Monday, November 20, 2006

Favorite Actor Monday

Eugene Pallette was a thin leading man in the silent era, but, after a tour of duty in WWI, he came back to Hollywood to find out he'd been usurped by younger, handsomer men. He decided to gain a shitload of weight and become a character actor. His health suffered, but his career flourished. I am immediately overjoyed when I see Pallette in a movie. He was a great comedian, for many reasons. He had excellent comedic timing, especially in his reaction shots and double-takes. He looked funny. He had a funny voice (it's a cliche at this point to call it "froggy," but no other word fits--he was the uber-frog). And, most importantly, he always played characters who were either constantly pissed off or constantly living it up with booze, babes, and huge fat cigars. In his best roles, he played guys who bounced back and forth between these two states of being. I start laughing as soon he appears onscreen, and I laugh even harder when he starts to speak. Pallette was an ultra-right-wing conservative who retired from movies in the late 1940s because he was convinced a Communist invasion was imminent. He moved to Oregon, bought a home in the country that he converted into a heavily fortified compound/bomb shelter/hunting lodge so he would be prepared when the Russians attacked. Many Hollywood stars visited his compound for long hunting and fishing weekends, particularly Clark Gable. Pallette died of cancer in 1954.

The Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith, 1915)
Intolerance (D.W. Griffith, 1916)
Shanghai Express (Josef von Sternberg, 1932)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz & William Keighley, 1938)
The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)
Heaven Can Wait (Ernst Lubitsch, 1943)
The Gang's All Here (Busby Berkeley, 1943)

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