Thursday, December 14, 2006

Passings: Peter Boyle

There are a whole host of eloquent tributes to recently-departed character actor Peter Boyle, so won't rattle on much here.

With deep set eyes that reflected all of the emotion concealed by a perpetually furrowed brow ridge, Boyle was never less than terrific, and almost always the best thing about the movies he appeared in. I'm, sadly, unexposed to Boyle's dramatic output (including his caustic star turn in 1970's Joe), but like most of the world his sublime work as a comic actor looms large in my heart.

To this day, I can't hear "Putting on the Ritz" without hearing Boyle's sad, sympathetic--and riotously funny--monster monosyllabically barking out the song's title in Young Frankenstein. And the wearily-tart repartee between him and Doris Roberts always represented Everybody Loves Raymond's comic trump card.

I did want to give a shout-out to one of Boyle's less-ballyhooed comic triumphs. The modest but very funny 1989 comedy The Dream Team chronicles the adventures of four mental patients who sneak away from the not-so-watchful eye of their therapist during a baseball game. Boyle plays Jack, a guy with a direct mental pipeline to Jesus and a propensity to public nudity, and amidst a crack comic ensemble (consisting of Christopher Lloyd, Stephen Furst, and Michael Keaton) he steals the show with a (naked) master pickpocket's skill.

Farewell, Mr. Boyle. You were, as your immortal zipper-necked monster once bellowed, super-duper.

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