Monday, February 15, 2010

Be Still My Hart

My belated Valentine’s Day gift to you, loyal readers, is this tribute to yet another 80s hunk who melted my butter and who remains a handsome (and multi-tasking) man today, Mr. Hart Bochner.

Hart is the son of veteran Canadian actor Lloyd Bochner (probably best known for his role as Cecil Colby on Dynasty, but a familiar face on countless TV series and in many movies.) When Hart was about 4 years old, his father and the family moved to Los Angeles, so he really was raised a Californian.

Blessed with silky brown hair and blue bedroom eyes, his handsome face, with its solid jaw and strong features, assured that he would make an impact if given half a chance.

In 1976, director Franklin Schaffner was preparing Islands in the Stream for George C. Scott (who he has directed to an Oscar in Patton in 1970) and needed to cast a few boys as his sons. Schaffner’s wife had spotted Hart Bochner at an American Film Institute open house the year before and recommended him to her husband. Bochner won the part and began his film career among some serious pros (the cast also included David Hemmings, Gilbert Roland and Claire Bloom.)

The film was released in 1977 and it would be two more years before Hart did another feature. This time it was the sleeper hit Breaking Away, about cycling, which starred Dennis Christopher. Hart played a rich kid rival of Christopher’s and appeared in a blue Speedo in one sequence!

Next, Bochner had a role in the TV film Haywire, all about screenwriter Leland Hayward and his actress wife Margaret Sullavan and featuring heavy hitters Jason Robards and Lee Remick as his parents. He then starred in the horror flick Terror Train. It certainly wasn’t good or prestigious, but it has a minor cult following, mostly thanks to costar Jamie Lee Curtis. (This, by the way, is not her pictured in the attached photo.)

In 1981, John Steinbeck’s East of Eden was turned into a miniseries. It featured a stunning, tour de force performance from Jane Seymour as the venomous Cathy and, in the latter half of the program, Hart portrayed her virtuous son Aron. That same year, he played one of Jacqueline Bisset’s (younger) lovers in Rich and Famous, also becoming involved with her onscreen daughter Meg Ryan.

He tried to land a network series in the Indiana Jones-ish knock-off Callahan, but the pilot didn’t sell. His screen career slid into low gear until he was selected to portray, Ethan, the love interest opposite Helen Slater’s Supergirl.

This all-star companion piece to the major success Superman boasted lots of special effects, a large budget and a fire-breathing performance from Faye Dunaway as evil sorceress Selena. The fact that it tanked miserably at the box office doesn’t change the fact that he is exceedingly beautiful in it! He wears a pair of snug jeans that aren't shown much from the waist down in the actual movie, but which appear to greater advantage in the featurette that was made on location. Wow...

He plays a manly, sexy landscaper who is used as a pawn by Dunaway to test her magic powers. She wants to make him fall in love with her, but unfortunately, circumstances lead to him loving Supergirl instead! He shaves and cleans himself up and follows the heroine around like a puppy. Eventually, Dunaway succeeds in bring him back to her side and he winds up for a while as a boy toy, complete with open collared shirt and a vacant stare.

I don’t usually set out to make visitors to The Underworld jealous, but I really can’t help it this time. Thanks to a keen eye and some quick thinking, I managed to take a one-dollar bill and salvage from the clearance shelves of a local bookstore a copy of Tom Tierney’s set of Supergirl paper dolls! Who else among you can lay claim to a paper doll of Hart Bochner naked but for a pair of little briefs?!

1984 was a busy year for Hart. Not only was that the year of Supergirl, but he also appeared as one of bigamist Dyan Cannon’s husbands in the TV movie Having It All, followed by the leading role in another TV miniseries, The Sun Also Rises. Jane Seymour was on board again, but not as his mother this time, rather as a contemporary.

Another dry period in films and TV followed. In 1987, he appeared in Making Mr. Right, the John Malkovich comedy about a hunk made from scratch (and Hart wasn’t the hunk?!) before assaying one of his most memorable roles.

Though his next big screen part is possibly his best known, it is possibly the one I, personally, enjoy the least. He played Bonnie Bedelia’s sleazy, asinine coworker in Die Hard, the blockbuster action film that really put Bruce Willis on the map. His coke-addled, smarmy jerk of a character, Harry Ellis, was voted #2 on Maxim Magazine’s list “The Greatest Movie Sleazeballs of All Time.”

That same year, in a far more arresting role, he starred as Colin Firth’s dangerously sexy roommate in Apartment Zero. Firth’s character, by the way, is one of those rare, rare ones who I can really identify with. Like him, I used to keep framed portraits of movie stars in my home (in lieu of any shots of family!) and his repressed, understated affection for his roommate mirrors several scenarios in my life. In any case, Hart was WHITE HOT in the film and, even if it all starts to come apart towards the end, for the bulk of the movie, he is amazingly sexy.

