In the long history of movie moustaches, only four have seriously enhanced an actor’s aura — Clark Gable‘s pencil-thin, career-long ‘stache (a 27-year stretch from ’33 to ’60), Robert Redford‘s in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (’69), Burt Reynolds‘ “Smokey” ‘stache and Billy Crudup‘s upper-lip growth in Almost Famous.
I guess I could bend over backwards and admit that Billy De Williams‘ Lando moustache in Episode #5 and #6 of the Star Wars saga was cool. And okay, Sam Elliott‘s handlebar in The Big Lebowski had a certain folksy authenticity. I’ll also allow that Daniel Day Lewis‘s Bill the Butcher ‘stache completed the satanic aura. Plus [thanks to HE commenters] David Niven, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Jr., Ronald Colman, William Powell, Errol Flynn, Lee Van Cleef, Vincent Price, Groucho Marx and Ernie Kovacs.
But otherwise moustaches are generally annoying and almost always a mistake. Certainly in a present-day context. And not just on-screen.
Moustaches are a machismo thing, of course. We’ve all read about rock stars stuffing toilet paper into their underwear before going on stage. I’m not saying each and every wearer of a moustache is coming from the same place, but they’re definitely looking to flaunt their masculinity.
It’s my personal theory that the moustaches worn by Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty in Mike Nichols‘ The Fortune caused that film to tank, or were certainly a decisive factor in that regard.
From Gunfighter Wiki page: “20th Century Fox hated Gregory Peck‘s authentic period mustache in The Gunfighter (’50). In fact, the head of production at Fox, Spyros P. Skouras, was out of town when production began. By the time he got back, so much of the film had been shot that it was too late to order Peck to shave it off and re-shoot. After the film did not do well at the box-office, Skouras ran into Peck and reportedly said, ‘That mustache cost us millions.'”