld. That is how I feel anyway.
  • Posts: 12,130
    His Dr No was a template for the unseen Blofeld. That is how I feel anyway.

    I agree. In fact the only thing I regret about Joseph Wiseman playing No is that he never had the occasion to play Blofeld. He would have been perfect.
  • DragonpolDragonpol Flying round the stage like a lizard and that.
    Posts: 12,859
    I saw an old episode of The Twilight Zone starring Joseph Wiseman recently and it was very good.
  • Posts: 532
    Whenever I revisit DN, I am reminded of what a sparse, stripped down film this is compared to later fare. Minus the gadgets and big set pieces, we focus on character and story. We don't find ourselves wondering how Bond will use Q's latest gadget. Wiseman's DN has such an icy intelligence. I don't believe he smiles once. I'm not sure if that was what Donald Pleasance was going for in YOLT, but those villain portrayals are world's apart.

  • Posts: 12,130
    Joseph Wiseman plaid No with such sobriety as well. No pantos, no OTT performance, something very restrained.

    And while he does not fit physically the novel's villain (then again, is there any actor who could have had?) he does display the spirit of the novel's character. The eternal foreigner, the one despised and distrusted by his Chinese compatriots and the West.
Sign In or Register to comment.