In 1988, a sequel to the mammoth, and highly popular, miniseries The Winds of War was created, War and Remembrance. Costing more than any other project of its type to that time ($110 million!), the program had 358 speaking parts and employed 44,000 actors and extras! In the initial miniseries, Jan Michael Vincent and Ali MacGraw played the lovers Byron and Natalie Henry. Critics ripped MacGraw to shreds and did a flamenco dance on the remains and so the parts were recast for the sequel. Hart was chosen to play Byron and, as his Jewish wife Natalie, it was none other than Jane Seymour! Hart has the distinction of playing in what I consider to be the two best things Ms. Seymour ever did. They certainly made a stunning couple.

They are not together for the better part of War and Remembrance because he is in the service and she is in Europe. When she is swept away into a concentration camp, it becomes his supreme mission to find her and rescue her before she is killed. The show was incredibly graphic (full nudity was included in order to avoid being coy during the camp scenes) and the experiences Seymour endured were harrowing to say the least. (It may have been too depressing for viewers, too, because the sequel did not meet expectations ratings-wise.) In any case, anyone with half a brain would be proud to have Bochner out there searching desperately for him or her (that is, after first having a fling with his brother’s widow Sharon Stone!)

Leading roles in small films or supporting roles in bigger ones were Hart’s bread and butter, though he continued to find success in the miniseries genre. In 1991, he joined James Brolin and Rachel Ward in the murder mystery And the Sea Will Tell, looking scruffy and degenerate, but ever sexy.

In Complex of Fear, a minor television movie, he donned a mustache and played a police officer opposite Joe Don Baker (and, fortunately for us, showed off his still impressive body in a swimming pool sequence.) And I’m a sucker for a man in uniform, so this shot of him is pleasant to look at as well.
Since this, he has continued to appear in quite a few TV movies or in series guest roles and has also branched out into writing and directing. He supplements his time by championing “green” issues and drove, first, an electric car and, now, a hydrogen-operated one. (He was even cited by Time Magazine as the “Greenest Celebrity in Hollywood.”) One of his more high-profile recent gigs was on the Debra Messing series The Starter Wife, but he is a frequent attendee at industry functions as well.

Hart Bochner has been accused of being wooden, though I have never had that issue with him myself. If anything, I think he resisted being just another hunk, often taking on parts that either downplayed that aspect of him or that stretched him in another direction. In any case, he only got so far in his film career, which is a shame because, with his face, he could have been an absolute idol had he been in the business a few decades earlier when good looks were required of leading men more than they are now. His face pigeonholed him to a degree, but when he was given the chance to do something more challenging, he usually rose to the occasion, as, for example, in the arresting Apartment Zero.


Mimi Stratton said...

OMG yes he is amazing! It's impossible to take one's eyes off him whenever he's on screen. He's also got a nice comedic touch.

Topaz said...

I always thought that in a just world, Hart Bochner would be a major superstar and greasy poseurs like Johnny Depp would be living in obscurity after his third failed WB series got canceled.

Once again, our taste levels are in synch. And I'm not embarrassed to say I've seen a lot of sleazy and/or low budget flicks just because Hart was in them. Of course, Apartment Zero rises above those.

Hart had a brief appearance in an Ashton Kutcher movie last year. The name escapes me. Ann Heche was also in it. Anyway, he looks like what a good-looking guy in his 50s should look like.

Poseidon3 said...

Not to turn this into the Johnny Depp Hate-Fest, but you'll notice that he has never been tagged at The Underworld. I think I may have seen two of his films. I am going to the movies tonight with my best friend and am angling to avoid his latest!

Hart would surely have been a household name had he been around in the glory days of Hollywood. What a face. (I've been watching his Dad in season two of Dynasty lately and my God what a hairy beast he was! Poor Joan!)

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

A few years later and I'm reading this for the first time. I have to say I have VERY vivid memories of Hart Bochner in a speedo in Breaking Away. He is always a welcome presence in any movie. :-)

Poseidon3 said...

If you haven't already, go to this page of P.U. (what was I thinking when I came up with a site bearing THOSE initials??! LOL) and catch a glimpse of Hart and his pal:

petercox97 said...

my heart will always belong to hart for his inscrutable but magnetic role in apartment zero. in my long if not often bewildered love affair with cinema, there are two things onscreen that i can never fathom. the first is how olivia de haviland could turn her back on gorgeous montgomery clift after he offered his mia culpa in the heiress and how colin firth could betray jack after he promised him that they would start a new life in california. sure jack is a little homicidal in a serial killer sort of way, but in the words of daphne from some like it hot: nobody's perfect except hart bochner in his jeans. the only shame of the movie is that bochner gets to keep his other gifts below the belt under wraps.