A Few of Hollywood's 'Best' Villains
Jean Carson who played “Daphne,” whose famous catch-phrase was, “Hello, Doll,” one of the "fun girls" on the storied Andy Griffith Show, said in an interview the reason why she loved to play “Daphne,” a wayward girl who had a taste for the spicy side of life, “Because it was more fun playing a villain-type character,” and she was right. I’m in total-agreement with Carson.
do have more fun. And more colorful women I have always pulled for (some) of the famous villains we have grown used to seeing in television drama and action shows as well as the now classic movies that have become a part of our lives. I don’t know why I love the villains. I can only guess that villains speak to the mischievous, practical joke-pulling segment of my personality. Villains
If my life had been destined for television or film, I would have always chosen the role of a villain. To me, there is not as much pressure to (pardon the paradox) do good as a villain as there is with playing the hero. So what if you miss a line? You are a villain. You are not expected to be perfect. To hear these words from a director, “be as bad as you want to!” would be the proverbial music to my ears. And if you think about it, it really takes hard, dedicated work to be a ‘bad, evil’ actor. You have to really convince the audience of your evil ways--that can be tough if you have just been seen in a film where you were cast as a ‘lily-white’ hero-type dressed in a white wardrobe. The hero of the film hasn’t really any bar to reach for he or she is always good, nice, and clean-cut.
Here are a few of the more-famous villains that I have liked that have appeared in famous films and comic books:
BIFF - the starring bully in Back to The Future films. Biffan Tannen ayed by Thomas F. Wilson, was the epitome of bullies: a smart alec to the bone; short-tempered; violent; used fowl language and pushed innocent people like Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) around at will. People, over the course of the Back To The Future Films’ run, learned to love Biff and his clumsy thinking and living. But THE most-memorable moment was in the first Back To The Future when George McFly, (Crispin Glover), Marty’s dad, had taken enough from Biff at the school dance and let Biff have it with a hard left hood sending Biff spinning to the ground. Tannen was later cast in CBS’s Ghost Whisper as the boyfriend of Belinda’s (the ever-so-gorgeous, Jennifer Love Hewitt) partner, Camryn Manheim, who was Belinda’s partner in her antique store that was seen on Hewitt’s hit show.
DR. DOOM - was probably the most-gated villain ever to appear on the pages of the mega-famous Marvel Comics. Doom was one of many arch-enemies of The Fantastic Four, who always seemed to have the answer to Dr. Doom’s dark scheme to take over the world. In 2011, Doom and other comic book villains would most definitely take a second-look at the world before taking it over for their evil doings for the shape our world is in--economically, global warming, and wars breaking out most every month somewhere in the world. Many ‘villain experts,’ say that Dr. Doom was the prototype of the super-villain, Darth Vader in the Star Wars films. It’s possible. Doom does wear that hideous mask, green cape, and (I guess since no one knows how his voice sounds since he is only a comic book villain) talks with a rough, raspy voice that intimidates innocent folk in ‘Comic Book Land.’
DOOMSDAY -- it's only fitting for DC Comics, the home of Superman, to have Doomsday as one of his villain nemesis. Look at his get-up. A person could get cut by just trying to shake hands with Doomsday and forget about embracing him after a good play he made in sports. That would send you to the emergency room--QUICK! I really don’t know why the artists and writers at DC Comics had to create Doomsday. The only guess I can play is that they were (at the time of his creation), running low of really-evil characters to ’fight’ The Man of Steel and then succumb to his mighty fists of steel. Do you have any better reasons for having this Doomsday character around?
ELI WALLACH - has always had ‘that’ special knack for being a villain. Sometimes a slick-talking, well-dressed villain as he was cast in The Godfather. Wallach could be the convincing villain in any western television show or film with the ease of slicing through warm I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. I had to use that term for doctors now say that margarine is bad for our arteries. To me, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, a modern-day classic forever, is where Eli Wallach shined as the evil villain (is there any other kind?), Tuco, a killer, thief and great liar who Clint Eastwood’s character, “Blondie” teamed with to find some hidden gold. In the also-highly-successful and popular, The Magnificent Seven, Wallach also played yet another villain, Calvera, who’s sole obsession is to rob banks. Eli Wallach also had a supporting role in the Michael Douglas, (Gordon Gekko, another favorite villain of mine), hit, Wall Street - Money Never Sleeps, a sequel to Wall Street where Douglas starred with Charlie Sheen, (Bud Foxx) in a truthful look at the life of an investment broker, Bud Foxx, who gets taken-in by the ruthless Gordon Gekko.
