Don't Make a Grown Man Cry: Men Who Have Cried in Their Movies

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

In the film A League of Their Own (1992), Tom Hanks, as baseball manager Jimmy Dugan, scolds one of his girl players by saying "There's no crying in baseball." Interestingly, and a bit ironically, Tom himself was to cry in at least four of his films: Forrest Gump (1994), Philadelphia (1993), Saving Private Ryan (1998), and Cast Away (200). Note that two of the four are his Oscar-winning roles, Forrest Gump and Philadelphia.

Almost every actress worth her salt in movie history has cried in a film. Think Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Natalie Wood, Meryl Streep, et. al. But guy actors are different. In real life and in many societies, it is perfectly accepted and natural for a woman to cry, but men must be more stoic and "hold it in."

Double standard? Of course, but whoever said life is fair? And as we all know, the movies often parallel comtemporary real life, so movies where the guys cry are few and far between. Or are they?

Clark Gable was actually asked by director Victor Fleming to do a crying scene in Gone With The Wind (1939). Gable adamantly refused, saying it was "against my image." Although there was initial resistance, even Clark Gable, the "man's man," does, indeed, weep in the Oscar-winning film.
John Wayne appeared in more than 150 films, but never once wept on screen. Did Humphrey Bogart or Frank Sinatra ever cry in a film? Not to my knowledge.

James Cagney went "over the top" and got hysterical, tearing up the place, in White Heat (1949), when he hears his beloved mother died. Cagney also technically wept in Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), when he "turns yellow" while being escorted to the electric chair.

And the great James Dean does a sobbing type of crying/hysterical scene in both Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and East of Eden (1954).

Sean Penn chews up the scenery in Mystic River (2003) and also does the sobbing, hysterical "borderline" male crying scene.

Perhaps Robert De Niro, one of the finest actors in this (or any) generation, holds the "guy crying" record. According to one source, De Niro has wept 146 times in his incredible film career!

It seems to violate the "macho man" image of most dramatic actors to ever cry onscreen, but interestingly, comedians seem to have more latitude. Jerry Lewis cries in several of his movies, both with and without his partner Dean Martin. In Artists and Models (1955), Jerry actually cried when he thinks Dean is leaving him and breaking up their friendship.

Harpo Marx wept openly in Horsefeathers (1932), when some criminals lock him and his brother Chico in a room, forcing them to miss going to the big football game.

Jack Lemmon bawls out loud in a hilarious scene in The Odd Couple (1968), as he reminisces about his ex-wife.

The Three Stooges cry on many occasions in their various films. Curly and Larry, and yes, even the movies' toughest bully, Moe Howard, cried once or twice. In Cactus Makes Perfect (1942), Moe cried in utter frustration as he is getting hit too much by Curly and Larry, as the three dig for treasure (karma is a b**ch, as they say).

And of course, Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame made crying his comedic trademark. Interestingly, Stan always claimed his crying was the only bit of schtick he had that he never liked.

Jim Carrey, in one of his "serious" films, cried in The Truman Show (1998).

Ringo Starr cried briefly in a comic take in the Beatles movie Help! (1965).

And who could forget Jack Haley (the Tin Woodsman) crying in The Wizard of Oz (1939) and being admonished by Judy Garland (Dorothy) because there wasn't much oil left in his oil can to oil him with. Bert Lahr (the Cowardly Lion) cries too, same film, when Dorothy slaps him.

It would appear that Marlon Brando opened the door for males actors to express themselves more openly and seize upon their emotions. Ever since Brando's immortal, over-the-top "Hey Stella!" scene in A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951, it's been okay for for a male actor to turn on the waterworks. Before the Brando era, few serious actors cried in a movie, but after Marlon came on to the scene, it seemed to become more acceptable.

Elvis Presley, who admired Brando, does cry in his very first movie Love Me Tender (1956).

Jack Nicholson, an indisputably great actor, openly weeps in About Schmidt (2002).

Another of our current hottest actors, Brad Pitt, cried in both Seven (1995) and Babel (2006).

In his Oscar-winning performance, Al Pacino cried in Scent of a Woman (1993). His co-star, Chris O'Donnell, joins him in the weep feat.

Johnny Depp, currently one of our most versatile actors, weeps in Arizona Dream (1993).

More recently (2011), George Clooney wept as he said goodbye to his wife (who was in a coma) in her hospital room in The Descendants. The very moving scene definitely contributed to George's deserved Oscar nomination for the film.

Other notable actors who cried in films include:
Mickey Rooney In Boys Town (1938).
Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939).
Michael Clark Duncan in The Green Mile (1999).
Rod Steiger in The Pawnbroker (1963).
Barry Miller in Saturday Night Fever (1977).
Sylvester Stallone in First Blood (1982).
Denzel Washington in Glory (1989).

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