Sunday, January 4, 2009

“One question—do you want to stick to that story, or do you want to keep your teeth?”

Just noticed at my CharredHer homepage that character great Pat Hingle is no longer with us, having died at age 84. I’m beginning to think this Grim Reaper guy has got a quota or something…

I know I have a tendency to hyperbolize here on the blog a lot, but when I say “great” in connection with Hingle, I don’t mean that as idle praise. He was one of my favorites in movies and TV, and I always got the impression when seeing him work that he was a class act, a courtly Southern gentleman in every sense of the word. His film debut was in On the Waterfront (1954), and he also had memorable roles in The Strange One (1957), Splendor in the Grass (1961), All the Way Home (1963; he later reprised his role for a TV production of the same in 1971), The Gauntlet (1977), Norma Rae (1979) and Bastard Out of Carolina (1996).

His television resume was even more impressive; among the series he guest-starred on: The Twilight Zone (in the unforgettable episode “The Incredible World of Horace Ford”), Route 66, The Fugitive (“Search in a Windy City,” one of my favorite Fuges), Gunsmoke (a recurring role as Dr. John Chapman in 1971), Mission: Impossible, The Defenders, Rawhide, The Untouchables, Judd For the Defense, Felony Squad—the list could go on and on.

My favorite Hingle performance is that of mobster Bobo Justus in the great Stephen Frears neo-noir The Grifters (1990)—particularly that unforgettable scene where he casually discusses mundane subjects (the weather, etc.) with Anjelica Huston as he tosses oranges into a pillowcase in order to give her a beating because he’s learned she’s stealing from him. What is an incredibly terrorizing scene is all the more so because of Hingle’s just-another-day-at-the-office approach to it; I’ll never forget that sequence as long as I live.

And I won’t forget the amazing talent of Mr. Hingle. R.I.P., Pat. You will be missed.


Anonymous said...

I recall, back in the sixties, my father (then in his seventies) lamented the fact that all the vaudeville stars seemed to be passing on.

If you're anything like me, you have little knowledge of today's young stars. I predict that in thirty or forty years, my children and grandchildren will be lamenting the passing of their idols.

Jim's Journeys

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I used to tease my mother about this; we'd watch a recent movie and she would say: "I don't know any of these people." Then I'd make a wisecrack about how I didn't think Cary Grant was making movies any more.

But the same thing has happened to me now. I saw a movie the other night and I think I only recognized two of the people in it--in my defense, however, it was an "indie" film...which are normally not known for their big-name casts.

Pam said...

Whenever I think of Pat Hingle I think of Splendor in the Grass.

Elisson said...

That old TZ episode...

It's not one of the greats, especially upon viewing today. One of those hour-long jobbies. But I remember how I felt watching it as a kid, and it was powerful stuff.

Hingle's loss leaves us all a little bit poorer. I'll miss him.