Thursday, May 29, 2008

Madeline Kahn appreciation day

Madeline Kahn appreciation day on Stinkylulu. Unfortunately, today has not left me a huge amount of time to blog, but I wanted to put down a few thoughts.

I was thinking about which movie to write on, and remembered I have What’s Up, Doc, which I have seen so many times it feels almost uneccessary to watch again. Eunice Burns. Madeline Kahn’s debut was (and is) spectacular. She controls the screen as Eunic, against some real comic heavyweights playing bizarre characters, among them Austin Pendleton and Kenneth Mars. In the midst of this, it’s Eunice we remember. Her being dragged out of the ballroom, her next to the wig that is styled to look exactly as her own hair would look in that style, and favorite line readings like “Those are Howard’s rocks.” Eunice manages, and by the end of the movie finds someone perfect to manage. It’s Kahn’s comedic sense of purpose that keeps the role so laser sharp. That voice! And even more I was realizing thinking about favorite roles of hers, her body.
She is all angles as Eunice, a big square trying to make herself look rounded. But as Trixie in Paper Moon she is all curves. Once again, she is laser sharp in her character, and aware of what Trixie has to offer. I can’t imagine anyone else in the role, but I certainly can’t imagine another actress summing up an entire character, her pathos, self knowledge, and place in the world with “Let Miss Trixie sit up front with her big tits.” Hysterical and heartbreaking, which was her specialty.
Mel Brooks used her to great effect several times, most notably with the back to back whammy of “Young Frankenstein” and “Blazing Saddles”. In one an uptight society matron that needs a surprise visit from a monster to bring her in touch with her sexuality, and in the other a sexual creature who thinks she knows it all and is surprised by love. Both of these roles are a hoot, but she brings a bit of class to the proceedings, using her voice and body to fill out, if you will, the characters. There are too many lines to quote here, but you probably know most of them yourself. Watching her hit Marty Feldman with her purse is worth the price of admission. I could go on and on if I had time, but for some many reasons, I think Madeline Kahn is one the top comedic film actresses ever.

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