Lost in the Movies: Just because you are a character, still doesn't mean you have character...

Just because you are a character, still doesn't mean you have character...

This is a sequel to the "40 Characters" list I made a quarter-decade ago. This time the number's up to 60 (including individuals in pairs and ensembles) and the categories have expanded. Enjoy. 

PART 1: "He's a loathsome, offensive brute...yet I can't look away."

Before, I split this category into two groups - what Alvy Singer might call "the miserable and the horrible" - to distinguish between those who pushed buttons and boundaries, and those who pushed wheelchair-bound ladies down stairways. This time I don't split the difference; the mixed motives are included with the purely malicious, the liars and cheats alongside the killers. The Devil himself even makes an appearance. Best appreciated from a safe distance, some much more than others.

Chapter 1 - Sociopathic charisma

Hjalmar Poelzig (Karloff) in The Black Cat (1934, USA, dir. Edgar Ulmer)
written by Edgar Ulmer, Peter Ruric, Tom Kilpatrick, from Edgar Allan Poe's story

Scratch (Walter Huston) in The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941, USA, dir. William Dieterle)
written by Stephen Vincent Benet, Don Totheroh from Benet's story

Mr. Brown (Richard Conte) in The Big Combo (1955, USA, dir. Joseph Lewis)
written by Philip Yordan

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) in The Shining (1980, USA, dir. Stanley Kubrick)
written by Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson, from Stephen King's novel

Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in Wall Street (1987, USA, dir. Oliver Stone)
written by Stanley Weiser, Oliver Stone

Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) in The Vanishing (1988, Netherlands, dir. George Sluizer)
written by Tom Krabbe, George Sluizer, from Tom Krabbe's novel

Peter Sellers (Geoffrey Rush) in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004, USA, dir. Stephen Hopkins)
written by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, from Roger Lewis' book

PART 2: Not Quite Human

As with Part 1, I have simplified the format, reducing two categories to one. This time all those non-humanoids are gathered in a single spot, from the once-human, to the human-appearing, to those dreamed up on the wildest shores of the imagination ("I tried to think of the most harmless thing..."; nice try).

Chapter 2 - Animals and monsters

Kong in King Kong (1933, USA, dir. Merian Cooper, Ernest Schoedsack)
written by James Ashmore Creelman, Ruth Rose, Merian Cooper, Edgar Wallace, Leon Gordon

The Fox (Romain Bouquet) in The Story of the Fox (1937, France, dir. Wladyslaw and Irene Starewicz)
Wladyslaw and Irene Starewicz, Jean Nohain, Antoinette Nordmann, Roger Richebe from Johann Wolfgang Goethe's story

The Dodo (Mel Blanc) in Porky in Wackyland (1938, USA, dir. Robert Clampett)
written by Warren Foster

The Big Bad Wolf (Frank Graham, Daws Butler) in Red Hot Riding Hood (1943, USA, dir. Tex Avery)
probably written by Tex Avery

The Tramp (Larry Roberts) in Lady and the Tramp (1955, USA, prod. Walt Disney)
written by Ward Greene, Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Ralph Wright, Don DaGradi, Joe Grant, Dick Huemer, Louis Pollock

The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters (1984, USA, dir. Ivan Reitman)
written by Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis

Mr. Toad (Charles Nelson Reilly) in The Wind in the Willows (1987, USA, dir. Rankin/Bass)
written by Romeo Muller from Kenneth Grahame's novel

Oogie Boogie (Ken Page) in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, USA, dir. Harry Selick, prod. Tim Burton)
written by Caroline Thompson, Michael McDowell from Tim Burton's story

PART 3 - It's complicated

These are the characters who are not villains, often not quite heroes: they inhabit a gray zone, like most of the human race, only perhaps less comfortably. They are the fragile, the mysterious, the larger-than-life. To the first category belong the mad, the broken, the wounded, the wandering souls - some violent toward others, others violent only toward themselves. In the second you'll find femme fatales and other elusive ladies who've been flickering across screens since the days of the silent vamps. However, only a few of these dames hail from noirland, and most are misunderstood (they aren't necessarily bad - just drawn that way). Finally there are the "living myths" - those outsize spirits full of grandeur, fury, pomp, or piss and vinegar. Two are kings of this world with voracious appetites, and two are prophets executed for their pains. Both types hold our attention with a fierce command.