GREEN GOBLIN - also a Marvel Comics’super bad guy and ‘thorn in the side’ of Spiderman. Goblin’s special rocket helped him to fly around--causing havoc on innocent citizens and terrorizing Spiderman every living minute that he was in an episode with Spidey. I can only use William Dafoe’s voice as The Green Goblin’s comic book voice, for Defoe starred as Green Goblin in one of the successful Spiderman films starring Toby McGuire (Peter Parker/Spiderman) and Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), Parker’s on-again, off-again girlfriend. Of all the villains who have fought and lost to Spiderman, Green Goblin remains as one of the most-popular bad creatures (not guys since Goblin is not human) in Spiderman history. Goblin easily beat out Doctor Octopus.
HANNIBAL LECTER -- played by acclaimed and award-winning actor, Anthony Hopkins, literally carried the hit movie, Silence of The Lambs that co-starred Jody Foster, (Clarice Starling), an F.B.I. Agent who had the privilege of interviewing Hannibal Lecter who was held ‘securely’ inside a heavy-plastic cell with holes to hear his voice while talking to Starling. I think that Hopkins’ role as Lecter was supplemented and complemented by Foster’s obviously-intense style of acting and helped to make Hannibal Lecter one of our more-memorable villains. His slithering, almost-serpentine voice, “Well hello, Clarice . . .” is probably the most-often quoted lines in this film.
HENRY POTTER - or “Mister Potter,” as he was known by the citizens of Bedford Falls, the quaint little town where Jimmy Stewart, (George Bailey) lived and helped to run the Bailey Savings and Loan that helped most of the citizens of Bedford Falls to have houses, not slums. Potter, played by legendary actor, John Barrymore, is the more-than-typical villain. Potter is wealthy--from swindling money, crooked dealings and using underhanded tactics to keep his powerful position in Bedford Falls. Bailey and his family have a running-duel with Potter as Potter wants to buy the Bailey Savings and Loan so that he will have the monopoly on all the money-changing in Bedford Falls. The key moment of evil comes when Potter enters the local bank only to see George Bailey’s uncle Billy, a scatter-brained alcoholic-type, making a deposit for George Bailey--a deposit that will keep the Bailey Savings and Loan afloat. Uncle Billy, in a moment of gloating, shows Potter a picture in the local paper of George’s brother, Harry, a war hero who saved the lives of a few hundred soldiers. Billy drops the deposit literally in Potter’s lap. Potter covers the money with his paper and then his assistant wheels him out of the bank in his wheelchair. This clumsy error by uncle Billy causes the bank examiner to come down on the Bailey Savings and Loan sending George’s life into a tailspin and, well, I would tell you the end, but you will just have to watch A Wonderful Life…again, and see the excellent performance by John Barrymore as villain, Henry Potter.
JAWS - I wont be long-winded about this mechanical villain, a huge, great white shark that terrorizes a small-but-lucrative tourist town by killing swimmers who venture out too far into the ocean near this small town. Roy Schneider plays the local sheriff who has to fight with the money-hungry mayor and city hall who do not want Schneider’s character to ban people from swimming for fear that they might get swallowed alive. There is no easy way to put it. I rate the shark in the hit movie film series, Jaws, about six on a scale of 10, as being one of the most convincing non-human villains of all-time in the film industry.
THE JOKER -- one many colorful (and intelligent) villains who are out to get Batman (Bruce Wayne) in DC Comics. And the 1989 film, Batman, played by Michael Keaton. Jack Nicholson was chosen over many male celebrities as the ‘witty-but-dangerous’ villain, Joker. The origin of Joker in this movie is a bit sketchy, but Joker, an adapted criminal name, was once a good guy employed by a chemical company and Joker’s once-lawful character saw too much of shady dealings within the chemical firm and tried to put a stop to the dangerous production of a chemical that was deadly to plants, pets and human lives. Joker’s nice guy character fell into a vat of his chemical that did not kill him as it should, (a clever screenwriter’s twist), but only disfigured his face enough to cause the good guy Joker to turn evil and plot vengeance against all big cities and corporations--reason enough to use makeup, weird clothes and stalk innocent people. Although Nicholson did a more-than-great job as the villain, Joker, my personal favorite Joker was played by Hollywood legend, Caesar Romero, on the ABC Batman series with Adam West as (my favorite) Batman and his trusty sidekick, Robin, played by Burt Ward. The Joker, I believe, has made more attempts to take Batman out than any of Batman’s other enemies with the Penguin coming in at a close second.
