Earlier this week I noted that I dislike writers describing a character as looking like a particular movie star. I cited a few examples from Elmore Leonard (which touched some nerves among fans of the Great Detroit Coolster) and one from Dan Brown. Now I bring you a real corker from The New Yorker.
The magazine's latest issue (at least the latest one to get through the Israeli postal system to me) contains a complacent little profile of Nora Ephron. In it, the writer quotes Ephron's sister as saying that their father "might as well have been Ben Bradlee." He then goes on to explain: "To understand this, all you really need to know about Bradlee, who was the executive editor of the Washington Post during the Watergate era, is that Jason Robards played him in 'All the President's Men,' and that it was very good casting."
Really? That's all I need to know? Brought down the President of the US--doesn't ring a bell. Looked like a moderately famous movie actor--oh, right him!
Maybe I was harsh on Elmore. I criticized him for writing (in two separate stories) that a character looked like Jack Nicholson. Not good, but at least I have a picture of Jack and the character he plays (again and again). Jason Robards? Do we all have a picture of him?
You see, I think of him as the bandit in "Once Upon a Time in the West." Was Ben Bradlee like that?
Or maybe what the New Yorker writer meant was: "Ben Bradlee was like Jason Robards when he was playing Ben Bradlee and not anyone else." Which makes about as much sense as describing him the way he did.