Chapter 3 - On (or over) the edge

Sisif (Severin-Mars) in La Roue (1923, USA, dir. Abel Gance)
written by Abel Gance

HE (Lon Chaney) in He Who Gets Slapped (1924, USA, dir. Victor Sjostrom)
written by Carey Wilson, Victor Sjostrom from Leonid Andreyev's play

Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) in In a Lonely Place (1950, USA, dir. Nicholas Ray)
written by Andrew Solt, Edmund North, from Dorothy Hughes' story

Frank Machin (Richard Harris) in This Sporting Life (1963, UK, dir. Lindsay Anderson)
written by David Storey from his novel

Kaspar Hauser (Bruno S.) in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974, West Germany, dir. Werner Herzog)
written by Werner Herzog and Jakob Wassermann

Ana (Ana Torrent) in Cria Cuervos (1976, Spain, dir. Carlos Saura)
written by Carlos Saura

Carrie (Sissy Spacek) in Carrie (1976, USA, dir. Brian DePalma)
written by Lawrence Cohen, from Stephen King's novel

Andre (Andre Gregory) in My Dinner with Andre (1981, USA, dir. Louis Malle)
writen by Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory

Tony de Peltrie in Tony de Peltrie (1985, Canada, dir. Phillipe Bergeron, Pierre Lachapelle, Daniel Langlois, Pierre Robidoux)
probably written by the directors

Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992, USA, dir. David Lynch)
written by David Lynch, Robert Engels, from David Lynch's and Mark Frost's TV show

Combo (Stephen Graham) in This is England (2006, UK, dir. Shane Meadows)
written by Shane Meadows

Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima) in Love Exposure (2008, Japan, dir. Shion Sono)
written by Shion Sono

Asuka in Evangelion 2.22 (2009, Japan, dir. Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Masayuki)
written by Hideaki Anno from his own TV show

Chapter 4 - Femmes fatales and mystery women

Irma Vep (Musidora) in Les Vampires (1915, France, dir. Louis Feuillade)
written by Louis Feuillade

Lily Powers (Barbara Stanwyck) in Baby Face (1933, USA, dir. Alfred Green)
written by Gene Markey, Kathryn Scola, Darryl Zanuck

Gilda (Rita Hayworth) in Gilda (1946, USA, dir. Charles Vidor)
written by Marion Parsonnet, Jo Eisinger, Ben Hecht, E.A. Ellington

Cora Smith (Lana Turner) in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946, dir. Tay Garnett)
written by Harry Ruskin, Niven Busch from James M. Cain's novel

Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961, dir. Blake Edwards)
written by George Axelrod from Truman Capote's novella

Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) in The Graduate (1967, dir. Mike Nichols)
written by Calder Willingham, Buck Henry from Charles Webb's novel

Lana (Rebecca DeMornay) in Risky Business (1983, dir. Paul Brickman)
written by Paul Brickman

Jessica Rabbit (Kathleen Turner) in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988, USA, dir. Robert Zemeckis)
written by Jeffrey Price, Robert Seaman from Gary Wolf's novel

Chapter 5 - Living myths

Henry VIII (Charles Laughton) in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933, UK, dir. Alexander Korda)
written by Lajos Biro, Arthur Wimperis

Ivan the Terrible (Nikolai Cherkasov) in Ivan the Terrible, Part I & II (1944 & 1958, USSR, dir. Sergei Eisenstein)
written by Sergei Eisenstein

Jesus Christ (Colin Blakely) in Son of Man (1969, UK, dir. Gareth Davies)
written by Dennis Potter

Malcolm X (Denzel Washington) in Malcolm X (1992, USA, dir. Spike Lee)
written by Arnold Perl, Spike Lee from Malcolm X's and Alex Haley's book

PART 4 - Men and Women of the World

This a tricky category, and a bit of a catch-all. The first chapter embraces the savvy ones, who know all the angles. Two are worldly, one's world is the sea, but all must find a way to collaborate with others and get the job done (only one succeeds in this endeavor). In the second chapter we find a wide array of characters. Some are outsize personalities, some more down-to-earth, and some aren't even on Earth at all. If they aren't necessarily as engaged with society, they are engaged with one another, whatever this commitment entails (not that there's anything wrong with that). I could have titled it with a nod to a certain SNL skit but, well, discretion is always better in these matters, don't you think?

