Saturday, June 21, 2008
In praise of Thelma Ritter
One of the reasons why I love classic movies is because of all the wonderful character actors lurking in the background, thanks to the studio system. And my ultimate all-time most favoritest character actor of all time is the wonderful Thelma Ritter.
In every role she played, no matter how small, she was truly unforgettable. And it takes something to steal a scene from Bette Davis (All About Eve). She was one of those natural talents, both comedic and dramatic, that made every line she delivered seem utterly effortless and completely effective.
The one thing that makes me love her so much is that in all of her movies there's one moment -- one scene or one perfect line -- that you remember long after you see the film. In Pillow Talk it's her drinking Rock Hudson under the table. In the Fred Astaire/Leslie Caron musical Daddy Long Legs it's her nagging her boss into reading his ward's letters. And in the Hitchcock classic Rear Window it's as the bossy nurse telling Jimmy Stewart to stop spying on his neighbors.
She was too average looking to be a leading lady, but her talent was undeniable (6 Academy Award nominations) but her sassy, brassy, bossy wisecracking second banana roles were alone worth the price of admission.
They don't make 'em like that anymore. Pass the popcorn.