Sunday, January 04, 2009

RIP Pat Hingle

In memorializing Donald E. Westlake I mentioned his fine adaptation of The Grifters. Let me add that the veteran actor, who died at age 84, was absolutely terrifying in the film. It is no small thing to put the fear of God into the indomitable Anjelica Huston, and you could hear a pin drop in the theater when he worked her over with a stocking full of oranges, to cause terrible injury but not lasting damage to one of his assets. (He knew from great pain, as you can read in the Wiki obit.) He was in many films and TV shows; other notable ones include Splendor in the Grass, as Warren Beatty's hypocritical father, and the Dirty Harry entry Sudden Impact, where he makes the pain of a distraught dad credible in potboiler circumstances (he and Clint Eastwood also appeared onscreen in Hang Em High and The Gauntlet.)

He was perfect casting as Commissioner Gordon in the entertaining Batman films of yester-decade. I can imagine him fitting the role of Gooper to a T in the original staging of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; I saw him onstage just once, as Ben Franklin in the 1996-1997 season revival of 1776, his last Broadway appearance. Larissa just heard him as the narrator of the animated feature The Land Before Time, which was on HBO Family tonight. Speaking of family, it's a shame no one thought to cast him as Nick Nolte's father in a movie; the resemblance is there, physically and spiritually, as Nolte picks up the character actor mantle. Hingle was filmed for an in-the-works documentary about auditioning titled Showing Up--he showed up quite a lot, then successfully fought the rest of the battle.

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