Friday, December 2, 2011

Margo Martindale

It occurs to me, from time to time, that most of what is written about Hollywood is about actors.  I have written about many actors, and very few actresses.  I should spend more time with actresses, or rather writing about them.

I was rambling through IMDb, as I am prone to do, and came across Days of Thunder (1990), The Rocketeer (1991), The Firm (1993), and Sabrina (1995).  An odd selection of movies that are somehow similar in quality.  Not great movies, but good movies.  And all have Margo Martindale (b. 1951) in perfect Bit Parts.  She has speaking lines in all of them, but not a major role in any.

Honestly, I don't remember her in her first film, Days of Thunder.  It was a racing movie with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.  Margo's part must have been very small.  Her next time on the big screen was The Rocketeer, that I wrote about a few days ago.  She played Millie the waitress, and was perfectly cast.  She looks like a waitress.

She had a better part in Lorenzo's Oil (1992) and a better starring cast with Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon.  Then, Nobody's Fool (1994) with Paul Newman, and Sabrina (the remake in 1995) with Harrison Ford.  It is interesting to see that she made multiple movies with many of the big names, which means she must be in demand.  Four with Nicole Kidman, three with Susan Sarandon, two with Meryl Streep, two starring Tom Cruise, etc.

Forward a few years to Practical Magic (1998) with Sandra Bullock and Kidman again.  Here she played a housewife who is a non-believer in magic, but comes around in the end.  In 2002 Margo has a small role in The Hours, but that movie stars Meryl Streep (and Kidman again), and anything with Meryl Streep has got to be good.  I haven't seen The Hours, but it should be on my list.

Million Dollar Baby (2004) a boxing film about a woman (Hilary Swank) and her trainer, Clint Eastwood.  That movie won four Oscars.  And more recently you can see Margo in Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009) if you really want to, and Secretariat (2010). 

She also worked on television in several movies and had regular roles on "100 Centre Street," "The Riches," "Dexter," "Mercy," "Justified," and "A Gifted Man."

A slight Texas twang in her voice and a presence on screen that just makes you love her.  Margo Martindale is a perfect Bit Actress.  You'll recognize her every time you see her.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Roy Roberts - Another Familiar Face

I happened to catch Chinatown (1974) on TV this past holiday weekend.  This is a great Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway movie, made in the style of a 1930's murder mystery.  Lots of twists and turns to keep you thinking.  More movies should be made this way.  It is easy to watch.

I also saw the new Green Hornet (2011) movie, starring Seth Rogan.  It is the very antithesis of what could be called a classic film.  Rogan is severely mis-cast as the hero.  He would look more at home remaking Animal House (1978).  Plus the quick cuts in every action sequence makes it impossible to follow which car is being wrecked and who is being injured/killed.  Don't waste your time on that one.

Back to Chinatown.  Early in the film Mayor Bagby is talking about a reservoir project, and I knew I had to write about him.  Roy Roberts (1906 - 1975) is a face that everyone who has ever watched TV or been to the theater has seen. 

Chinatown was his second to last film.  He ended his movie career in 1975's The Strongest Man in the World, starring Kurt Russell.  (Chinatown was better with ten Oscar nominations and a win for Best Writer, compared to Strongest's no Oscars or nominations for anything.)  The funny thing is that he was 68 years old when he made Chinatown, but he looked the same at least ten years earlier as Admiral Rogers on "McHale's Navy."

Roberts' first major film was Guadalcanal Diary (1943) starring Preston Foster, Lloyd Nolan, and William Bendix.  Of course, there were loads of war movies turned out in the 1940s, and Roy was in many of them.  His next film was The Fighting Sullivans (1944). 

In 1946 he was in My Darling Clementine as the mayor.  It was his only time working with director John Ford.  Before moving to television, he made so many films with so many stars that it would be difficult to pick the best, or even to do enough research to find his larger parts.  He lists close to 200 titles on IMDb. 

Here are just a few pre-TV titles -
Gentleman's Agreement (1947 with Gregory Peck)
Captain from Castile (1947 with Tyrone Power)
Joan of Arc (1948 with Ingrid Bergman)
He Walked by Night (1948 with Richard Basehart)
Force of Evil (1948 with John Garfield)
Chain Lightning (1950 with Humphrey Bogart)
Skirts Ahoy! (1952 with Esther WIlliams)
Stars and Stripes Forever (1952 with Clifton Webb)
And so many more...

It was interesting that he could go from a co-starring role in one film to an uncredited role in his next.  A true sign of a great Bit Actor. 

Roberts' television work started in the early 1950s and it agreed with him.  His first regular role was "My Little Margie" but he appeared as a player in many shows before that.  He did teleplays and spots on series' but rarely more than three times. 

He hit it big as Captain Huxley on "The Gale Storm Show" appearing in over 80 episodes.  He went on to have regular parts on "McHale's Navy," "The Beverly Hillbillies," "The Lucy Show," "Bewitched," Petticoat Junction," and "Gunsmoke."  I also saw him in a "Gunsmoke" episode this weekend. 

I think we will be seeing Roy Roberts' face for many years to some.

What films did you watch over the Thanksgiving weekend?  And which Bit Actors did you see?