KINGPIN - another strictly-comic book villain who is out to snuff out Spiderman. Kingpin is grossly-overweight, but highly-intelligent and fluent in the language and knowledge of criminal plots, firearms and exotic gang members and weapons. Kingpin has made only a few attacks on Marvel Comics’ Spiderman, and a few television attacks on an offbeat cartoon network Spiderman presentation. Since the time that Marvel Comics, (once published by legendary creator, Stan Lee), has further-padded their pockets with tons of cash from the success of their transformation of Marvel Comics’ characters--Spiderman; Daredevil; Fantastic Four; Iron Man and Thor, I think it’s just a matter of time when the powers-that-be at Marvel Comics introduce the world to Kingpin to fight against Spidey in a no-holds-barred, out-and-out battle to the end. My personal favorite celebrity to be cash for the role of Kingpin (read this CEO, directors of Marvel Comics), is either John Goodman or George Wendt. But the one drawback is whomever is cast for Kingpin, they will have to appear bald which may be a nifty bargaining chip for the actor negotiating for the Kingpin role. I liked Kingpin not for his size, but for his IQ.
LEE VAN CLEEF - is, to me, the “ultimate villain.” With his beady eyes, smirky-smile, Van Cleef has always been THE guy who is cast as the outlaw gunslinger or bounty hunter. His most memorable role was, “Angel Eyes,” in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly that also starred Clint Eastwood as “Blondie,” and Eli Wallach as another villain, Calvera, a master and evil thief. Van Cleef was blessed with the traits that make villains the villains they are. He could master, in minutes, his dialogue, accent and delivery of any television western or film. I would choose Lee Van Cleef any day of most of today’s so-called ‘evil’-based actors. In short, Lee Van Cleef is a natural when it comes to being a villain in film, but not in real life.
LEX LUTHOR - the number one nemesis of America’s hero, Superman. DC Comics’ version of Lex Luthor, evil genius, (love that tag), is nothing like the Superman film with Christopher Reeve. In thi film, Luthor is played by Gene Hackman, who finds it necessary to smile, shoot funny one-liners and act glib even as he plots to take down the City of Metropolis. I give Hackman credit. He did make me believe that he was evil enough to cause Superman to worry about the plan he had hatched in the Superman movie--to launch two powerful rockets, both with deadly warheads, one going to the east coast and the other going to the west coast making Superman fly for his life to keep them both from exploding. Although Hackman’s portrayal of Lex Luthor was not what I had counted on, I still rate Lex Luthor, the comic villain, as one of the most-evil, yet charming villain that Superman ever met. Wonder how it would have played out if Lex Luthor had hated Batman?
NORMAN BATES - the quiet, gentle, and soft-spoken Tony Perkins fit the cold-hearted killer, Norman Bates, in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller, Pshcho, to the letter. Bates, who was having a mental battle with himself for wanting to be his mother as well as Norman, made moviegoers everywhere delight in his mother-son dialogue in the film. And when Bates had ‘took care of’ any girl that Bates’ mom didn‘t like, Bates recovery from the stress and nervous energy of taking an innocent person’s life was remarkable. I also loved Janet Leigh’s role in this movie which did cause some controversy for her scenes where she was (back then) considered scantily-clad. Leigh and the cast of supporting actors, helped to build the perfect foundation for Tony Perkins as he took Norman Bates deeper and deeper into the dark world of murder and deception. If I were ever to want a clean-cut, well-dressed, villain, I would first call Norman Bates.
WICKED WITCH/OF THE WEST, Margaret Hamilton -- in my humble opinion, was THE BEST in playing the fictitious, fantasy villain, The Wicked Witch of The West, in the movie classic, Wizard of Oz, released in 1939. Dorothy, played by a young Judy Garland, had encountered the somewhat-evil, old main school teacher, Miss Gulch, who wanted to take Toto, Dorothy’s dog away from her for being a menace, which made an enemy of Dorothy, who later seen Gulch on her bicycle in the opening scenes of the Wizard of Oz as she was inside her house that a (probably F-5) tornado had blown from the earth into the sky and landed in the fantasy land of Oz, where life is sweet, kind, and easy. Problem was, Dorothy’s house, as it landed in Oz, landed on the sister of The Wicked Witch of The West’s sister and killed her. This caused The Wicked Witch of The West to launch a campaign of evil revenge against Dorothy and her newly-found partners, Scarecrow (Hunk/Ray Bolger); Tin Man (Hickory/Jack Haley) and Cowardly Lion (Zeke/Bert Lahr). You don’t need me to tell you how this American fixture of film ends. You, and the rest of the world has seen The Wizard of Oz countless times, but if you are like me, you savor the scene where The Wicked Witch of The West launches her army of evil, winged monkeys to help her capture Dorothy and her pals. What other compliment can I add to Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of The West role? None. That’s why Hamilton is MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE Hollywood villain.
© 2011 Kenneth Avery