Character

When I was changing from a kid who liked movies, kinda like any kid but a little weirder, into an actual I-supposed-you’d-have-to-say cinephile, I noticed a guy who seemed to turn up a lot. Not at the movies, IN the movies. Here he is in AFTER HOURS, which was the first Scorsese film that came out properly during this formative period. (I was aware of THE KING OF COMEDY but I don’t think it even made it to Edinburgh screens as part of its actual release).

It was a while before I learned his name, and when I did I kept forgetting it, because it was so ordinary. Dick Miller. It suited his blue-collar, tough-but-decent, warmly paternal aspect, but it took a while to catch. So me and my movie-going chum Robert called him The Character Actor. He was turning up in Joe Dante films, of course, but also in 1941, THE TERMINATOR, early Zemeckis and Demme, a lot of recent things we were catching up with. I’d seen a scattered bunch of Corman films but maybe not the ones that featured him prominently so I don’t think I knew how far back he went. He was one of those guys, like Charles Napier, who just turned up in stuff and gave a pleasurable glow of recognition along with a no-nonsense performance, the eighties equivalents of the Preston Sturges stock company.

Here’s Dick Miller catching an airborne kiss blown by Rosanna Arquette in the manliest manner possible, and with fucking APLOMB.

 

RIP Dick Miller. 90 is a good age, and you seem to have enjoyed life all the way through. A great way to go, but I wish you didn’t have to.

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5 Responses to “Character”

  1. Like Eve Arden and S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Dick Miller is proof that character actors can be more powerful than stars. Look through his credits from his early Roger Corman movies right through his work with Marty and Joe Dante. So glad you highlighted this “After Hours” scene. It perfectly conveys Dick’s ineffable sweetness.

  2. Yes, it creates an emotion that’s very rare in this film — the occasional intimation of magic that lures Griffin Dunne out at night in the first place. A suggestion that this COULD have been a great night, instead of an awful one. The warmth of the laughter DM gets when he snatches that kiss from the air does NOT recur as the story progresses.

  3. Here’s what that scene’s most memorable for —

  4. She’s great. I’m in touch with Mike Hodges on a semi-regular basis, and he has fond memories of working with Rosanna on Black Rainbow.

  5. I love ALL the Arquettes — and greatly miss Alexis.

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