Monday, August 24, 2009

I Love Supporting Actors: Lane Smith

You know, this guy:
Notable Roles:

D.A. Jim Trotter - "My Cousin Vinny"

Coach Jack Reilly - "The Mighty Ducks"

Walter Warner - "Son in Law"

Perry White - "Lois and Clark..."

Why He's Awesome:

Lane Smith has been all over movies and TV since the '70s, but it's only more recently that he rose to better notability.

My Cousin Vinny is one of my favorite movies of all time, and he's one of the reasons. He's just a funny guy. The trial at the center of the film gets rolling with his opening statement, in which he mines a simple legal speech for every bit of comic gold. He can be both condescending and charming, Southern and insightful, soft and intimidating. The character just calls for a D.A. with no real emotional attachment to the case, but Smith brings to the table real depth, far more than the movie required.

Once he got on our RADAR, he kept coming back, and he kept getting better. In The Mighty Ducks, his very presense is enough to push Emilio Estevez to the brink. In Son in Law, he provides the perfect counter-point for Pauly Shore. Even in the end when Pauly's Weasel vibe takes him over, he manages to maintain his dignity, while spouting Shore-isms. That has to be up there in the canon of acting abilities.

He finally got the notoriety he deserved as the great Perry White. In almost every other incarnation of Superman, Perry White was just a throwaway background character. He gave Lois and Clark their assignments, and maybe got kidnapped once or twice. Smith turned Perry White into a father figure, and for a guy whose dad got blowed up on a distant planet, Superman could use every daddy he could get. Not even the great Frank Langella in Superman Returns could match Lane Smith's Daily Planet Editor-in-Chief. (side note: both Lane Smith and Frank Langella have played Nixon)

You'd Be Surprised to Learn:

He died in 2005. Seriously, I just found this out researching his career.

Check out his imdb page.

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