Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Happy Birthday, John Forsythe!

Look up “TV friendly face” and there ought to be a picture of Forsythe, sitting in a leather chair by the fire with his arms folded neatly in his lap. Bachelor Father, which ran for 5 seasons across all three networks in spite of not being fondly remembered by anyone (the Wings of the late 50s), got him some early exposure, but it was Charlie’s Angels and Dynasty that brought him into America’s homes more frequently than most parents. But there were memorable film roles – two solid performances for Hitchcock in The Trouble with Harry (1955) & Topaz (1969), a killer dramatic turn in In Cold Blood (1967), and Kitten with a Whip (1964) where he spent nearly the entire running time not being interested in Ann-Margret at her crazy/sexy peak, and enduring some of the most hysterical hipster dialect ever seen in a Hollywood picture, and doing both with a straight face.

But to celebrate John’s 90th(!) birthday, find a copy of …And Justice for All (1979), where he was given the chance to play against type as a bent Judge on trial for rape. Director Norman Jewison has trouble finding the right tone-balance between legal thriller and black comedy, but Forsythe is absolute dynamite! He more than holds his own against star Al Pacino, and makes you wonder what would have happened with his film career if George Peppard hadn’t quit Dynasty.*

*Peppard Trivia #1: George Peppard was originally cast as Blake Carrington on Dynasty! Apparently, George filmed the pilot episode but walked off after arguments with the writers (no, I can’t imagine what they might have been, either “Could you guys make this suck less? No? Well, see ya!”)

Peppard Trivia #2: He also quit the sizeable hit Banacek just before the third season because he didn’t want ex-wife Elizabeth Ashley to receive any extra money as part of their divorce settlement.