Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Character Actors

Last month I bought Quinlan's Illustrated Directory of Film Character Actors at a used bookstore up in Oslo. It has proved a delight, inspiring this drawing. I won't mention who these guys are--I hope film buffs (especially B movie lovers) will recognize some of their mugs. I will hint that two are in the land of the living, both 74 years old now.

Quinlan's has a British style of clinical mercilessness, which makes for an entertaining read.  He has a knack for hyphenated adjectives, honing in subtly on particular qualities that a said actor displays in his specific roles. "fair-haired, blue-eyed actor...with carved lips, Frankenstein Eyebrows..."; or "Tall, spare, permanently-wizened, beak-nosed, small-eyed, bald, parrot-like..."

Though arranged alphabetically, the book is designed for thumbing through, with good photos of thousands of actors. It's a different mentality than we seem to have landed in recently, what with the IMDB, which requires that one knows the name of the actor first off, before researching. I do love web surfing, but it's also nice to have good reference books like this on hand. The book seems to be out of print, another internet casualty.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Doctor

Yesterday one of the extremely old memories of childhood bubbled up in my head in the form of a bobble head doctor. I tend to think of my grandparent's basement a lot, the repository for so many memories. Not only my own memories, but those of the atomic culture of the time, c. 1960. 

The basement, where my father and uncle had lived, and whose rooms full of artifacts were preserved (unlike my own childhood rooms, which shifted during several moves my family undertook), was a sacred repository of mystery and imagination. Especially as a very young kid certain objects were not just fascinating, but downright terrifying.

Such was this thing, found in shadowy, neglected nooks in the ever-dim light of the sweet limestone- smelling space. (For a sound background, put in a David Lynch hum, a thudding breathing from the old gas furnace, supplying the ambient sound.) This little doctor doll was an object of horror, inexplicable, with it's malevolent head flopping and jiggling, as if suffering a neurological disease. The shaking, living quality would always be there, no matter how long you averted your gaze, hoping it to stop the next time you were unfortunate to look at the thing. Better yet would have been, to have the thing be gone entirely.

And so it was. Who removed it? It was not just hidden (as a cloth hid the bear head, which scared my brother.) The doctor never popped up again. He may have been simply thrown out by a concerned parent or grandparent. 

And so the doctor doll was consigned to the dustbin of memory--until I searched for it on Ebay. Sure enough, that was it, all right. I found that it was made by a company called St. Pierre and Patterson. Google as I may, I find no information about this cryptic, forgotten concern. They certainly had talent and wherewithal. I newly have a respect for anyone in the ceramics field, since I make slip molds myself. Many of their other figurines have this same style of grotesque humor (judging from others on offer on Ebay.)

My imagination runs wild... I imagine a Haitian folk artist being discovered by a declasse Anglo somewhere in the deep south. St. Pierre has a raw energy, while Patterson (wearing seersucker) has a salesman's gift, and some knowledge of the porcelain trade.  They land in Texas after a year or two, when the post War boom years really start simmering... Large fans whir overhead as Mexicans paint the wooden plaques and airbrush the finishing coats of underglaze...