Showing posts with label Character Actor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Character Actor. Show all posts

5 Memorable Characters of Edie McClurg

Monday, March 7, 2022

A few months back, I really enjoyed writing a pair of features that focused on Ernie Sabella and Larry Hankin, two of Hollywood's great character actors.  Since then, I've been itching for the chance to add to this series and highlight my favorite female character actor.  So, in taking this opportunity to do so, it's my great pleasure to celebrate the career of the great Edie McClurg!  

In my tributes to Mr. Sabella (CLICK HERE) or Mr. Hankin (CLICK HERE,) I mentioned that I enjoy watching character actors display their talents over the work of a megastar leading actor.  A character actor works in supporting or background roles, almost exclusively.  If you've ever seen someone in a movie and said, "Hey, I've seen that guy before in..." or "What's that lady's name?  She was the neighbor on..." then you've seen a character actor.  

This "5 Memorable Characters" series is my tribute to the less lauded heroes of Hollywood.  This entry in the series is my tribute to one of the funniest women in Hollywood, Edie McClurg.  You may not recognize the name, but for sure, you'll recognize her face... and most definitely her voice.


While her IMDB filmography reads like a list of greatest hits, she made her career out of leaving lasting impressions in just a few short moments on screen.  With her northern-midwest accent and sunny disposition, her voice is immediately recognizable.  

Don't let her midwestern 'niceness' fool you.  She can be hysterically funny or deadly serious, and her bubbly "fake-nice" tone often leaves people wondering if her characters are sincere or facetious.  She's quick-witted with a biting sense of humor that makes it all the funnier when she unleashes her mean streak... always done in a pleasant way, of course!  

Edith Marie McClurg was born on July 23, 1945, in Kansas City, Missouri.  The daughter of a mailman and a secretary for the Federal Aviation Administration, she began performing on stage at the age of 5.  After earning her Master's degree at Syracuse University, she reentered the entertainment industry as a radio DJ, newswoman, and producer for the Kansas City area NPR affiliate.

After nearly a decade in radio, Ms. McClurg moved to San Francisco in 1974 to perform improv comedy with the Pitschel Players.  She moved to Los Angeles a year later, where she joined the prestigious improv group, The Groundlings, as an active member from 1975 to 1985.  

She credits the Groundlings not only with her excellent improvisation training but for earning breaking roles that enabled her to be seen by a broad audience.

In 1976, through her connections in The Groundlings, Ms. McClurg made her on-screen debut as Helen Shyres in the classic horror film Carrie, based on the Steven King novel.

Tony Orlando, Cheech and Chong, and Richard Pryor all noticed Edie from her work in the Groundlings, and she soon found work on The Tony Orlando and Dawn variety show, The Richard Pryor Show, and in the 1980 film Cheech and Chong's Next Movie.


Also, in 1980, she would regularly perform on the very short-lived morning show version of The David Letterman Show as Mrs. Marv Mendenhall.  This cult-favorite talk show may have been short-lived, but the character played by McClurg on this show became the basis of nearly every other character she portrayed.  

"She (Mrs. Marv) became Lucille on WKRP in Cincinnati and the mom in Cheech and Chong's Next Movie, and even the secretary in Ferris Bueller's Day Off," Edie once told Backstage Magazine.  "So that's one character that's really stood me in good stead.  She was so sweet and funny, but she could be a little acerbic."

She worked with fellow Groundling Paul Reubens on his first stage play, The Pee-wee Herman Show, where she would appear as "Hermit Hattie."  She would also work with fellow Groundling Cassandra Peterson in the cult comedy/horror classic Elvira:  Mistress of the Dark. 

She's known for a number of roles on hit sitcoms like WKRP in Cincinnati and The Hogan Family.  Other appearances range from Harper Valley PTA, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and several voice roles in animated shows like The Jetsons, The Snorks, and animated films A Bug's Life, Cars, and Cars 2.   She even made a memorable appearance on one of the most popular episodes of The Golden Girls as a nurse nicknamed "The Angel of Death."  


Her final public appearance was a 2020 voice-over cameo made in an episode of Family Guy that spoofed Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  Sadly, recent reports suggest that Ms. McClurg is dealing with health issues and has retired from her acting career following a dementia diagnosis.

With over 90 films and 60 television series under her belt, Edie McClurg, in my humble opinion, should be at the front of every conversation that discusses Hollywood's greatest character actors.  

Without further ado, let's take a look at what I personally consider to be the 5 memorable characters of Edie McClurg's career.

5 Memorable Characters of Larry Hankin

Monday, May 24, 2021

I really enjoyed writing the feature last month about the "Five Memorable Roles" of character actor Ernie Sabella.  Based on the reception and website traffic, it appears many of you did, too! 

If you read my tribute to Mr. Sabella's career (which you can read by clicking HERE), you'd have read read that I enjoy watching the work of character actors over that of megastar leading actors or actresses.  There are many character actors whose work I enjoy, so, I decided to continue this series with another tribute to one of, if not my all-time, favorite character actors.    

His IMDB page reads like a list of television and film's greatest hits:  Laverne & Shirley, Family Ties, Days of Our Lives, Friends, Escape from Alcatraz, Billy Madison, Home Alone, Seinfeld, and many, many more.  This character actor has made a career out of leaving lasting impressions with just a few moments on screen and is easily one of the most recognizable "that guy" actors in Hollywood.  He can be hysterically funny or deadly serious. 


He's Larry Hankin.

5 Memorable Characters of Ernie Sabella

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

In my line of work, I rarely work with the same people more than once.  I often find myself explaining who I am and figuring out who I'll be spending the next few days with inside an office smaller than your bathroom.  As a get-to-know-you question hoping to spark more conversation, people will sometimes ask things like "What's your favorite movie?" or "Who's your favorite actor?"  

I can always answer the first one quickly.  My favorite movie is Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window."  

The second question is never easy.  

I don't have a favorite leading actor.  I've always had more of a fascination with character actors instead.  I often play a little game with myself when watching something and see how quickly I can place someone.  I'll often annoy my wife with commentary like, "Hey, that person was also in (fill in the blank.)"  Sometimes, the need to know where I've seen them before is so great I'll stop what we're watching and Google them until I'm satisfied that I know where I've recognized them from.  

By definition, according to Wikipedia, a character actor is a supporting cast member who plays unusual, engaging, eccentric, or memorable roles.  One of my favorite character actors in television may not have a household name, but I guarantee everyone knows precisely who he is.  


He's Ernie Sabella.