I'm just a tiny bit obsessed with the latest Geico caveman ad, I think because the actor's beautifully quiet expression of dismay, resignation, and exasperation are how I feel half the time about everything. I think I also admire actors who can project subtlety through heavy makeup. The all-time award for that was retired by Peter Boyle, whose wonderful, nuanced, hilarious performance as the title character in Mel Brooks' 1974 comedy "Young Frankenstein" placed him firmly in my personal pantheon of quirky greatness. Just watch his face as the blind hermit (Gene Hackman) mistakes the monster's thumb for a cigar and tries to light it. Jimmy Cagney could do that with facial expression, but not very many other actors can. The whole movie was a virtuoso performance by Boyle, and it looked like he was having a lot of fun with it, too.
He was a great friend of John Lennon's—Lennon was best man at his wedding—and despite his aptitude for comedy he played some great angry-man roles over the years, the best being in a movie called "Joe" (1970) in which he played a sort of dark, murderous Archie Bunker. He was also in Robert Redford's "The Candidate" (which I admit I didn't care for), with smaller parts in films such as "Taxi Driver" and "Monster's Ball" among many others. He did character turns on a lot of TV shows, notably in a handful of episodes of "NYPD Blue" in 1994 and '95. He ended his career playing comedy, as Ray Romano's septic dad Frank on "Everybody Loves Raymond," where he distinguished himself by having a heart attack on the set. (Romano said of his real father, "If he had hugged me once, I would be an accountant. I'd be doing your books.") Peter Boyle died last night of multiple myeloma and heart disease. He has two more films in post-production, which I'll probably go see when they come out, just because.
Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON