Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The piece on Margo Martindale yesterday was part of a much-longer post, divided for sheer breathing room.   There are quite a few wonderful actresses in her genre, and these are a few I'm always glad to see listed in the credits:

Of course, the Queen of the lot has for some time been Kathy Bates---Dolores Claiborne/ Annie Wilkes/Evelyn Couch/Frances Lacey, and she IS a Star, with an Oscar and several other nominations,  but she's also one of the become-the-character, warts-and-all people whose work is stunning to watch, every time.

 There’s also  a crowd of very talented women making their own places in similar roles and characters. 

Remarkable, deliberately-plain Melissa Leo, noted for her perfectly-played character of a no-nonsense police officer in the unequaled Homicide: Life on the Street, has come to the fore in recent times with several stunning portrayals of gritty, driven women with a will to persevere, and an Oscar (finally!) just this year. 

I’ve always loved Beah Richards, the soft-spoken Mama in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, (who was several years younger than her "son" at the time).     In her younger years in the theater, she was an absolute dynamo, with her stunning raw beauty. fierce and fearless on the stage. and throughout all her countless dramatic roles, Baby Suggs had been waiting for her all her life, until her very last moments on film.   

And Ann Wedgeworth, noted as one of the beauties of the screen, glamourous as all get-out, and improbably perfect as Patsy Cline’s feisty, plain and plain-spoken Mama in Sweet Dreams.

There’s the quiet, simple strength of Beth Grant, cool as ice, or fiercely loving or  slyly deceitful.  She's everybody's perfect (or nightmare) Neighbor.

Wonderful, expressive Viola Davis---an immense presence filling the screen in even the smallest role, and those teacup tears will break your heart.     We're gonna hear great things from this lady.

Paula Malcomson, the easy, tough Trixie in Deadwood, whose tiny frame and piercing eyes contribute to her portrayals of formidable friend and foe alike.

And there’s  Dale Dickey, whose portrait of a browbeaten, fierce-in-her-own-way Appalachian wife, cruel when she has to be, whose implacable, downturned mouth and hard words gave no quarter, sought no mercy in Winter’s Bone---quite a memorable performance in an outstanding ensemble of pure talent.

And the Powerhouse---practically a Force of Nature:  Lorraine Toussaint.  A smart, sexy, savvy, sassy actor with a note of command in her smoky voice, melting into the tenderest  Mama Earth.   She can preach about Original Sin, then get you out of any predicament you’ve fallen into thereby, through her wit and warmth and brain-power.   When she’s on a screen, she’s all there is, and I think she could do Shakespeare as the Cheshire Cat, with nothing to see but those eyes and that smile.   Such a power to her presence, and her hugs must be glorious.

And you?   Do you have any less-famous-than-they-deserve favorites?


Jeanne said...

Good morning Rachel, this post is so interesting. I admit to only knowing Kathy Bates, whom I love as an actress of real talent. Some of the others are familiar but unknown as far as their names. In the last few years I do not keep up with the actors and or movies that come out. We see a few from time to time but not on a regular basis. The movies you mentioned are not current I think.

We are busy getting ready to take our RV to Maine for the month of June. We will have our computers with us. I can't wait to have some one on one time with Bill. We have had so much company and time together is a rare thing.

I am checking your posts I have missed next. Smile.
Hugs, Jeanne

Marlene said...

I remember Ann Wedgeworth as Lahoma Vane on Another World. That goes waaay back!

racheld said...

We tend to like the old favorites, as well, Jeanne, unless one comes recommended by someone whose judgement we trust. Winter's Bone was one such, and it was simply breathtaking (though NOT nearly so much as the BOOK, for Woodrell is one of the BEST authors, word-wise, whom I've ever read).

And I cannot think of a more splendid June than one spent in MAINE---I hope it's to the rocky, cliffy seacoast, as least for some pictures.

And Marlene---I almost MENTIONED Lahoma!!! My GMIL was an avid watcher, and sometimes I'd see it with her---it's so silly, but my most vivid memory of it is one day one of the characters came to Lahoma's for lunch.

She complimented the "tuna-fish salad" and Lahoma's dear Southern accent said, "It was just plain old tuna-fish, but I DID put in some SELL-ry."

Beverly said...

Great post, Rachel. I know this might seem strange to some, but I think of Renee Zellwegger as this kind of actress. I thought she was fantastic in Cold Mountain.

steelersandstartrek said...

As much as she irritates me when she is out of character, I'd have to add Whoopie Goldberg to the list. Between her incredible work in The Color Purple and the nearly flawless romps she carried out in Jumping Jack Flash and Ghost, she demonstrated some pretty wide and effective range.

If we're allowing headliners like Ms Bates on the list, Dame Maggie Smith is an absolute MUST to be included. From Jean Brody to Professor McGonnagle to Constance Trentham she is superb, though I love her best as Dora Charleston in Murder By Death.

Other headliners / supporting actresses I could add might be Emma Thompson or Dame Judi Dench, but I'd have to turn in my Manhood Card.

Going deeper into movie history, I'd throw in Elsa Lanchester, Agnes Moorehead, Kim Hunter, and the divine Ellen Burstyn.

And of course Charo.

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Kim Shook said...

I love all of these REAL women! I think that Kathy Bates is the queen of them all, though. I have to speak up for Dame Judi Dench - she's one of our favorites and just gets more beautiful and REAL with age. 'Sides - we're in ENGLAND!!! ;-)