It would be hard to find an actor who has had more of a varied career than Randy Quaid.
Tall, gangly, the sometimes fat and goofy-looking alternative to his more classically handsome brother Dennis, Quaid never has qualified for leading-man status.
After playing a dopey Amish bowler in “Kingpin,” which is available on video (see capsule review below), Quaid said in at least one interview that he was beginning to worry about the reasons for this.
“I don’t seem to be getting a lot of the suave, Cary-Grant-type romantic comedy roles,” Quaid said, adding that while he is “enjoying these characters, the only concern I have is that I may never get another serious role the rest of my life.”
Quaid has played a few serious leads, and he’s won a fair share of interesting roles in movies that - based on his early work - he would have seemed to have no chance at snaring. But Cary Grant? How about Hugh Grant?
Even better, Kirby Grant (anyone remember “Sky King”?).
As Ishmael, the Amish pin-buster of “Kingpin,” Quaid demonstrates his best quality - an ability to play comedy. Following is a viewer’s-choice look at Quaid’s career:
“The Last Picture Show” (1972) and “Texasville” (1990) - As part of the upper-crust crowd that hangs around Cybill Shepherd’s swimming pool, Quaid comes across goofy to the extreme in the first, clueless in the second.
“Paper Moon” (1973) - In what is little more than a cameo, Quaid is the pig farmer who must wrestle Ryan O’Neal for his truck.
“The Last Detail” (1973) - Jack Nicholson was the lead, but Quaid won his first good notices for playing an AWOL sailor.
“The Missouri Breaks” (1976) - He’s a big, naive kid in the saddle. And psychopath Marlon Brando makes sure he has a date with a rushing river.
“National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983) and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989) - As the brother-in-law of Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), Quaid plays a jobless Midwesterner with a plate in his head, which may be why he’s such a fan of Hamburger Helper without the hamburger.
“A Streetcar Named Desire” (1984) - Cast in the part that won Karl Malden a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, Quaid plays backup to AnnMargret, Treat Williams and Beverly D’Angelo.
“Dead Solid Perfect” (1988) - In one of his few stabs at leading-role status, Quaid stars in this adaptation of the Dan Jenkins novel that is essentially an earlier version of “Tin Cup.”
“Days of Thunder” (1990) - Here is Quaid at his blandest, portraying the two-faced owner of a NASCAR racing team.
“Frankenstein” (1993) - Among the several moving portrayals of this man-made creature - from Boris Karloff to Clancy Brown (“The Bride”) - Quaid’s ranks with the best.
“Bye-Bye Love” (1995) - Quaid plays a divorced father who, along with Matthew Modine and Paul Reiser, struggles with the misfortunes of support payments, weekend parenting and the pains of dating. His eating scene with Janeane Garofalo is a scream.
“Independence Day” (1996) - Even as the cliche of all cliches, the emotionally troubled Vietnam veteran, Quaid takes his performance over the top. Still, there’s something funny about his final scene, which coincidentally saves the world.
Next summer Quaid is set to star in what may be another huge blockbuster. He’ll be among the cast of “Flood,” which co-stars Christian Slater, Minnie Driver and Morgan Freeman.
Look for him. He’ll be the one trying to look suave.
Reader Linda Johnson had this to add about my story on the Dream Movie Theater: “Cup holders on the arms of the seats!” she wrote. “All of the new theaters in Salem, Ore., have them.”
Woody Harrelson plays Roy Munson, who could be to bowling what Michael Jordan is to basketball except for a seedy hustler named Big Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray) who makes sure that the boy wonder will become no threat to his livelihood. Years later Roy discovers a strike-throwing Amish lad (Randy Quaid) who represents his ticket back to the big time, if only as the naive pin-buster’s manager. Take away the first 20 minutes, and the various vomit jokes, and there’s a bit of humor. Most involve Murray and Quaid, who both have unique comic styles. Rated PG-13
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