The Un-Thin Man

One from the vaults — my profile of esteemed character fatty Eugene Pallette, culled from an old issue of The Believer (Yeggs, Grifters and Patsies, co-authored with B. Kite), is now up at The Chiseler — where dead movies go to be reborn. Thanks to Ed at The Believer for giving us the go-ahead to re-run this piece.

And don’t forget to buy the new Believer for my big-ass William Cameron Menzies article (and much more good stuff besides!)

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20 Responses to “The Un-Thin Man”

  1. Arthur S. Says:

    Palette is one of the key character actors of the classic comedy period. I like him best in MY MAN GODFREY.

  2. Oh, he’s great in that. That line about starting an insane asylum: “All you need is an empty room and the right kind of people” just sends me. Heaven Can Wait is a good one too.

  3. And I like him best in The Lady Eve. Only Sturges would have the wit and insight to give Pallette an entrance in which he’s seen singing.

    Recently saw the first — silent — version of Chicago, which features a much thinner Pallette. A rather startling image.

    In actual life Pallette was politically to the right of Atilla the Hun. After retirement he spent his days stockpiling food and weapons for the nuclear war he expected would be momentarily breaking out between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

  4. Well, he’s a BIT thinner in Chicago (good, isn’t it?) — and thinner again in Intolerance.

    Not only was Pallette a wingnut, but according to Otto Preminger, a virulent racist. He claimed fired him off In the Meantime, Darling for refusing to sit at the same table as Clarence Muse. Preminger also says Huge Euge was an admirer of Hitler, which is certainly about as rightwing as you can go.

  5. He must have been delighted by the arrival of sound, given the new weapon he could deploy once the microphones were on; as to his politics, I can imagine him watching Slim Pickens riding off on the nuke with great guttural pleasure, completely missing the point. Indeed, I can almost imagine him on the nuke himself.

  6. Pallette was in a lot of early Paramount sound films, too. And yes, he was less fat then as well.

  7. “He was once a handsome leading man,” my friend Lawrie said as we watched Shanghai Express. But I have not found this to be true: even going as far back as Intolerance, where he’s only a little plump, he has those puffy, piggy eyes, which kind of let him out of being the hero.

  8. Arthur S. Says:

    Palette is such a lovable on screen presence that his real life bad character is hard to reconcile. Still good screen acting is good screen acting. I guess taking Palette’s case is one of Preminger’s more justifiable actor-bashing exploits.

    I saw Vidor’s THE PATSY today on TCM. I loved it. Just occured to me how much Marion Davies in her comedies with the King anticipated screwball comedy. Her performance in that film anticipates Carole Lombard in MY MAN GODFREY in her lovable daffiness though instead of a spoilt heiress she’s a cinderella type. She’s one of the best silent performers with this and SHOW PEOPLE.

  9. Marion Davies was a peerless screwball comedy star. Unfortunately Heast preferred to see her in When Knighthood Was in Flower, and other snooze-inspiring dramas.

  10. Christopher Says:

    “give me back my Mutton joint!”

  11. The line he was BORN TO SAY!

  12. Pallette also gets to “sing” in THE GANG’S ALL HERE, where he does so as a disembodied head on a periwinkle background. It’s better than drugs!

  13. The sight of Pallette’s Floating Head of Death rocketing out of a kaleidoscopic vortex is permanently engraved — or should that be embossed? — on my soul.

  14. ALL those floating heads are scary beyond words.

  15. Not to mention the Polka Dots

  16. I’ve been meaning to check out some Marion Davies talkies. She’s great fun in her Vidor silent comedies. Her impressions of Lillian Gish, Pola Negri et al in The Patsy, are wickedly funny.

  17. They’re quite good. But at that point drinking had begun to take its toll and she was in no condition to continue her career, so she retired.

    By that I DON’T mean she looked bad in the talkies. She looked — and acted — teriffically. In many ways she was a precursor of both Carole Lombard and Lucille Ball.

  18. Definitely intrigued now. Not So Dumb seems the one to go for.

  19. Not So Dumb has to be better than the version MGM put out 10 years later with Ann Sothern. That was an hour of my life I would like back. I’ve found for Davies, it’s better to go MGM, her Warner films weren’t exactly right for her from what I could tell.

    For more mindbending Pallette, Follow Thru has him in drag. He makes one scary female impersonator. Imagine Pallette flouncing.

  20. Oh my God. The world’s heaviest flounce.

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