There are several thousand things more interesting to talk about than feet, but there’s something about their appearance that triggers odd primal reactions in people, particularly (or should I say naturally?) when they belong to actors. In movies every aspect of every actor’s anatomy is theoretically fair game, although all directors and cinematographers understand that feet need to be avoided for the most part. There’s the ick factor, of course, but also the other side. Just ask LexG. Or for that matter Katharine Hepburn.
Unfortunate insert from the abominable Casino Royale (1967).
If I recall correctly one of Kate’s most heartfelt remarks about her Rooster Cogburn costar John Wayne was that his feet were much smaller than you’d figure for a big tall guy. She was delighted to discover this. I’ve also never forgotten a line by Pete Hamill in an early ’80s profile of Nastassja Kinski that she had “bad toes.” I remember reading that and going “what the hell does that mean?,” and at the same time having an inkling.
I’ve long felt that there’s something problematic if not alienating about feet that don’t “look right.” In real life or in a painting or a TV series or a film, bad feet are bad news. I don’t think there’s any question this is why directors and cinematographers rarely if ever let the camera linger on or even glance at this part of an actor’s anatomy. Not that there would or could be the slightest point in doing so. Right now I’m trying to think of something worse than a close-up ofZach Galifianakis‘s feet. Or Alec Baldwin‘s for that matter. One of the few times in my life when I didn’t flinch at a shot of bare male feet was a closeup of Jeffrey Hunter ‘s in King of Kings. This is also probably one of the few times that a mainstream movie has ever used such a shot. It’s weird, I know.
Why am I even writing about this? Because last night I was stupid enough to watch a Bluray of the old Casino Royale (1967), one of the worst pieces of glossy spy-spoof garbage ever released. William Holden, Deborah Kerr, Peter Sellers and John Huston all are dead, and it’s still embarassing to watch them slum their way through this thing. But the big stopper for me was when I caught two shots of David Niven‘s stockinged feet. I’m sorry but they seemed misshapen and oddly jammed together with long creepy toes. All my life I’ve never had the slightest thing against Niven, and now I do, oddly. I’m sorry I brought this up.
Screen capture from Nicholas Ray’s King of Kings.