The Henchman Cometh


Shadowplay informant Levi Stahl, of excellent bookblog I’ve Been Reading Lately, who recently tipped me off about the Tippi Barbie, contacted me again, playing Sidney Falco to my JJ Hunsecker — he furnishes me with items — and said ~

“Not to be that guy who’s always clogging your inbox with stuff . . . but a friend and I were talking tonight about William Gresham’s NIGHTMARE ALLEY (I, not unsurprisingly, was talking about the novel, while he was talking about the film) and he mentioned that character actor Mike Mazurki played a heavy . . . which lead us to the IMDb, where we found that the list of Mazurki’s first dozen or so roles . . . is mindblowingly awesome! Look at the names of the characters Mazurki played–they’re best read from the bottom up:

Swing Fever (1943) (uncredited) …. Wrestler
Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) (uncredited) …. Olaf
Behind the Rising Sun (1943) (uncredited) …. Japanese Wrestler
Bomber’s Moon (1943) (scenes deleted) …. Kurt
Prairie Chickens (1943) (uncredited) …. Henchman Charlie
Mission to Moscow (1943) (uncredited) …. Russian Machinist Workman
Taxi, Mister (1943) …. Henchman Joe
It Ain’t Hay (1943) (uncredited) …. Bouncer
Gentleman Jim (1942) (uncredited) …. Jake Kilrain
That Other Woman (1942) (uncredited) …. Thug
The Moon and Sixpence (1942) (uncredited) …. Tough Bill
Dr. Renault’s Secret (1942) (uncredited) …. Rogell
About Face (1942) (uncredited) …. Tough Sailor
The Shanghai Gesture (1941) …. The Coolie

Could anyone ever have been tougher over a three-year stretch?!”

The answer, my friends, is PERHAPS YES — and we shall hear all about it in my next post.

11 Responses to “The Henchman Cometh”

  1. “In 1965, he co-founded and became the first president of The Cauliflower Alley Club, an association of professional wrestlers. A photograph of his cauliflower ear forms the logo of the organization.” I like this guy.

  2. What a magnificent brute! The post-natal panty girdle hardly even registers.

  3. Of course he was also in Murder, My Sweet — “They call me Moose, on account of I’m large.” And then there’s Night And The City. I too like this guy.

  4. Not to mention Billy’s Some Like It Hot, this guy had a great career.

  5. Not to mention John Ford’s Seven Women where he plays murderous raping warlord Tunga Khan. Anne Bancroft finishes him off memorably in the indelible finale of that autumnal masterpiace.

  6. I watched Seven Women recently on TCM, within the past year or so. Very memorable, a dark character in a dark film.

  7. We Like Mike! A great career, and a very long one. He turns up in drag in The Errand Boy.

    The cauliflower ear thing is marvellous, what a rare distinction.

    Levi’s alert reached me just as I was finalising another piece about a guy who played lots of toughs, with tough names. I’ll just go post it now.

  8. In fairness to my friend, I should point out that he’s the one who introduced me to the novel Nightmare Alley in the first place–and he’s now definitely convinced me to see the movie.

    I like the idea of playing scramble with Mazurki’s roles, which gives you parts like Tough Coolie, Russian Machinist Thug, Henchman Bouncer, and Japanese Charlie.

  9. Tough Kurt Thug!

    Nightmare Alley is a tremendous film. A rare chance to see the amazing Helen Walker. A Shadowplay contact recently told me she was in touch with a relative of Coleen Gray, also in the film, but sadly the relative doesn’t get on with her esteemed auntie so there was no chance of another clunky Shadowplay interview.

  10. You should know that you can’t mention Helen Walker without me responding. When Stanton Carlisle encountered Dr. Lilith Ritter just the first name alone should have set off red flags. Walker was only 47 years old when she died in 1968, after twenty-five years of bad luck beginning with a car crash that broke her pelvis and killed a returning WWII vet. Like Gail Russell and Linda Darnell, another actress whose life took a dark turn. Her house burned down in 1960, and the acting community reacted helpfully. This was after she’d retired from film and television. T’was cancer that took her at the end. And what a beautiful pair of eyes she had.

  11. She’s amazing in Cluny Brown also, showing a flair for comedy as well as femme fatalism.

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