October 13, 2003
I don't know why, but I started thinking at work today about some of my favorite actors who always played sleazeballs in some of my favorite movies.
Bruce Dern is probably my all-time favorite western bad-guy. I've seen him shot, hanged and killed dozens of times and he always came back for more. My favorite line in his entire career was in Hang 'em High when Bruce was part of the lynch mob fixing to hang Clint Eastwood. "Heh, heh, heh.. I want his WALLET!" Bruce Dern just had the teeth and the face and the feral grin to make me want to shoot him every time I saw him on the screen.
I liked L.Q. Jones, Strother Martin, Dub Tailor and Warren Oates. I liked Jeremy Slate and Albert Salmi. Who was that one-eyed sucker who went from westerns to Bert Reynolds movies? Oh... Jack Elam. I remember now. I liked him, too.
Claude Aikens wasn't bad a few times and Luke Askew is another one of my Unknown Favorites. Luke was in Easy Rider. Hell, Dennis Hopper did a fine job of playing a character named "Moon" in True Grit.
If you want to go 'way back, we can talk about Dan Dureya.
Slim Pickins and Ben Johnson were rodeo rodeo cowboys who learned to act. Neither one was very handsome, but Ben looked a lot better than chinless Slim. I liked both of them.
I like Western movies. I am a American and that's my heritage. I worship John Wayne. I also worship the bit-part actors you never heard of who played in his movies.
If I wanted to act today, being 51 years old, I damn sure should pick a character part to play. My leading man days are over.
Yeah. I'll settle for a bit part now.
All excellent bad guys. First saw Dern in Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, but he was much better in Hang 'Em High. His best bad role? Long Hair in The Cowboys, with John Wayne. No doubt. (I'm gonna come up, on tiptoe, and cut you from here to here").
I'm obviously disappointed Van Cleef and Wallach didn't make the cut.
Strother Martin was my momma's cousin on the outlaw side of the family. My aunt would correspond with him from time to time. He would write back, filling a notebook page, and going on with extra notes in the margin. He seemed like a genuine nice guy, despite the despicable way he treated my hero, Paul Newman!
Yeah, Joan, especially as the crazed, ahead of his time New Age guru in Harper.
You haven't checked "Across the Atlantic" today, have you?
My best recollection of Slim Pickens is him riding that bomb down yelling, "Yeee Hawww!"
Jack Elam was my favorite of those you mentioned. My favorite Dern role was in "Posse" (he was really the hero in that, although he was the outlaw).
I last saw L.Q. Jones in "Casino."
Probably everybody knows Dub Taylor is Buck Taylor's dad (Newly on "Gunsmoke")
I liked Victor Buono as a heavy, too, but nobody outheavied Orson Welles.
Don't forget that Dennis Hopper was in Hang 'Em High, too, albeit briefly.
"I can't get on board, 'cause my hands are tied."
All those guys are great in my book. Where would movies be without dudes you love to hate?
My list includes these guys, too. Some became large leading man stars, but were great heavies before and after star status. Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Edward G Robinson, James Cagney ("Top of the world ma!" ), Richard Widmark , Lee Marvin, Vincent Price, Jack Palance (Epitome of bad guys to me. Ain't he the rotten mf who tried to kill Shane?), James Coburn, Rod Steiger, Charles Bronson, Roddy McDowell, Eli Wallach, Nehemiah Persoff. There are more whose names I can't remember 'cause I'm old.
Regarding Joan's comment, most of these guys were known to their friends as really nice people. (I was gonna call 'em pussy cats, but....). I'd say that made 'em really good actors, too.
Gotta put Neville Brand on that list, just because of the great name.
I hasten to add Frederic Forrest for his role as Blue Duck in the mini-series adaptation of "Lonesome Dove." He's the only Indian in a main role, AND HE'S A PSYCHOPATH!! Hard to believe in these PC-addled days that such a thing could come from Hollywood. And while I'm at it: Jones and Duvall create the two greatest Western heroes in the post-Wayne and Stewart era.
Aaah. Elisha Cook. Wimpy little dude in 40's and 50's movies.
I'm with you on Dan Dureya, hey how about Richard Widmark? He played a nice giggling psycho in Kiss of Death.
My favorite Bruce Dern line comes from a real loser of a post-holocaust movie where the young hero has been shooting at the bad guys with an M-16. As the really baddest dude is escaping, the YH draws a bead on him, pulls the trigger and nothing happens. The gun is empty. Bruce Dern, playing some beat up old gonzo wizard strolls up and dryly states, "The magic, she works better when there are bullets in the gun." Man, every week something happens that makes me think of that line.
This may be a bit bizarre, but I always liked Basil Rathbone. He was perfect in Errol Flynn's Robin Hood.
Also (speaking of Robin Hood), Alan Rickman stole it from Costner.
Well, Costner kinda left just sitting there, Barney the dinasuar coulda stole that movie..
Is there any more scary heavy these days than Christopher Walken can conjure up?
The wheelchair-bound mob boss in "Things to do in Denver When You're Dead." Yikes.
James Woods is one of my favorite bad-guy actors.......
My Villan de jour is Tim Roth (Rob Roy etc). Coming out of the movie behind two old grey haired ladies, one remarked to the other, "He was a right vicious bastard wasn't he". Enough said.
I love westerns too, and John Wayne in particular. I cannot resist watching "The Searchers" yet again, whenever it comes on TV.
If you haven't seen Open Range starring Robert Duvall, you're missing a good one. Oh, yeah. Some guy named Kostner is in it too, and surprisingly, he's pretty good too. The gunfight at the end is a killer! A REALISTIC gunfight compared to "shoot the gun out of the bad guy's hand" nonsense that you see all too often.
Before he became Perry Mason, Raymond Burr was often cast as a heavy. His most memorable bad-guy performance was Thorwald, the killer in Rear Window. He earned his pay with the look he gave Jeffries when he realized he was being watched.
I have to say the "evil-est" heavy on my list of faves would have to be Henry Fonda in "Once Upon A Time In The West" with Charles Bronson. Unbelievable performance.
And as for Bruce Dern, well I never could take him seriously as a heavy after that misbegotten eco-technology space opera he made where he saves the last little rainforest in outerspace with the help of his little robot buddies. What a load of crap.
I gotta agree with Ric here, Christopher Walken scares the bejeebers outta me...
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