Thursday, March 11, 2010

Random Acts of Thursday - Pick a Side

What, me worry expound on the glory of the James Bond series of films, or the spaghetti westerns graced by Clint? You're shocked, I know. No quiz today, either, dear reader. You have plenty of work to be done on past Thursdays where you've feigned ignorance, so today is simply about adding to the growing trivial knowledge of the mundane that is Cheesehead Displacement Syndrome.

Growing up, my father would always point to someone in a movie and tell me "he's a great character actor." I didn't understand that as a kid, either you were famous or you were just there to give the famous person someone to shoot. It wasn't until I got a little older that I saw these actors again and again, filling role after role without much fanfare, and realized just what he meant.
Danny Trejo has never been a marquee name, but he's everywhere in film and you know him when you see him. Same thing with Brion James. Keith David. W. Earl Brown. Anthony James. All actors who make (or made) a living working, not taking down $20 mil a picture. This started to make sense to me after a few years. What still threw me, though, were the actors who assumed assorted roles in a single series of film or television. Gian Maria Volonte played, essentially, the same character in Per Un Pugno Di Dollari and Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu. (That's A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, in case you were wondering.) In both films, Clint Eastwood played, essentially, the same character as well. However, The Man With No Name was timeless, and could easily have taken part in both settings. Even his wardrobe followed him through the films. Add Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo to the list, and you have Lee Van Cleef playing, again, a similar enough character between For a Few Dollars More and this film, despite having different names (and dying in G,B,U). Can you see how this could be confusing to an eight-year-old?

Similarly, watching the entire catalog of James Bond films, secondary characters have been played by repeat actors for years. M, Q and Moneypenny, until those actors retired, were played by the same actors for decades, in many cases appearing in more films than the actors playing Bond himself. What gives me more pause, though, are the actors who switched identities and allegiances between films.
Walter Gotell started his Bond career in From Russia With Love, as the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. training camp leader, Morzeny. Then, beginning in the Moore years and carrying through several subsquent Bonds, Gotell was featured as Soviet General Gogol. This portrayal began in The Spy Who Loved Me, and continued in A View to a Kill and The Living Daylights, to name a few.
Charles Gray similarly took a break between Bonds, first showing up as Connery's quick-to-die informant in You Only Live Twice, before taking on the role of villain-to-end-all-villains Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever. (And then going on to do the Time Warp. Again.)
Joe Don Baker showed up as the unscrupulous arms dealer Brad Whitaker in The Living Daylights, then after an eight-year absence, suddenly turned up as CIA agent Jack Wade in Goldeneye, reprising the role in Tomorrow Never Dies (the only film, near as I can tell in all my film-watching history, where the sinister, world-dominating character gets to be named Elliott, instead of the simpering, nerdy loser.)
Finally, Maud Adams. Oh, sweet Maud Adams. Succumbing to Roger Moore's charms (SERIOUS ACTING ABILITY!) in The Man With The Golden Gun, she's killed by her lover for turning to Bond. She then turns up in one of the rare 'empowered woman' roles in Bond films as Octopussy and coming to Bond's rescue not once, but three times in the film.

Hopefully this has shed some light on things you didn't know you wanted to know, this knowledge might come in handy for past or future quizzes, too. If nothing else, at least it builds character.

Oh, and I finally figured out how do do strikethrough text. My mad HTML skillz is growin', yo.


MJenks said...

How can I feign ignorance when I'm woefully uneducated on what "feign" means?

I love strikethrough text...unfortunately, you can't use it in the comments section.

Elliott said...

Main Entry: feign
Pronunciation: \ˈfān\
Function: verb
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French feign-, stem of feindre, from Latin fingere to shape, feign — more at dough
Date: 13th century

intransitive verb : pretend, dissembletransitive verb 1 a : to give a false appearance of : induce as a false impression b : to assert as if true : pretend
2 archaic a : invent, imagine b : to give fictional representation to
3 obsolete : disguise, conceal
synonyms see assume

— feign·er noun

It's a big day if I just bust out the italics in a comment, I'm not up to strikethrough just yet...

Bev said...

I love a good character actor! I also love strikethrough and live for the day when I figure out how to do hover test captions ala Vita Brevis and smaller font footnotes ala CDS.

Hey, "I like being an underachiever. I sleep better."

Frank Irwin said...

I lusted after Maud Adams greatly, until she did Octopussy. What a gawdawful movie that was.

tracey said...

Great post. I have a draft that's been collecting dust forever of "I love that guy" actors who's names most of us don't know & I had to google thier name to match a face even to make this comment. Guys like Graham Green, David Koechner, Philip Michael Hall, Tom Wilkinson, William Fitchner & the terrifying Peter Stormare. (I'm convinced Stormare was a clown in a former life b/c no one can be that scary without a little clown in him). has a list of "that Guy" actors & names James Cromwell their king.

Sarah J. Bradley said...

I love character actors. Once they hit the screen you know EXACTLY how the scene is going to go. I would LOVE to be a character actor. They're the ones who always, always work! Kudos on a great blog today!

Elliott said...

Bev, if I can make little subtext, anyone can. I write in the editor, not in the HTML view, so I can point and click.

Frank, understandable. My friend was crazy about Madonna until she filmed Dick Tracy, then it was all over.

Tracey, I had to look up Wilkinson, Fichter and Cromwell, the others pop into my brain immediately. Stormare? We go pancakes house now.

Sarah, thanks for making me second-guess the quality of all my other posts...

Mala said...

Wow, is the relaxification new? Or have I just been a slacker that nevers scrolls down that far?

Elliott said...

I'm going with slacker, the first mention I made of them was back in this post in November:

I like them, sometimes I come here just to feed them. It really is relaxing.

Elliott said...

Better like this, I'm sure.

Daisy said...

Hi Elliott! Frank sent me over here to get some cheese to put on his bread and catsup pizza. :D

Great post! The part Q played in all those Bond movies was always my favorite part. I wanted to hear all about what gadgets he had and see what they could do.

Elliott said...

Daisy, so glad to have you. I'm sure with Frank's discerning palate, though, he might be better off with ProVel.

Q was brilliant, with his constant exasperated disappointment in Bond. Sad he passed away, he was such a fixture.

Frank Irwin said...

Is their motto, "Imo's is the best pizza, IMO!"?

Elliott said...

I don't think they're witty enough to come up with that, sadly.

Be nice and share!

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