Witness Mr. Burgess Meredith, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers.

“I was born a character actor. I was never really a leading man type.” -Burgess Meredith

Burgess Meredith

Oliver Burgess Meredith

WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON 2014

what-a-character-2014-02

It’s here again! The most fabulous blogathon honoring those unsung stars that add that certain singular glimmer to either the cinematic sphere or the small screen sky–The character actors we’ve grown to love and follow adoringly. Thanks so much to Aurora at Once Upon A Screen, Outspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club  for hosting such a marvelous tribute once again!

This post’s title comes from the opening narrative for Rod Serling’s favorite Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough At Last.”  ‘Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers’ From Season 1 episode 8 which aired on November 20th 1959.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE “TIME ENOUGH AT LAST”

Directed by John Brahm, “Time Enough At Last” tells the story of a little bespectacled bibliophile bank teller named Henry Bemis ,a bookworm, a slave to the iron fisted hand of time and all it’s dreary inescapable obligatory scars and yearnings.

Burgess Meredith Twilight Zone still

Browbeaten by his wife, boss and even the public at large who see him as an outcast because of his ravenous appetite to read books! Henry can’t even sneak away to read a newspaper during work hours. He’s forced to resort to studying the labels on condiment bottles. She won’t even let him read the ketchup. His harpy of a wife Helen ( Jacqueline deWit) even blackens in the lines of his books at home, calling it “doggerel“– One day as fate would have it, he steals away to the basement vault of the bank to catch up on his beloved preoccupation, when –as many Twilight Zone episodes had been infused with a dose of Rod Serling’s nihilism (as much as there is his hopeful message), the feared 50′s bomb annihilates our vision of the world that was swarming just a few moments before. Suddenly poor Henry seems to be the last man on earth. But wait… perhaps not poor Henry.

Henry Bemis still

As he stumbles through the debris and carefully placed set pieces– the remnants of man’s destructive force, Henry comes upon the city’s public library filled with BOOKS!!! Glorious books…

While he must struggle against the approaching loneliness of the bleak future ahead, he begins to see the possibility of a new world where he could dream, and wander through so many scrawled worlds. Already an outsider he could finally live a life free to be as his boss rebuked him, a “reader.’

Henry starts to amass various piles of selected readings. There was time now. Time enough at last to read every word on the written page without interruption, interference or judgement.

Yet…fate once again waves her fickle finger via The Twilight Zone and leaves bewildered Henry without his much needed glasses, now they have fallen on the great stone steps, crushed by Henry’s own feet. As with every role Meredith brings to life the character of Henry Bemis with so much mirth and pathos.

He’s always just a bit peculiar, idiosyncratic, eccentric, lyrical, salty, sometimes irascible, but always captivating and distinctive, His voice, his persona, his look, his style… Burgess Meredith could always play the Henry Bemises of the world and grab our hearts because he has that rare quality of being so damn genuine.

twilight-zone-time-enough-burgess-meredith-

Let’s face it even when the prolific Burgess Meredith is playing a cackling penguin– nemesis to the caped crusader Batman or the devil himself (alias the dapper and eccentric Charles Chazen with Mortimer the canary and his black and white cat Jezebel in tow) in The Sentinel 1977 based on the novel by Jeffrey Konvitz and directed by Michael Winner–he’s lovable!

Burgess as Charles Chazin

He always manages to just light me up. Ebullient, mischievous  and intellectually charming, a little impish, a dash of irresolute cynicism wavering between lyrical sentimentalism. He’s got this way of reaching in and grabbing the thinking person’s heart by the head and spinning it around in dazzling circles with his marvelously characteristic voice. A mellifluous tone which was used often to narrate throughout his career. (I smile even at the simplest nostalgic memory like his work on television commercials , as a kid growing up in the 60s and early 70s I fondly remember his voice for Skippy Peanut Butter. Meredith has a solicitous tone and whimsical, mirthful manner. Here’s a clip from a precious vintage commercial showcasing Meredith’s delightfully fleecy voice.

And his puckish demeanor hasn’t been missed considering he’s actually played Old Nick at least three times as I have counted. In The Sentinel 1977, The Twilight Zone and Torture Garden! While in Freddie Francis’ production he is the more carnivalesque Dr. Diabolo–a facsimile of the devil given the severely theatrical make-up, goatee and surrounding flames… he is far more menacing in Michael Winner’s 70s gem as the spiffy Charles Chazin.

