Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Stars with scars
I've been thinking lately about stars with scars.
Hollywood being as obsessed about looks at is, you'd think that having a noticeable facial scar would be an impediment to stardom. In fact, a number of very famous film actors have survived and thrived in the movie biz despite having damaged features.
For the purpose of this discussion, I'm limiting the topic to stars with scars on their face. Elizabeth Taylor had a tracheotomy scar on her neck, but that's easy to hide with jewelry and makeup.
In modern times, no scar is probably more famous than the one on Harrison Ford's chin. The actor got it in the 1960s during a car accident, and it's become such a part of his onscreen persona that they've actually written it in to several of his characters. In "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," a young Indiana (played by River Phoenix) is shown getting the scar while trying to handle a bullwhip for the first time.
Similarly, Humphrey Bogart's mouth was probably the most distinctive thing about him. His scarred lip and slight lisp are the result of an altercation with a prisoner while he was in the military police (according to the most prevalent version of its story). Coupled with his strained, gravelly voice, his damaged mouth gave his speech a slightly indistinct character.
Van Johnson's career nearly ended, along with his life, when he was in a serious car crash while shooting "A Guy Named Joe," which was to be his big breakthrough role. Co-stars Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne reportedly insisted that Johnson not be kicked off the film, and he was absent for a long time while a metal plate was put in his forehead. The scarring smoothed out considerably as the years went by, and in photos taken in the 1950s and beyond you can hardly make it out, but it's extremely noticeable in "Joe" and "The Caine Mutiny."
I've read various accounts of the deep vertical mark on Joaquin Phoenix's upper lip. Seeing as how it runs from his nostril to the opening of his mouth, it would seem to be a harelip, otherwise known as a cleft palate. Phoenix himself has claimed it is merely a birthmark. My guess is it's the resulting scar from corrective surgery performed when he was a small child. If you Google cleft palate surgeries and look at photos of how people with this condition looked before and after surgery, you'll see features that greatly resemble Phoenix's.
In male actors, scars like these are usually seen as distinguishing marks that make them stand out from the thousands of other handsome actors trying to make it big. Some women have found success despite facial scars, although they tend to be small and less noticeable than the men's.
I have to admit that I didn't even know Tina Fey had a scar until several years after she was on "Saturday Night Live." The scar on her left cheek is the result of a random knife attack that happened when she was a child. With Hollywood makeup and lighting, it's barely noticeable, and Fey apparently does not like to talk about it.
Sandra Bullock has a small but rather deep scar beside her left eye. It reportedly was the result of normal childhood rambunctiousness when she fell into a creek.
Diane Lane has a scar very similar to Bullock's, but near her right eye. I haven't been able to find anything about how she got it.
I've always thought Queen Latifah is a very attractive woman, despite not conforming to mainstream standards of beauty. She has a rather large vertical scar on her forehead, the result of tripping over a phone cord while playing with her brother at the age of three, gashing her head open.
UPDATE: I made this little collage of star photos myself, and in retrospect should have made it much larger. In the photos I selected, their scars are quite visible. But it was a big pain in the keister, and frankly I'm too tired to redo it.