Chapter 6 - The wise ones

Prosecutor Vital Dutour (Vincent Price) in The Song of Bernadette (1943, USA, dir. Henry King)
written by George Seaton from Franz Werfel's novel

Maggie Hobson (Brenda De Banzie) in Hobson's Choice (1954, UK, dir. David Lean)
written by David Lean, Norman Spencer, Wynyard Browne from Harold Brighouse's play

Quint (Robert Shaw) in Jaws (1975, USA, dir. Steven Spielberg)
written by Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb, John Milius, Howard Sackler, Robert Shaw from Peter Benchley's novel

Chapter 7 - Dynamic duos

Drs. Pretorius & Frankenstein (Ernest Thesiger & Colin Clive) in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935, USA, dir. James Whale)
written by William Hurlbut, John Balderston, Josef Berne, Lawrence Blochman, Morton Covan, Robert Florey, Philip MacDonald, Edmund Pearson, Tom Reed, R.C. Sherriff from Mary Shelley's novel

Caldicott & Charters (Naunton Wayne & Basil Radford) in The Lady Vanishes (1938, UK, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
written by Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder from Ethel Lina White's story

R2-D2 & C-3PO (Kenny Baker & Anthony Daniels) in Star Wars (1977, USA, dir. George Lucas)
written by George Lucas

PART 5 - Talking Heads

Are they really "characters"? In the sense of being fictional, no. Yet in the other sense (of being memorable and unique personages), certainly - all four of these documentary subjects are people you'd probably want to sit down and have a beer with, even if at least one wouldn't sit still for the duration.

Chapter 8 - "Now, let me tell you a story..."

Kenneth Clark in Civilisation (1969, UK, prod. Michael Gill, Peter Montagnon)

Paul "The Badger" Brennan in Salesman (1969, USA, dir. the Maysles Brothers)

David Byrne in Stop Making Sense (1984, USA, dir. Jonathan Demme)

Shelby Foote in The Civil War (1990, USA, dir. Ken Burns)

PART 6 - Ensemble

Last time I cheated by including every character in The Big Lebowski as a single entry. This time the selection pool is smaller - which means I can include a quote from each.

Chapter 9 - The Glengarry leads

 "There's an absolute morality? Maybe. And then what? If you think there is, go ahead, be that thing! Bad people go to Hell? I don't think so. You think that? Act that way. Hell exists on Earth? Yes. I won't live in it." - Ricky Roma (Al Pacino)

"I can't negotiate, I don't have the power." - James Lingk (Jonathan Pryce)

"You see this watch? You see this watch?
That watch cost more than your car.
I made $970,000 last year, how much you make? You see, pal, that's who I am and you're nothing.
Nice guy? I don't give a shit. Good father? Fuck you, go home and play with your kids. You wanna work here, close.
You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can't take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit?" - Blake (Alec Baldwin)

"I sat there five minutes and then I sat twenty-two minutes by that kitchen clock on the wall. Ricky, not a word, not a motion, and what am I thinking? Is my arm getting tired? No, I did it. Just like the old days, like I used to, like I was taught, I did it." - Shelley Levine (Jack Lemmon)

"Where have you been, Shelley? Bruce and Harriet Nyborg? You want me to show you the memos? They're nuts. They used to call in every week when I was with Webb, we were selling Arizona. They're nuts. Did you see how they were living? How can you delude yourself...

The people are insane.
They just like talking to salesmen." - John Williamson (Kevin Spacey)

"So all this, you didn't actually, you didn't actually call Graff, you didn't talk to him?"
"Not actually, no."
"You didn't?"
"Not actually."
"Did you?"
"What did I say?"
"What did you say?"
"I said 'not actually'. Fuck you care, George, we're just talking."

"We are?"
"Because, uh, because it's a crime."
"Robbery, that's right. It is a crime. It's also very safe."
"You're actually talking about this."
"That's right."
"You're gonna steal the leads."
"Have I said that?"
"Are you?"
"Did I say that?"
"Did you actually talk to Graff?"
"What did I say?"
"What did he say?"
"What did he say?...He'd buy 'em."
- Dave Moss (Ed Harris) to George Aaranow (Alan Arkin)

"Ohhhh God, I hate this job." - George

The entire cast of characters in Glengarry Glen Ross (1993, USA, dir. James Foley)
written by David Mamet from his own play

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