Today’s reflection of greatness is yet another standout performance by a funny lady in an already impressive ensemble cast. Did you ever see the film “Clue”? Though it has quite a cult following now, it kind of tanked when it was first released, so don’t feel bad if you haven’t. I don’t know why it didn’t perform…reviews weren’t terrible or anything, it stands at 74% on rottentomatoes.com and that means it’s fresh! Maybe because it was based on a board game? Were people just not lining up to see that in droves? Here’s the trailer:
Each positive review on the rottentomato site claims to favor a different actor…”Curry saves the film” or “Warren’s Miss Scarlett is the standout”. It is hard to pick a clear winner and why bother? Ensemble films are team efforts. One person looks sloppy and they all do. Tim Curry, Eileen Brennan, Lesley Ann Warren, Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, jeez even Colleen Camp, they all hold their own. They’ve all got their moments of supreme quotability in this broad murder mystery farce. But, today I’m going to focus on the woman that Mel Brooks said this about: “She is one of the most talented people that ever lived. I mean, either in stand-up comedy, or acting, or whatever you want, you can’t beat Madeline Kahn.”
She was born Madeline Gail Wolfson to non-practicing Jewish parents in Boston, Massachusetts. Her parents divorced when she was two and she eventually wound up taking the name of her mother’s second husband– Kahn. She went to school in both Pennsylvania and in Queens, New York. Eventually, she graduated from Hofstra with a degree in speech therapy. She went on to do oodles of theater and some great films–“Young Frankenstien” and “Blazing Saddles” being two of the best. Actually, quite a reserved person (according to both Mel Brooks and the New York Times piece that I just read), she was one of those non-comedian comedians, if you know what I mean. Aren’t the best comic performances the ones that are played completely straight? She seemed to know that. And isn’t that the hardest thing to do? When you have a ridiculous line of dialogue but can play it absolutely for real? Me? I’m the type that laughs at my own jokes, let alone actual scripted jokes–far more annoying.
In 1985, fourteen years before Kahn would die of ovarian cancer at the age of 57, she gave us one of history’s most underrated performances. Well, underrated by the world at large maybe, but it’s certainly rated by my circle of friends. There’s not one of us who doesn’t go mad for her in this scene:
By the way, I’ve read that that scene was ad-libbed. Completely awesome. Man…I do realize that I’m starting to sound a bit James Lipton-ey here…but come on. She’s tremendous.
Here’s a website with loads of sound clips of Mrs. White moments in the film. It’s from a Madelind Kahn fan page. A lot of them would make most excellent ringtones or message alerts.
The film, purportedly, has started to get a bit of the “Rocky Horror” treatment…you know, midnight showings with a shadowcast troupe that acts out the film while it plays. It doesn’t look like quite the widespread epidemic yet, so maybe you should start one in your home town. Come on, you know that you’ve always wanted to sort your friends as corresponding to either Colonel Mustard, Mrs. Peacock, and Miss Scarlett (she’s the slutty one–cast her with the same friend you’d cast as Samantha Jones in “Sex and the City”–see, it’s easy!)
With Universal Studios recently purchasing the rights to loads of Hasbro toys, a remake might be in the works–this might also mean the birth of a Battleship film as well (what has “Transformers” wrought?). I have mixed feelings about this. I’d rather not see it happen, I suppose. The movie has such a special place in my heart. It was half of a double feature that my sister and I saw with my Mom soon after my parents got divorced. The other movie was “Jewel of the Nile”–feh. Anyway, that is the incident known as the night my Mom decided to cut loose and not worry about the money we didn’t have. We went out to eat at a yummy family diner restaurant that was in the same plaza as the movie theatre–Hyatt’s it was called–AND saw two movies that night AND got snacks at the cinema too. Unbeatable. Too much glee associated with that film to recast it…
Funny, a meal out and a double feature is still my perfect day.