In Memory of Ned Beatty

Ned Beatty died yesterday, at the age of 83.

Ever since I heard the news last night, I’ve been thinking about what an amazing actor Ned Beatty was. He could play it all. He could play a hero, he could play a villain, and he could play the quirky comic relief. He could effortlessly move from the movies to television to the stage and he seemed to instinctively grasp how to modify his style for each medium. Physically, he was instantly recognizable but he still managed to disappear into every role he played. You never thought you were watching Ned Beatty. Instead, you thought you were watching Bobby in Deliverance or Detective Bolander on Homicide or Otis in the first two Superman movies.

It’s amazing that, in his long career, Ned Beatty was only nominated for one Oscar and it wasn’t for his film debut in Deliverance. Playing the Atlanta salesman who is raped by two inbred hillbillies, Beatty gave a fearless performance in a role that a lot of established actors probably would not have had the guts to accept. Beatty wasn’t nominated for Deliverance or for his charming work in the British film, Hear My Song. Instead, he was nominated for his thunderous cameo in Network, in which he told Howard Beale that he had upset the natural order of things and, in a few brief minutes, stole Network from every other member of that film’s legendary cast. The same year that Beatty was in Network, he also appeared as an honest but befuddled investigator in All The President’s Men. Though his screentime was limited in both films, he made a lasting impression.

One of my favorite Beatty performances was as Detective Stanley Bolander on Homicide: Life on the Streets. For the first three seasons of that underappreciated show, Beatty played a veteran detective, the type of man who had dedicated his life to giving a voice to the voiceless. Who can forget him in the pilot, taunting Richard Belzer’s Detective Munch into solving a cold case? Even though Beatty was the best-known actor in the film’s cast, he still blended in effortlessly with the ensemble. Watching Homicide, you didn’t see Ned Beatty. You saw Detective Stanley Bolander, an aging Baltimore detective who had seen the worst but still tried to do the best job that he could. Beatty left the show after three seasons, under circumstances that are still hazy, though everyone seems to agree that blame ultimately rests with the ratings and youth-obsessed executives at NBC, who never appreciated the show while they had it.

(Considering we’ve lost both Yaphet Kotto and Ned Beatty in the same year, I hope at least one streaming service will pick up Homicide so people who missed it the first time can see how great it was. Homicide really laid down the foundation for The Wire.)

Ned Beatty was one of the greats. R.I.P.

NETWORK, Ned Beatty, 1976

Artwork of the Day: Dime Detective Magazine (by Rafael DeSoto)

by Rafael DeSoto

This is from 1943. There is a lot happening with this cover. The handcuffs suggest that the man with the guns just escaped custody. Maybe the woman in red helped him with those pliers that she’s holding. Is she now trying to steal a license plate or replace the old one? If she’s trying to do a replacement, I think she has more important things to worry about. It’s going to take more than new plates to make people not notice all the bullet holes on that car.

This cover was done by Rafael DeSoto, who has been featured many times on this site and who will be featured many times in the future.

Music Video of the Day: Southern Nights, covered by Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, and Geri Reischl (1977, dir by ????)

This is from an episode of the Brady Bunch Variety Hour, which I have to admit has become a bit of an obsession of mine ever since I discovered that the majority of the episodes have been uploaded to YouTube.

For those keeping track, Barry Williams was Greg. Maureen McCormick was Marcia. For the Variety Hour, Geri Reischl was Jan, replacing Eve Plumb. Despite rumors to the contrary, Plumb did originally agree to return as Jan but she balked at singing a long-term contract so Geri was hired instead. Geri is actually a pretty good singer. Certainly, she’s dramatically better than any of the original Brady kids.

Barry was also reluctant to return to the role of Greg Brady but he did so after he was assured that he would be the centerpiece of the show and that he would be given several songs to sing in each episode. Actually, the show’s producers kept their word because Barry was probably the most heavily featured of the Brady kids. (Unfortunately, Barry really didn’t have much of a singing voice.) As for Maureen, she has since written that she was struggling with cocaine addiction at the time and, hence, she doesn’t remember much about The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.