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HomeentertainmentMovie NewsCritics' Appreciation: Alan Arkin, "The King of Consolation Wryness" (and that dreadful...

Critics' Appreciation: Alan Arkin, “The King of Consolation Wryness” (and that dreadful jump scare)

The first time I saw Alan Arkin on screen, he terrified me.

The veteran Oscar-winning actor, passed away

Thursday at the age of , these days he’s known for his witty, kind-hearted persona in movies like Little Miss Sunshine as well as characters like Kominsky Method and the like), his last great acting role. But my first exposure to him was in middle school, when for some inexplicable reason the school decided it was a good idea to show all students until dark .

In that classic thriller, Arkin plays Harry Roat, who The most brutal member of the trio of villains who terrorized the blind Audrey Hepburn because they believed she possessed a doll full of heroin. In the near-dark climactic scene, a seemingly dead Rot suddenly leaps into the frame and grabs Hepburn’s leg. Children throughout the auditorium screamed loudly in response to one of the greatest scares in film history.

Arkin is scary and funny at the same time, a testament to his virtuosity as an actor. His versatility extends beyond acting. As a member of the folk singing group The Tarriers, he had a hit single, “Banana Boat Song.” He is a standout in improv comedy with the Second City Theater Company of Chicago, an incubator of talented performers. He is a published author, playwright, and stage and screen director. His directorial credits include the (sadly forgotten these days, but brilliant) adaptation of Jules Pfeiffer’s precocious black comedy Little Murder and the An original Broadway production of El Simon’s Sunshine Boys . Why no one thought of casting Ah Jin in the film remake of the show in recent years is a mystery.

Arkin has a humble but undeniable talent. He won a Tony Award for his Broadway debut in Let’s Laugh and was nominated for an Oscar for his feature debut in . The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming . He can break your heart, whether playing a silent Deaf, and a widower struggling to raise two sons in Poppy . He can make you laugh hysterically, from his straight guy work opposite Peter Falk in In-Laws , to his work in

Hilarious, profane supporting cast. Argo and Little Miss )sunshine to him in front of Gross Pointe Blanc Expressionless, terrified psychiatrist.

Arkin has made many, many movies, and not all of them are good. (Does anyone remember Chuchu and Philadelphia Lightning , Last Blazing Lovers , Bad Medicine or Raising the Flag ? Don’t think so.) But he’s almost never the bad guy in them. He has an uncanny ability to turn even mediocre material into something worth seeing, if only for himself.

Following his critically acclaimed Broadway performance in Murray Schisgal’s Luv”, Akin focused on film and television, making no return to the theater except for the occasional directorial role. But he did make a rare on-stage appearance in the 1998 off-Broadway Power Plays Above, a trio of one-act plays he wrote, directed, and co-starred opposite Elaine May and was with her Performed in Second City. I was lucky enough to see it, and even a quarter of a century later it still haunts my memory – not as a good night of comedy (they were occasionally funny at best), but as two comedians Comedy acting master class. Best ever.

Ah Jin’s death hit me harder than usual. I mean, every “memorial” segment of every awards show these days has my longtime favorite performers. But Alkin’s presence is more comforting than most. He makes wry smiles and sarcasm the most natural and sensible responses to a world that increasingly makes no sense. We need him now more than ever.




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