Elizabeth Taylor's electrifying performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The milkshake scene in There Will be Blood. Leonardo DiCaprio's turn as Arnie in What's Eating Gilbert Grape? What makes these performances so special? Eloquently written and engagingly laid out, Murray Pomerance answers the tough question as to what makes an exceptional, or virtuosic performance. Pomerance intensively explores virtuosic performance in film, ranging from classical works through to contemporary production, and gives serious consideration to structural problems of dramatization and production, actorial methods and tricks, and contingencies that befall performers giving stand-out moments. Looking at more than 40 aspects of the virtuosic act, and using an approach based in careful meditation and discursion, Virtuoso moves through such themes as showing off, effacement, self-consciousness, performative collapse, spontaneity, acting as dream, acting and femininity, virtuosity and torture, secrecy, improvisation, virtuosic silence, and others; giving special attention to the labors of such figures as Fred Astaire, Johnny Depp, Marlene Dietrich, Basil Rathbone, Christopher Plummer, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alice Brady, Ethel Waters, James Mason, and dozens more. Numerous scenic virtuosities are examined in depth, from films as far-ranging as Singin' in the Rain and The Bridge on the River Kwai, and My Man Godfrey. As the first book about virtuosity in film performance, Virtuoso offers exciting new angles from which to view film both classical and contemporary.