For 5 consecutive days I’m going to going to look at some films featuring an actor I never really liked much while growing up. Perhaps it’s because many of the roles he was featured in were downright “sons of bi—-s.” His Charles Wheeler in Philadelphia instantly comes to mind. Still there is something in his performing that draws you in.
As I’ve gotten older and realize that it’s an actor beneath the roles I find myself looking for films with the crusty performer. There is a little bit of Cable Hogue in many of his characters. Hogue was one of his more memorable rogues in Sam Peckinpah’s lesser known 1970 flick. Much like I’ve come to consider myself a big fan of Robert Ryan over the years though not liking him at a young age, Robards kind of fits into this pattern as well.
I think my earliest memory of Robards stems from two films on television viewings. His loud obnoxious Henry Drummond in A Big Hand for The Little Lady and his masterful Cheyenne in Leone’s Once Upon a Time In The West. It’s the Leone film that after repeated viewings (of which we should all be subjected too) I realize just how good he is in that film. Growing up I was focused less on him than I was on Bronson and Fonda, two of my earliest film heroes. Now of course I love the interplay between him and Bronson and his flirtations with Claudia Cardinale. Beneath the gruff exterior of his outlaw character there breathes the heart of a romantic soul.
I may wind up going with six films as I narrow the viewing field. Three titles will be new to me while I’m torn between three others I want to revisit. Hopefully I’ll spark some interest in both Robards and some of his movies to check out. If you have any you’d like to draw my attention to, drop me a message.
The first role that came to mind when you asked for suggestions was Robards’ small part as owner of the Minnesota Twins in ‘Little Big League’, a fun and well-done baseball film that takes an unlikely premise and does a solid job making it believable. Memorable, too, for a line by Robards that had my brother and I laughing out loud in a dead-quiet theater.
That’s one I haven’t seen. I’ll keep my eyes open for it.