Wednesday, February 21, 2007

And Also Starring...

Mercedes McCambride with James Dean in Giant

“I studied Shakespeare and the classics, and I ended up shooting Joan Crawford and killing a horse that Elizabeth Taylor was in love with. I played the worst harridans, the most hard bitten women, the absolute heavies, and it just about did me in.”

Ah, but what harridans! Mercedes McCambridge’s legacy is a string of villaness roles that are utterly unique. She carried a kind of nasty tom-boy aura around with her, and it infused most of her greatest characters. Her vicious Emma Small in Nicholas Rays’ Johnny Guitar is the toughest person in the film, male or female. Her Luz from Giant, who resents this sophisticated girl that his brother has taken up with. And what to say about her bizarre turn as a gang leader in Orson Welles’ great Touch of Evil? I’m still not 100% sure that that character is a woman. The ultimate heavy was still to come, however – That was her voice-over for the possessed Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

Other notable McCambridge films include: All the Presidents Men, Cimarron, Suddenly, Last Summer, and A Farewell to Arms.

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