Category Archives: actors - Page 2

The Charles Nelson Reilly Conundrum


I’ve recently run into several mid-30’s, culturally hyperliterate NYC women who, when asked if they know who Charles Nelson Reilly is, respond with a blank stare. Although the Krapmeister is no spring chicken, this is making me feel Really Old, it’s putting me into Ian McKellan in “Gods and Monsters” territory.

CNR was a gem, one of the first openly gay comedians on network t.v. I don’t think Paul Lynde was “out” to the same degree.


Charles Nelson Reilly started out taking acting lessons with Steve McQueen, once married to the lovely Ali McGraw, (see previous post, ed.) He appeared on Broadway and won several Tonys and later became a “game-show fixture”. His spluttering, sailor-hatted, giant-glasses-wearing, ascot-sporting persona was funny and refreshing to me, and I always imagined him as a calm, honorable mensch underneath.

This would distinguish him from Paul Lynde who was also very funny but with an air of menace that hinted at the mean-ass alcoholic he was in real life. There is an apocryphal story of how, as a confirmed kid-hater, he was driven crazy by a squalling baby on a long plane flight. He is said to have left his seat and confronted the baby’s mother, saying “Madam, if you don’t quiet that baby I’m going to fuck it!” It’s bad enough he says “fuck” in regard to the kid but he also calls it an “it”. Drugs, rough trade, booze, early death… standard Hollywood story arc.

But back to me. Why is it that it’s so difficult in the ostensible cultural capital of the world to find a woman who knows who Charles Nelson Reilly is? I’m not big on cultural litmus tests but I’m feeling a little isolated here. Now if I could only find someone who knows who this man is:


Love Story


Ali McGraw is so appealing in Love Story. Ryan O’Neal too. The movie is overwrought but it’s truly character-driven. Ali McGraw looks like an ex of mine, and the deathbed scenes reminded me of my mom’s recent passing so I suppose the experience was preloaded. I found myself feeling that slightly painful feeling of falling in love. I suppose that’s the motivation for the teenage girls who would see the movie multiple times during its first run.

Ryan O’Neal was great at one time, fantastic in “Paper Moon”, funny in “What’s Up Doc?” How did he turn into a bloated angry mess? Ali McGraw wrote a book called “Moving Pictures” where she describes her battles with alcohol and her relationship problems – like Jane Fonda she was only attracted to cold, witholding men. Who could have predicted that watching her be so fresh-faced, funny and cynical back in 1970?

Forgotten actors you must love

pinnochio poster

I just saw William Wellman’s “Lost Boys of the Road”[correction:”Wild Boys of the Road”, ed.], a 1933 film about Depression era kids leaving home and jumping freight trains. Frankie Darro stars and is GREAT. What a natural, I don’t know why he didn’t become a big star. He has an ability to convey honesty and decency in a way that isn’t as self-aware as Jimmy Stewart, and not as acidic as Henry Fonda. Interesting facts about Frankie: according to Wikipedia he played jockeys a lot because of his small stature, and played the voice of “Lampwick” the in one of my favorite animated films, 1940’s “Pinnochio”. Lampwick is the bad boy who is turned into a donkey.

pinnochio poster

Darro opened a bar in Hollywood called the “Try Again” [correction: “Try Later” ed.] (because that’s what he heard every time he would call Central Casting). He became an alcoholic and died of a heart attack at age 59, on Christmas Day in 1976.

Actors you must hate now.


There is a whole crop of self-satisfied sell-out former genius baby-boomer actors, comedians and musicians who you must forcefully hate now because soon they will be too old to hate, it will be unseemly. Many are former comedians, which I attribute to the greater fall from grace by the “truth-teller”. The list includes:

  • Steve Martin – “Shittier by the Dozen”
  • Eddie Murphy – Fat suit fetish
  • Robin Williams – More interesting when on drugs
  • Robert DeNiro – The positive still outweighs the negative
  • Peter Coyote – A former guerilla street mime, now shilling SUV’s
  • Dennis Hopper – “It’s not where your dreams take you, it’s where you take your dreams” WTF does that even MEAN?
  • Iggy Pop – Fresh Air interview: “What does Iggy Pop mean to Jimmy Osterberg?” (his real name)   …”It means getting the best table at a restauarant, ahahaa”
  • Tim Allen – always a sellout, former cocaine dealer turned traditional values fascist
  • Dennis Miller – now appearing on the “Vs.” network with sports commentary

Many many others, too numerous to name. Soon they will be ancient, like Bette Davis in white pancake make-up on the Tonight show, and you will be lucky they can evoke a time when you were younger so you must leave them alone. In the meantime, as was said in “Ben” (or was it “Willard”) “Tear Him Apart!!!!”

Once upon a time in your living room.


If I walk around with a t-shirt that says “main character” will I be protected from harm?

Clint Eastwood, as Pauline Kael said, only has one expression, but he does that expression really well.

Does no one else notice the similarity between Clint Eastwood and Hugh Jackman? Both gracile action stars who bulk up to keep their bodies from giving away the message of vulnerability.

70’s-era Westerns can be damn funny. There is always a dwarf named Mordecai, and a balding Franklin Pangborn meets Crispin Glover terrified shopkeeper.

These Westerns also function as horror movies, with eerie soundtracks and weird views of Mono lake desert moonscapes. Now I know where the sounds effects from Planet of the Apes orginated.

I’m trying to experience Nietszche’s idea of sickness being cleansing, energizing and necessary. It only works when I have a minor cold-induced hysteria, which is quickly over and I’m even less energetic for having had it.