Vintage Hunk: Jack Nicholson

By: Mike McCrann

Jack Nicholson currently looks like Marlon Brando at the end of his career. Both men got fat and bald and seemed to have no interest in how they looked. While Brando was very sexy briefly in his career, Jack Nicholson was never considered hot or studly even in his prime. But Jack Nicolson's great talent and mesmerizing personality did create acquired hunk status back in the 70s when he was at the zenith of his career.

Jack Nicholson's status as a fine actor is supported by his three Academy Awards and twelve nominations - only Meryl Streep has more. Toss in seven Golden Globes, Kennedy Center honors and the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award and we are talking about a legendary career. Hit films like Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, The Passenger, Terms of Endearment, As Good as it Gets and you can see the most impressive male cinematic career of the last 40 years.

John Joseph "Jack" Nicholson was born in New York in 1937. A bizarre upbringing in which he was led to believe his grandparents were his parents resulting in the revelation that the woman posing as his sister was his actual mother led to a lifetime romantic instability - one official marriage and various children. But after his breakthrough role as the dissolute lawyer in the cult hit Easy Rider, Nicholson was on his way to fame and fortune.

Jack Nicholson had so many great roles and fine films that it would be impossible to detail them properly. But the essence of Jack Nicholson as an actor and sex symbol is on permanent display in his finest film Chinatown. This wonderful 1974 film noir directed by Roman Polanski and co-starring Faye Dunaway - deliciously neurotic - is arguably the greatest film of the 70s no easy choice considering Cabaret, The Last Picture Show, The Godfather are just a few of the contenders. But Jack Nicholson's Jake Gittes with his fantastic 1937 wardrobe and blistering dialogue courtesy of Robert Towne is truly one of the monumental film creations. What makes Jack Nicholson stand out above his contemporaries like Robert de Niro and Al Pacino is the cynical smart ass approach he brought to almost all of his film roles. This towering drive and determination made his average physical attributes look pretty amazing.

Jack Nicholson easily moved into older less charismatic roles and the public has never gotten tired of his protean gifts. He could play a terrible bigot in As Good As It Gets and still win over an audience. Basically, it’s just amusing to watch Jack Nicholson whether he’s a crusty old man in a film or a devoted Laker basketball fan at court-side. While Marlon Brando got creepy and disgusting at the end, Jack Nicholson just keeps putting himself out there and defying the public not to love him. And we do.

If you want to see Jack Nicholson's charm, talent and great personality all rolled up into one movie, check out Chinatown. If you have seen it or think you know it well, watch it again. Chinatown will continually surprise you with repeated viewings. Jack Nicholson's artistry and hunk status is supremely in focus in this classic creation.