Friday, April 10, 2009

Hank Worden: A One Man Greek Chorus

In this week's blog for the TCM Movie Morlocks site, the subject is a ubiquitous character actor whose face, if not his name may be familiar:

A few weeks ago, Jenni, a regular reader of this blog, asked if we could write more about character actors here. In an effort to satisfy her and my curiosity about one of those too often obscure figures, I’d like to offer this brief profile of an unforgettable actor whose name took me years to discover. He went by character names such as these on screen: Old Timer. Old Codger. Old Geezer. Old Coot. Old Miner. Old Con. Flophouse Bum. Sleepy Martin. Flunky. Barfly. Squint. Curly.  You get the picture. He seems to have been born old, and perhaps bald. He could also convincingly play some minor character with a menial occupation, if any.

Hank Worden (1901-1991), an actor who worked in show business from 1930 to 1991, often appeared very briefly–even without credit, in movies directed by Hollywood hacks, journeymen and the legendary likes of John Ford, Howard Hawks, Henry Hathaway and King Vidor. He also appeared in self-parodying dreck such as  Please Don’t Eat the Babies (1983), though he brought to even those unworthy vehicles a vague sweetness and strangeness that was simultaneously endearing and disturbing. The impression he made during his brief spotlight moments, in particular in his role as the addle-pated Mose Harper in Ford’s masterwork, The Searchers (1956),  place his best characterizations somewhere West of both Shakespeare’s Fools and the characters from Samuel Beckett’s absurdist Waiting for Godot. Almost all Hank‘s characters have a strange, off-kilter style as they react to the world in an often odd, demented fashion, apparently clinging to some shreds of an identity that appears to have been torn up by the roots long ago.
The real Hank Worden, who was born Norton Earl Worden in July 23, 1901 in Rolfe, Iowa, was an articulate man and college-educated individual at a time when that was a rarity...More on the TCM Movie Morlocks


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