Saturday, 29 December 2012

Tommy Noonan

b.29th April 1921;
d.24th April 1968

The not-that-great 1955 heist film Violent Saturday had pretty much only two highlights for me - one was seeing Ernest Borgnine, playing an Amish farmer, of all things, finally get angry enough to go against his pacifist code and plunge a pitchfork through Lee Marvin's chest, and the other was seeing Tommy Noonan in a weird, meandering subplot about a shy banker who is a peeping tom. When the pretty nurse he's been spying on finds out he's been following her home and looking through her window, she laughs and says she'll remember to draw her curtains from now on. You see that attitude in popular culture a lot - that if the guy being a creeper is a bashful nerd then it's treated as sort of harmless. It's messed up!

Noonan played shy nerds often - he's possibly best known for his part in Howard Hawks' Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, where he's Mr. Augustus Esmond, the fiance of Marilyn Monroe's character. He plays Mr. Esmond as a nervous fool, with hesitant vocal tics that feel like they're modeled on the ones Cary Grant used in Hawks' Bringing Up Baby. Another notable role was as Judy Garland's pianist buddy in the George Cukor musical melodrama A Star is Born, which I haven't seen (though it sounds neat).

Primarily, Noonan was a comedian - half of the comedy duo Noonan and Marshall, with Peter Marshall. They appeared on TV a bunch in the 1950s, including on the Ed Sullivan show. A lot of the film work Noonan did was in comedies which sound awful but which have great titles: What, No Cigarettes?; How to be Very, Very Popular; Ding Dong Williams; the painfully dismal sounding Cottonpickin' Chickenpickers. Later in his life he wrote, directed and starred in softcore sex comedies, including 3 Nuts in Search of a Bolt, which starred Mamie van Dooren - the trailer promises that "You'll wheeeee with glee at Mamie's uninhibited love stuff!"

Tommy Noonan's brother was the actor John Ireland, who was in Spartacus, All The King's Men, and My Darling Clementine, among about a million other things. He is unrelated and not to be confused with the awesome actor Tom Noonan, star of Manhunter, Heat and Robocop 2. 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Mark Williams

b. August 22, 1959.

Mark Williams is one of those British actors who shows up in absolutely everything in small roles - probably most recognisable as Arthur Weasley (Ron's dad) in the Harry Potter movies, though for Dr. Who fans he's Rory's dad, and Red Dwarf nerds he's Lister's buddy Olaf.

Aside from those, Williams often appears in TV comedy, most famously in 'The Fast Show', some just awful children's films (the horrible live action adaptations of The Borrowers and
101 Dalmatians;  Agent Cody Banks 2), and period piece dramas, from the awesome (Tristram Shandy: a Cock and Bull Story) to the forgettable (Albert Nobbs). He also presents documentary shows, such as the excellently titled 'Mark Williams' Big Bangs', about the history of explosives. Even when he's in something terrible like the nigh-blasphemous BBC adaptation of 'Gormenghast', he's really enjoyable to watch. He's not handsome and has no chin but his manner makes me think he's sweet and funny, even when playing decidedly unsweet characters. The decidedly unsweet character Deggsy, in Steve Coogan's throughly underrated show 'Saxondale', appears in only one episode, but it is one of my favourite Mark Williams roles - he's an old, leering roadie who is limping with gout but insists on partying like he isn't falling apart at the seams.

I found a lot of fascinating claims about Mark Williams on the internet, but that's partly because there are billions of people named Mark Williams - I know two personally - and I'm really sad to say that this guy is not the Mark Williams who is married to pornstar Linsey Dawn McKenzie, star of Maximum Insertion who has appeared on shows like 'The Weakest Link' and 'I'm Famous and Frightened!' (her husband Mark Williams is a former soccer player), nor is he the Mark Williams who wrote The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness. Darn it.

If you want to write to Mark Williams, you could try this address:
Mark Williams,
c/o Caroline Dawson Associates,
2nd Floor,
125, Gloucester Road,

Some people have done so, but beware!

Post subject: Mark Williams successI sent a letter and SAE to Mark on: 11th August 2011, and today I recieved this signed and personalized photo back from him, altogether i think the personaliztion is a sec. :cry: