September 12, 2010

Unforgettable: Part II

Continuing my series on character actor appreciation, here are a couple of additional people I would like to showcase.

Ottiano with Lionel Barrymore in The Devil-Doll (1936)

The second I saw this actress appear in Tod Browning's impressive The Devil-Doll, I fell hopelessly in love. Playing Malita, the damaged assistant to Lionel Barrymore's revenge-seeking, escaped convict Paul Lavond (who, in his effort to elude the authorities, disguises himself as an old woman), Ottiano's first appearance is a bit startling. Sporting a shock of unruly hair that includes an artistically arranged white streak (perhaps inspired by the Bride of Frankenstein?) and hobbling around on one crutch, I was reminded of two current actresses that I also admired - Grace Zabriskie and Diane Salinger. Perhaps a bit too stylized in an attempt to let the viewer know that she was the villain of the piece, her performance is fun and her facial reactions and wild eyes are put to great effect in a truly suspenseful scene where Lavond and Malita try to hide some stolen jewelry from a police officer. Plus Ottiano's ultimate intentions and madness come through when she declares, "We'll make the whole WORLD small!" - referring to Lavond's scheme of shrinking down his victims using a serum developed by Malita's deceased scientist husband. After seeing her in this role, I looked into other films that she had done and was surprised to see that she had quite an interesting career which further endeared me to her. A stage actress who eventually played opposite Mae West in the hit Broadway play, "Diamond Lil" (which led to the two actresses reprising their roles for the film version, She Done Him Wrong), another notable role for her was as Greta Garbo's maid in Grand Hotel. A line from Ottiano's Wikipedia entry made me laugh; "Throughout the 1930s, Rafaela Ottiano would often specialize in roles as sinister, malevolent, or spiteful women." This obviously means I need to see every single film she has ever appeared in.

Lassick in Deep Cover (1992)

My favorite male character actor of all time (running a close second to Divine), Sydney is a performer that I remember being a fan of even as a young child. I first noticed him in an episode of "Amazing Stories" back in 1985 called "Remote Control Man" where he played the tormented husband to Nancy Parsons (another favorite performer of mine and one who I will discuss later) who escapes his nagging family by constantly watching television. I thought he was absolutely hilarious and I loved watching his nervous, effeminate mannerisms and dialogue delivery. He reminded me of a mix of Joe Besser (a later member of the Three Stooges) and Richard Simmons. He's probably best remembered for his breakout role as Charley Cheswick in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest where his manic outburst of, "Rules? Piss on your fucking rules!" is definitely one of the film's memorable lines. Sydney kept consistently busy during his career appearing in a wide range of projects, from guest spots on television shows like "Hawaii Five-O", "Eight is Enough" and "The X-Files" to unusual, unforgettable turns in such films as Silent Madness (where he is hilarious as a foul mouthed sheriff investigating a serial killer), Sonny Boy and a bizarre role opposite Laurence Fishburne and Jeff Goldbum in Deep Cover. I think about Sydney everyday and just thinking about his blustery screen persona and that inimitable voice makes me smile.