Friday, April 3, 2009

The Film Doctor's top 10 favorite characters

Having been tagged by Jason Bellamy of The Cooler and Kevin J. Olson of Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies, the Film Doctor pieced together some favorites, thereby betraying his preference for femme fatales, cyborgs, and sociopaths. Here they are in descending order:

10) The Terminator (but only in the first film). I like his singularly focused drive.

9) Susan (Madonna) in Desperately Seeking Susan. How I always liked to picture Madonna.

8) Captain de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay) in La Grand Illusion. Aristocratic cool personified.

7) Tracy Lord (Katherine Hepburn) in Philadelphia Story. Another snotty, witty character. I like her high-pitched fake laugh.

6) Elaine Miller (Frances McDormand) in Almost Famous: [in the middle of a class lecture] "Rock stars have kidnapped my son!"

5) Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) in Out of the Past: for his transcendent sleepiness.

4) Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) in White Heat: the definitive gangster sociopath.

3) Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) in Bull Durham: "I believe in the Church of Baseball. I've tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I've worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn't work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology."

2) Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando) in Streetcar Named Desire: "When we first met, me and you, you thought I was common. How right you was, baby. I was common as dirt. You showed me the snapshots of the place with the columns. I pulled you down off them columns and how you loved it."

1) My all-time favorite character: Bridget Gregory (Linda Fiorentino) in The Last Seduction. As Mike Swale tells her in a phone message: "I love you--I'm sure you feel the same way--I'm sure you love you too."


Lastly, I tag Screen Savour, Wonders in the Dark, Flickhead, Cinema-o-rama, and Andrew of Gateway Cinephiles if they feel like it, or anyone reading this post.


Jason Bellamy said...

Good list! Annie Savoy went on and off my list about five times. Love her. The only head-scratcher for me is McDormand's character in Almost Famous -- a case where the whole audience was laughing and I couldn't figure out what was funny. So you're not alone on that one. I am.

FilmDr said...

Thanks, Jason. I think Frances McDormand's character anchors all of the rock and roll excess of Almost Famous. I find it amazing how sympathetic her character is, since she could have easily appeared nagging, dreary, and authoritarian. When I saw Burn After Reading more recently, I found that I couldn't like the film in part because McDormand seemed so ill-served as an actress in that context.

JUS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JUS said...

Good list.

I'm exposing my unsophisticated self to the good Doctor's probing judgement:

A ranked list isn't in me, but I have loved these characters:

Gary Sinise as Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump,

Michael Jeter as Eduard Delacroix in The Green Mile,

Peter Sellers as Inspector Clousseau in The Pink Panther,

Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa in Casablanca,

Al Pacino as Tony Montana in Scarface,

Kathy Bates as Evelyn in Fried Green Tomatoes,

Kirk Douglas as Spartacus,

Elizabeth Taylor as Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf.

Tim Curry as Frankenfurter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Hard to stop once you get going...

tom hyland said...

Nice list, especially the transcendent sleeper Jeff Bailey. Mitchum never slept through any role better than he did here! (although he tried really hard in Angel Face.)

Speaking of Cody Jarrett (great choice), how about his mother (Margaret Wycherly), affectionately known as Ma?

Alexander Coleman said...

A most excellent list, Film Dr. I was tagged by Kevin Olson and one of the characters I've been considering was Jeff Bailey/Markham from Out of the Past, a film I insanely adore.

Now that you've stolen him, though, I think I'll go with Jane Greer's femme fatale. Somehow, I actually prefer her. :-)

FilmDr said...

Nice list, JUS. I almost went with Al Pacino in The Godfather. I found Martha a big grating in Who's Afraid, but she definitely resonates as a character.

Thanks, Tom. Yes, Cody's mom makes all of the difference in White Heat. I tried to find a picture of Cody sitting on her lap.

Thanks, Alexander. I'm glad to hear that we share an appreciation for Out of the Past, one of those films I don't mind watching over and over indefinitely. It's the ultimate mannered noir.

hokahey said...

I've checked out a number of lists on the other blogs - and I'm working on my own list - and it's clear that each of us is touched or inspired by totally different sets of characters. For me, for the most part, it's the characters who impressed me in some way at a young age.

As for Terminator - good pick. I remember seeing this unknown film for the first time in the theater with my younger brother, and we laughed out loud when he 1)steps on the toy truck and 2)is fixing his eye and hears the knock on the door, scrolls through the possible responses, and then chooses a memorable one. Awesome character!

FilmDr said...

Thanks, Hokahey,

You are right about idiosyncrasies of these fav character lists. I was surprised by how several of mine came from the 80s, I guess a formative period for me.

MovieMan0283 said...

Great, diverse, often surprising list - I have not seen The Last Seduction but from the quote it sounds like Fiorentino would have fit in with "sociopathic charisma" nicely.

FilmDr said...

Thanks, Movieman. Our two lists show similar tastes. I suppose sociopaths get to live out the impulses that we more civilized viewers often have to suppress. I strongly recommend The Last Seduction, by the way. The film never got the attention it deserved.

Joe said...

Susan does have the advantage of mystery in Desperately Seeking Susan, but I've always been smitten with Rosanna Arquette's Roberta.

FilmDr said...


Yes, Roberta is the more fully fleshed out of the two. I'm still kind of surprised that I picked Susan, but I like her nonchalance and attitude, the way she dries off an armpit with the blow-dryer. She is something of a rock and roll cliche, but Madonna pulls it off.