Even some of my favorite actors were not immune to using age old tricks to acheive specific results. This from actor Robert Stack about his good friend (and a personal favorite actor of mine), Van Heflin in a letter dated July 1, 1981:
“One little anecdote about Van. I was a beginning actor and terribly impressed by his talent; particularly his crying scene in Johnny Eager, which, I believe garnered him Academy consideration or the award (he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this performance). When I asked him how he prepared for that devastatingly poignant crying scene, he told me “with an onion.” It seemed he carried an onion in his handkerchief which he used to wipe his face. The result also wiped out all the other actors in the picture.”
Just goes to show, if you can’t create the reality then by God! affect it extraordinarily well. Mr. Heflin may have used an onion to achieve the tears, but the belief which took him from there was in my opinion, and Mr. Stack’s words, devastating.