Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Top Ten Walk-On Characters

So I was watching The Magnificent Seven yesterday and I realized just how much I love that scene at the beginning where we meet our first two gunmen, partly because it's got such great, whip-fast dialogue, most of it delivered by characters we never see for the rest of the movie. That got me thinking about the glory of walk-on characters, those weird, memorable people who pop in and out of a movie for a few minutes, not enough for a Supporting Oscar, but leave such an impression. So, for today, I chose ten random walk-on characters that I love.

1. Henry the Corset Salesman (Val Avery) from The Magnificent Seven

Well, how do you like that? I want him buried, you want him buried and if he could sit up and talk, he'd second the motion. Now that's as unanimous as you can get.

2. Mildred Atkinson (Martha Stewart), the Hat Check Girl from In a Lonely Place

Oh, I think it'll make a dreamy picture, Mr. Steele. What I call an epic...well, you know, a picture that's real long and has lots of things going on.

3. Mrs. MacDougall (Hope Holiday) from The Apartment

Poor Mickey. When I think of him all by himself in that jail in Havana...He's so cute, five foot two, ninety-nine pounds, like a little chihuahua.

4. The "Lovely Ducks" Lady (Joyce Grenfell) from Stage Fright

Would you like to shoot a lovely duck?

5. Mimi (Elizabeth Russell) from The Seventh Victim

I'm not going to wait. I'm going out--laugh, dance--do all the things I used to do.

6. Hysterical Mother (Doreen Lang) from The Birds

I think you're the cause of all this. I think you're evil. Evil!

7. Shapeley (Roscoe Karns) from It Happened One Night

You know, there's nothing I like better than to meet a high-class mama that can snap 'em back at ya. 'Cause the colder they are, the hotter they get. That's what I always say. Yes, sir, when a cold mama gets hot, boy, how she sizzles.

8. Miss Davis (Ellen Corby) from It's a Wonderful Life

Could I have $17.50?

9. Juan the Number One Fan (Alfonso Arau) from Romancing the Stone

Joan Wilder? The Joan Wilder?

10. Mrs. Dudley (Rosalie Crutchley) from The Haunting

No one could. No one lives any nearer than town. No one will come any nearer than that. In the night. In the dark.


  1. Awesome post! I love your choices (especially Mrs. Dudley, who provides the ONLY comic relief in The Haunting). I'm also partial to Dorothy Malone in The Big Sleep (because I love that she's a bookseller and sexy as hell) and Elizabeth Russell (again!) in the "moya sestra" scene in Cat People.

  2. Thanks. I get a real kick out of Mrs. Dudley; she's like Torgo's much classier sister and she works so well. I debated my Elizabeth Russell walk-ons, but ultimately I decided that the Mimi role, while less famous, is a big reason why that film's ending packs such a wallop and I wanted to give it a spot.

  3. I was just watching "The Apartment" and thought I'd look up the actress who plays Mrs Macdougall, and I found your blog.

    Nice list you've got here!

  4. Your 32-month-old post may start seeing some traffic after people start Googling
    "Hope Holiday"--who just made a big boob of herself on Facebook following an Academy screening of Martin Scorsese's latest film.