Friday, February 04, 2005

Double Secret Probation


John Vernon was one of my favourite character actors of all time. He has just died at the age of 72. I won’t eulogise him at length here, as no doubt better writers than I will do that admirably in other places. All I have to say was that his distinctive voice and gravitas made him one of the most recognisable faces in Seventies cinema, and one of the all time great movie heavies. His C.V. is a list of some of the best movies ever made: Point Blank, Dirty Harry, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Charley Varrick, and, of course, Animal House.

They say there are no second acts in American lives. Now, that ain’t true. In the Sixties, and again in the Nineties, Vernon lent his gravely tones to a variety of Marvel cartoons, as the voice of Doctor Strange, Dr. Doom, the Sub-Mariner, Iron Man, and tireless Hulk-hunter General “Thunderbolt” Ross.

I just want to remember him here for some of his greatest lines. Take it away, John:

(Dirty Harry, starring John Vernon as The Mayor!)

Harry Callahan: Well, when an adult male is chasing a female with intent to commit rape, I shoot the bastard. That's my policy.
The Mayor: Intent? How did you establish that?
Harry Callahan: When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher's knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn't out collecting for the Red Cross!
The Mayor: He's got a point.

(The Outlaw Josey Wales, starring John Vernon as Fletcher!)

Senator: There's a saying, Fletcher: To the victor belongs the spoils.
Fletcher: There's another saying, Senator: Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining.

(National Lampoon’s Animal House, starring John Vernon as Dean Vernon Wormer!)

Dean Vernon Wormer: The time has come for someone to put his foot down. And that foot is me.

And his most immortal line ever:

Dean Vernon Wormer: Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

He’s got a point. Rest well, John, you’ve earned it.

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