In Memoriam:: Michael J. Pollard 5/30/39 – 11/20/19 Posted on November 23, 2019 by unkle lancifer — 10 Comments ↓ Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)MoreClick to print (Opens in new window)Click to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related
So sad to hear of the passing of Michael J. Pollard, one of the greatest all-time character actors. I see lots of folks noting his awesome performances in Bonnie & Clyde and House of 1,000 Corpses but I have to add a very loud appreciation for AMERICAN GOTHIC (1988), my favorite movie of his. I’ll also never forget his Star Trek episode! He will be missed. Nobody quite like him! R.I.P.
Well said, Unk. As a guy myself who came of age during the iconic 70s, with its elite handful of true stars (and elite character actors) used over and over (as well on the handful of over the air networks), I always thought that Pollard represented the counter-cultural kookiness and awkwardness that was a sure brush in the hands of the maverick directors of the era. In some ways, he was the Steve Buscemi of his era (or vice versa). He always seemed to be on my TV screen in the edgy movies of the counterculture, be it cowboy, gangster or “modern” movies, representing the awkward, shy and unsettled secondary character pulled in over his head by the main stars and circumstances. His appearance always made me unsettled, even when a victim, and for that I thank him. I hope he reaped the rewards of his contribution, and was satisfied with his role in our culture. His little-known role today reflects on an era that gave us the Struther Martins and their like in that time, an even a “square peg in a round hole” star like Warren Oates, in a literate but risky, soul-searching era it would be good to see return. I am not surprised, with your taste, Unk, to see you appreciate and acknowledge his contribution; heck, a guy like you that appreciates him while also the “Sorority Row Massacre”-type productions (I myself am a “Shriek of the Mutliated” worshipper) shows that I have been associating with kindred spirits.
Man, his awkwardness used to creep me out and make me squirm each time I saw him in a role.
Bit of trivia: he was the person who coined the phrase, “The low spark of high-heeled boys.” which became the famous album and hit song for the band Traffic.
Thanks for that thoughtful comment. I was getting depressed that we seem to see less and less quirky character actors these days. Steve Buscemi is a great example and I’d add Crispen Glover as well. Maybe I’m not in tune with the young actors of today but I hope there is an adequate wing of next generation character actors coming up. They add so much humanity and realness to film. Plus people like Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Walken have shown you can be idiosyncratic and a leading actor too. Hope we’re not becoming too homogenized and cookie cutter as time goes on. In anywise, there will never be another like Michael J. Polard. KIndof reminds me of when Susan Tyrell died- there’s just no there like them.
Wow really? that’s a great piece of trivia.
I forgot to mention SCROOGED. I watch that basically every year. Oh and Sleepaway Camp 3!
From the Wikipedia article here:
The title refers to an inscription written by actor Michael J. Pollard in Jim Capaldi’s book while they were both in Morocco. Capaldi and Pollard were planning to work on a movie that was never filmed. Capaldi said:
“Pollard and I would sit around writing lyrics all day, talking about Bob Dylan and the Band, thinking up ridiculous plots for the movie. Before I left Morocco, Pollard wrote in my book ‘The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.’ For me, it summed him up. He had this tremendous rebel attitude. He walked around in his cowboy boots, his leather jacket. At the time he was a heavy little dude. It seemed to sum up all the people of that generation who were just rebels. The ‘Low Spark,’ for me, was the spirit, high-spirited. You know, standing on a street corner. The low rider. The ‘Low Spark’ meaning that strong undercurrent at the street level.”
Pollard was also the leader of the kids in the original Star Trek episode where they would yell, “Bonk, bonk, on the head!”. That quote is still a favorite amongst my team at work when dealing with unruly coworkers.
That is my favorite episode of StarTrek easily! Kim Darby! The line that always stuck with me was “No. blah, blah, blah! Also, I gotta say, Yeoman Rand is a Christina Applegate doppleganger to me!
I also have to give props to Geoffrey Lewis as a great character actor and his daughter Juliette is astounding as well. She can do anything and I love sometimes seeing her father’s face in hers and she’s a great example of a later generation of actors who offer something really singular and their own.
The Lewis’ are fine pick. I think we’ll never have Michael J. Pollard because we’ll never have again the era he came from – the 70s era of the rebel and anti-hero. Honestly, I can’t “get into” the younger actors they always use today, and usually hope the “bad guy” gets them, just to get them to quit whining or shagging with the other spoiled miscreants (I guess I show my age). Give me anytime some older Peter Fonda/Warren Oates/Loretta Switt/Lara, the gal from “Dark Shadows” types , fighting good old-fashioned senior citizen Satanists, like God meant. I lean toward the grizzled types, like the Neville Brands who steal the show, the Michael Ansaras, Joe Don Baker, and disturbing people like the great Jack Palance and wonderful Richard Lynch and Harry Dean Stanton, and even perpetual “cop chiefs” like Simon Oakland, always taking the badges away of the “loose cannons”. I would love to see people list more great character actors here (I would remember dozens more with a little thought) .
Of course, I believe the “patron saint” of the “quirky character actor” to be Timothy Carey, who deserves his own Kindertrauma post, along with the only movie he produced himself – the incomparable “The World’s Greatest Sinner”:
As for great character actors, don’t forget M. Emmet Walsh. Roger Ebert famously said: “â€œno movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad.â€
You’re so spot on. Rebels and outsiders were much more valued back in the day and there was a certain pride in American individualism that seems to have vanished. Social media seems to be making it even worse with everything focused on popularity and the rise of “influencers”. I could go full old fogey on this subject! I notice it a lot in the horror genre where the casts get more and more uniform and look more and more like models.
I’m ashamed I’m not that familiar with Timothy Carey- I will be checking him out. Thanks for the heads up! Love both Jack Palance and Richard Lynch. Harry Dean Stanton forever.
Ah, and M. Emmet Walsh too! So great! I think Blade Runner turned me on to him. And his name reminds me of the great E.G. Marshal! He will always be the ultimate U.S president in my head thanks to Superman 2!
Oh, I gotta give a shoutout to Brad Dourif as well. He’s great in everything.
Timothy Carey was a favorite of Stanley Kubrick. When you see him as one of the doomed framed soldiers in Paths of Glory, he appears like he’s from the 1970s, stuck in a 1957 movie. All you see on camera is him, and whenever he plays any bit role in a movie, its only a “Tim Carey” movie, and all eyes are on him. He was his normal disruptive self on set, taking over scenes, but when he faked his own kidnapping on the set of Paths, Kubrick had had enough. Copolla tried to get him into The Godfather 1 AND 2, according to Carey, but he refused. One of his most legendary performances was taking over the movie from his rival Peter Graves in the famous “Cajun dance” scene from Poor White Trash (1957). He also starred in Beach Blanket Bingo, and even in the Monkees druggy-movie Head, also playing a weirdo, which he was in real life (he also played the Angel of Death in D.C. Cab). His “masterpiece”, however, is his self-produced work The World’s Greatest Sinner, with his performance and the unique themes it covers at least twenty years (and maybe 500 years) ahead of its time.