Thursday, July 14, 2011

façade: John Goodman

I first noticed the remarkable character actor John Goodman in David Byrne's 1986 new-style film musical, "True Stories," a film that Goodman made after having just scored big on Broadway in Roger Miller's 1985 musical, "Big River," and having played small roles in such films as "Sweet Dreams" and "Revenge of the Nerds."

He became a staple in some of the best films of the late 1980s and a household name on the TV series, "Roseanne." The choice supporting roles continued to roll in, but in the early '90s, Goodman started to score lead roles, starting with Frank Marshall's "Arachnophobia" in 1990. His name was suddenly above the title - for a while - and then things went back to the way they had been.

I was reminded of this by "The Babe," the 1992 Arthur Hiller film in which Goodman played Babe Ruth and which pops up occasionaly on HBO. Around this time, Goodman had the star roles in Joe Dante's "Matinee," David S. Ward's "King Ralph" (opposite Peter O'Toole, no less), Brian Levant's "The Flintstones" and Luis Mandoki's remake of "Born Yesterday" (in which Goodman replaced Nick Nolte). He was also Bette Midler's leading man in "Stella," a re-do of "Stella Dallas."

But as dazzling as these roles may have been for Goodman, they paled beside the exceptional supporting turns he did, particularly those for the Coen Brothers -"Raising Arizona," "The Hudsucker Proxy," "Barton Fink," "The Big Lebowski" and "O Brother, Where art Thou?"

More recently, Goodman single-handedly rescued Andy and Larry Wachowski's "Speed Racer," as only he can.

A true supporting player, invaluable.


Sarah said...

This is long overdue. John Goodman is a remarkable actor. I especially like this TV-movie work. I'm thinking of his acting in tht Huey Long movie and the TV version of "A Streetcar Named Desire" with Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange. He's a national treasure.

Alex said...

I can't help but notice that you failed to make mention of Goodman's standout performance as Sally Fields' harried husband in "Punchline" which came out just before "Roseanne" hit the airwaves.

glenn said...

I'd add his terrific work on "The West Wing" as fill-in President when Martin Sheen's Jed Bartlet steps aside during a family crisis. He created a skilled Southern pol who used his public cornpone persona to disguise a very sharp, and surprisingly decent, mind and character.

Steve-O said...

He had a mesmerising and terrifying turn in the excellent Kevin Bacon thriller Death Sentence,

jbryant said...

I think I first became aware of Goodman in Taylor Hackford's underrated EVERYBODY'S ALL-AMERICAN. He's been a favorite ever since.

I have a great role for him if my directing/producing buddies can ever find funding for a project I wrote. Unfortunately, this isn't the best time in America to be hat-in-hand for an independent film.

joe baltake said...

Jay- I understand completely. Years ago, I interviewed a filmmaker who wanted to find a "small" film to showcase Goodman and I suggested a remake of Philippe Noiret's French charmer, "Alexander." He got back to me - couldn't get it financed.

wwolfe said...

I heartily second glenn's mention of Goodman's work in "The West Wing." One of the most perceptive depictions of a Southerner Hollywood (meaning both movies and TV) have managed to give us.