Torture Garden 1967

Burgess Meredith as Dr. Diabolo in Torture Garden 1967

And while I resist even the notion of redoing Ira Levin/William Castle and Roman Polanski’s masterpiece Rosemary’s Baby if, and I’m only saying if… I could envision anyone else playing along side Ruth Gordon as the quirky and roguish Roman Castevet it could only be Burgess Meredith who could pull that off!

burgess & ruth

Also being a HUGE fan of Peter Falk’s inimitable Columbo- I ask why why WHY?! was Burgess Meredith never cast as a sympathetic murderer for that relentless and lovable detective in the rumpled rain coat to pursue! Could you imagine the chemistry between these two marvelous actors!

columbo & burgess

Burgess Meredith all of 5′ 5″ tall was born in Cleveland Ohio in 1907. His father was a doctor, his mother a Methodist revivalist. We lost him in 1997 at the age of 89. That’s when he took his “dirt nap…” the line and that memorable scene from Grumpier Old Men 1993 that still makes me burst out laughing from the outlandish joy of it all!… because as Grandpa Gustafson (Meredith) tells John Gustafson (Jack Lemmon) about how he’s managed to live so long eating bacon, smoking and drinking his dinner–what’s the point…? “I just like that story!”

Meredith, Burgess Street of Chance 1942

Leading man material… Street of Chance 1942

Burgess Meredith said himself, that he wasn’t born to be a leading man, yet somehow he always managed to create a magnetic draw toward any performance of his. As if where ever his presence in the story was, it had the same effect as looking in a side view mirror of the car “Objects are closer than they appear”–What I mean by that is how I relate his contribution becoming larger than the part might have been, had it been a different actor. Like the illusion of the mirrored reflection , he always grew larger in significance within the story–because his charisma can’t help but consume the space.

He took over the landscape and planted himself there like a little metaphysical essence, animating the narrative to a higher level of reality.

penguin_04-1

Meredith started out working with the wonderful Eva Le Gallienne joining her stage company in New York City in 1933. His first film role was that of Mio Romagna in playwright Maxwell Anderson’s Winterset 1936 where Meredith plays the son of an immigrant wrongfully executed for a crime he did not commit. He also joined the ranks of those in Hollywood who were named as “unfriendly witnesses’ by the House Un-American Activities Committee finding no work, being blacklisted in the 1950s.  

During the 1960s Meredith found his way back in various television roles that gave us all a chance to see and hear his incredible spectrum of performances. One of my personal favorites, dramatically potent and vigorously absorbing was his portrayal of Duncan Kleist in  Naked City television series episode directed by Walter Grauman (Lady in A Cage 1964Hold For Gloria Christmas

The groundbreaking crime and human interest series THE NAKED CITY- cast Meredith as a 60s beat poet & derelict who is literally dying to leave the legacy of his words to a kindred spirit.

A powerful performance told through flashback sequences that recollect his murder as he storms through the gritty streets and alley ways of New York City  a volatile alcoholic Greenwich Village poet trying to get back his precious manuscript of poems that were stolen as he bartered them away bit by bit for booze -he has bequeathed his work to the anonymous Gloria Christmas. The chemistry between Burgess Meredith and Eileen Heckart who plays his estranged wife is magnificent. Heckart is another character actor who deserves a spotlight.

 

BURNT OFFERINGS 1976-Dan Curtis’ priceless treasure of creepy camp featuring Karen Black, Oliver Reed and once again uniting the incredible Eileen Heckart with our beloved Burgess Meredith as the ominous Roz and Arnold Allardyce.

Eileen Heckart and Burgess in Burnt Offerings-Dan Curtis

Roz & Arnold… charming… creepy!

Another memorable role for me, is his spirited performance as Charles Chazin alias The Devil in one of my all time favorite horror classics The Sentinel. “Friendships often blossom into bliss.” – Charles Chazin. Ooh that line still gives me chills…

Many people will probably love him for his iconic character study of a crusty cantankerous washed up boxing trainer named Mickey in the Rocky series of films. Or perhaps, for his colorful cackling or should I say quacking villain in the television series Batman -his iconic malefactor — The Penguin!

