Celebrating cinema's mightiest eyebrows

Odd List Mark Harrison 10 Sep 2012 - 07:20

From the bushiest to the most expressive, here’s our celebration of the finest eyebrows the movies have to offer…

It might seem like quite an obscure topic, but these things are important. What if one day, a threat comes to our planet that only a top team of the Earth's mightiest eyebrows can solve? That'd make a good film, if you could iron out all the plot wrinkles, like “Why?” or “How?” But never mind that – let's get trucking, and celebrate the finest supraorbital foliage that cinema has to offer.

Eugene Levy

Not least amongst the developments witnessed in American Pie: Reunion, as compared to the 1999 original, was the growth of Eugene Levy's eyebrows. As much as it's a film about the original cast, the subplot about hapless Jim's magnificently eyebrowed dad, Noah Levenstein, trying to get back into the dating game provides a distraction within a distraction.

It's sometimes quite distracting to watch Levy, a very gifted comic actor, at work when his eyebrows are just right there, so far from his mouth or whatever's coming out of it. They even take centre stage in one of the best gags in Reunion, which only speaks to their indomitable texture. Levy's appearance in every American Pie film, even the direct-to-DVD ones, only cements their absolutely central position in the franchise lore.

Roger Moore

All of the other Bonds had their defining characteristics: the voice, the wife, the temper, the sprint and the, er... emotional vulnerability, and by this measure, Roger Moore could be best regarded as the eyebrows. Having once described his own acting style in three categories, “right eyebrow raised, left eyebrow raised and eyebrows crossed when grabbed by Jaws”, a lot of Moore's performances come from these two vital firmaments of facial furniture.

In retrospect, the Moore era of Bond was very silly indeed, but the unintentional cringe factor was seldom down to Sir Rog. Indeed, if he occasionally arched an eyebrow at a double-taking pigeon or a third nipple, he'd be very much on the side of the audience. Even if you don't like James Bond to be a comedic figure, it has to be said that Moore's comic timing and expressions often salvaged some of the weaker instalments of the 70s and 80s, with no small debt to those famous eyebrows.

Groucho Marx

Whoever dons the Groucho disguise, whether in cartoons, live action or real life, you can have the glasses, the nose, and the moustache, but the look is incomplete without those magnificent eyebrows. You could theorise that these mighty brows are what makes the disguise as impenetrable as Clark Kent's glasses.

In reality, of course, Groucho's brows were prosthetic too, affected during his early vaudeville career, when he realised that his eyebrows didn't match his fake moustache, and applied more false hair accordingly. I suppose that makes him the Iron Man of the group, becoming more powerful by donning the eyebrows and doing impeccable comedic work with them.

Jean Dujardin

With this year's Oscar-winning performance in a silent film under his belt, Jean Dujardin has put his eyebrows to use more than most of the rest of his teammates, perhaps second only to Moore. In The Artist, he puts his extraordinarily expressive face to impressive use as George Valentin, the silent movie actor who refuses to speak, and is doubly impressive in the snippets of the films-within-the-film, where he does far more than mug for the camera.

Outside of The Artist, any film geek worth their salt should really check out Dujardin's other collaborations with director Michel Hazanavicius, the OSS-117 films, Cairo, Nest Of Spies and Lost In Rio. His secret agent character is more of a parody of Sean Connery than Moore's own eyebrow-waggling form, but his versatility makes his performance a riot. He also has perfect eyebrows for playing Hollywood villains, as anyone who's seen a certain Funny Or Die sketch will testify.

Dwayne Johnson

I'm not sure when the über-likeable Dwayne Johnson became to struggling franchises what a spotter is to a struggling weightlifter in the gym, lending his support by arriving late to series such as The Fast And The Furious, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth and G.I. Joe, and bolstering the popularity of each in return. But looking at the sheer size of him, it seems almost crazy to write about an aspect as small as his eyebrows.

And yet, it's his facial muscles that have helped him to become a credible actor and movie star after making his name as The Rock. He's turned his enviable brows to comedic roles, as have so many on the team, as well as being markedly more successful as an action/family movie star than the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger. And at the same time, if those eyebrows look pissed off, you're going to run like hell. Put simply, this super-team wouldn't work without a Hulk, would it?

Sam the Eagle

The magnificent unibrow on this bird of prey makes him the obvious leader of any eyebrow-centric defence league. If that concept's still too ridiculous for you, we do have 11 brows, with the other five pairs joining Sam's one to give us enough to build a perplexed-looking football team. Managed by The Hood from Thunderbirds, naturally.

Irrespective of either concept, just look at this most mighty Muppet brow and quail in fear! Though usually furrowed in patriotic umbrage, here's a formidable, all-American eyebrow that makes Sam one of this writer's favourite Muppets, and one of the most distinctive amidst a cast of his felt co-stars.

Does the list leave your brow raised or furrowed? Are there any great screen eyebrows that should have made our super-team? And can you think of a question that's less likely to have been asked than the one in the previous sentence? Let's get some discussion going in the comments. The debate can surely get no hairier than Jim's dad.

American Pie: The Reunion is out on DVD and Blu-ray now.

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