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The Reaction Is What Really Counts

John Wayne was wont to say, “I don’t act, I react.” It was by no means an original phrase, and if it was meant as a self-assessment of his ability, he was shortchanging himself. At best, screen acting is a difficult art, whose subtleties often escape its critics; it demands great competence in all its aspects, of which, as the cliche indicates, reacting is one of the most important. In the theater, dialogue may be “king”—in films, the reaction is where most things happen.

Reaction is transition, change, movement—and movement is life. Reaction can reveal the birth and growth of awareness, show a quantum leap in levels of anger or of love, or discover to us the gathering of one’s wits in thought or a change ...

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