IMDb fact-His character, the Penguin, was so popular as a villain on the television series Batman (1966), the producers always had a Penguin script ready in case Meredith wanted to appear as a guest star.

Burgess Meredith will always remain one of the greatest, most versatile & prolific actors, character in fact… beloved and eternal…

BURGESS MEREDITH TELEVISION & FILMOGRAPHY ON IMBD HERE

BURGESS MEREDITH

 

“Like the seasons of the year, life changes frequently and drastically. You enjoy it or endure it as it comes and goes, as it ebbs and flows.”- Burgess Meredith

“I’ll just take amusement at being a paradox.”- Burgess Meredith

[on his childhood] “All my life, to this day, the memory of my childhood remains grim and incoherent. If I close my eyes and think back, I see little except violence and fear. In those early years, I somehow came to understand I would have to draw from within myself whatever emotional resources I needed to go wherever I was headed. As a result, for years, I became a boy who lived almost totally within himself.”- Burgess Meredith

 

Continue reading


Announcement: WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon 2014

monstergirl:

This is going to be a character filled event!!!!! Wahoo can’t wait Cheers!

Originally posted on Once upon a screen...:

In 2012 we – as in Kellee, Paula and I – borrowed a catch-phrase from our home of the classics, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in order to host a blogathon dedicated to those whose names few remember.  The phrase is WHAT A CHARACTER! and the players are actors who rarely got leading parts, exhibiting instead a versatility and depth many leading players wished they had.  We never tire of seeing them or paying tribute and as the previous two installments of this event proved, neither do you.  So, here we are with the third annual WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon.

What-A-Character-2014-02

To say we’re thrilled is an understatement and we hope you’ll join us in spotlighting the Edward Arnolds and Eugene Pallettes and Eve Ardens of the world, the oft forgotten names that never appeared above the title.  If this is right up your movie alley then give us a shout out…

Kellee…

View original 555 more words


A Very Ghoulish & Giffy Halloween from your ever lovin’ MonsterGirl!

giphy oz

tumblr_ms3v9hcuO81qirxojo1_500

tumblr_mdoev8IrjP1rhvtaoo1_500

giphy-4

original-4 copy

giphy-5

giphy-6

giphy-9

tumblr_n9jlf3GkDx1tyfqs1o1_250

invisible-man-reveal-o

tumblr_m02wo3jvbG1qc6jkio2_500

tumblr_mlmcbj0wDs1rpduwho1_500

anigif_enhanced-buzz-12548-1368027116-8

giphy-4

cabiniet-of-dr-cailgari-animated-gif-the-bedroom-attack

200

giphy-12

giphy-2

giphy-3

original copy

200-1

giphy-8

giphy-10

giphy-1

giphy-9

giphy-7

black-sabbath-gif-1

giphy-13

giphy-6

KongGif2.gif.CROP.original-original

haunting1

original-2

200

giphy-11

05d5cdd77d6ad3e2_Halloween

clown-film-horror-it-scary-Favim.com-235328_large

giphy-5

The-Exorcist-horror-movies-31497640-500-400

tumblr_inline_mfngm8VxSI1rpg4kv

tumblr_lhylozyWAb1qcay1ao1_500

night+of+the+demon+reach+out

tumblr_lnttdw3iy01qhad67o1_500

tumblr_lrws2su2un1qkyz1oo1_500

tumblr_lswbx8TUq31qg39ewo1_500

tumblr_lxmcbqLgzL1qg6rkio1_500 copy

tumblr_m4ottdDr9i1qg39ewo1_500

tumblr_m9t2pj0a2h1rdcooio1_500

tumblr_m94hifvJfN1rdq2opo1_500

tumblr_motwve2cAj1snnccgo1_500

tumblr_mcqb2z94Bo1qg39ewo1_500

tumblr_mhku5rtRo41r9x1oyo1_400

tumblr_mgiape17rV1qc2bleo1_500

tumblr_mcpayzTmW31rezildo1_1280

THANKS TO RETRO-FIEND FOR ALL THE SKIN-CRAWLING GIFS!!!!!

 BE SAFE AND HERE’S WISHING YOU A SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN FROM THE LAST DRIVE IN…!!!!!!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 162 other followers

%d bloggers like this: