Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father? Yes, son? I Want to Kill You

By Bill S., World O' Crap's Bad Breeders of the Big Screen Correspondent

It's Father's Day, and time once again for my annual look at the Worst Dads In Movies & Television (for previous editions, see here and here). I doubt there's any fictional dad who's worse than the real-life one I reads about who showed up for a custody hearing dressed in a Nazi uniform, but perhaps a few of them do come close.


Johnny Nolan (James Dunn) in A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (1945):  A tragic figure in the story, to be sure, but one of the ways he's a tragic figure is that he's an undependable lush and a screw-up. (This classic movie's not available on DVD. Think about that next time you're at a Redbox poring over the selections desperately searching for something to watch, before settling on Furry Vengeance or Just Go With It.)

Frank Stark (Jim Backus) in Rebel Without a Cause (1955): Such a clueless, ineffectual mound of wussyburger, you wonder how he managed to even conceive a child at all, much less James Dean.  Bonus bad dad: Judy's Father (William Hopper). When Judy (Natalie Wood) tries to give him an affectionate kiss on the cheek, he slaps her. (WTF???)

Alfred P. Doolittle (Stanley Holloway) in My Fair Lady (1964): Upon learning his daughter Eliza (Audrey Hepburn) is living with a man, he tries to profit from the situation by shaking down Professor Higgins (Rex Harrison) for money. It's debatable whether he's trying to pimp her out, since he only asks for five pounds, as he knows the Professor's intentions are honorable. For less honorable intentions, he'd have charged fifty.

Mac Sledge (Robert Duvall) in Tender Mercies (1983): Duvall makes this list for the third year in a row, this time for his portrayal of country singer Mac, a recovering alcoholic and deadbeat dad. Mac was absent from his daughter's life for most of her childhood. When they're finally reunited, she asks him to sing the song he used to sing for her when she was little (her one happy memory of him), and he pretends not to know it. We know he's pretending, because the song in question is "Wings of a Dove", and a country singer who doesn't know that one would be as likely as a rock musician who doesn't know "Heartbreak Hotel", or an R&B singer who's never heard "Respect". When she dies in an auto crash, Mac barely registers any emotional response to the tragedy at all, while his ex-wife (Betty Buckley) breaks down in hysterics. (No wonder she dumped him.)

Bender's Dad in The Breakfast Club (1985): We never actually see him, but we can deduce from the fact that he burns his kid with a cigarette and smacks him (and his wife) around that he's something of a bastard.

Martin Chernak (David Strathairn) in Dominick & Eugene (1988): Strathairn returns to our list for the second year (he also played a pedophile priest in the made-for-TV movie Judgement, but that's a terrible father of a different kind). Martin beats his son on a daily basis, and one day, knocks the boy down a flight of stairs, killing him. When he learns that Nicky (Tom Hulce) a man afflicted with brain damage, is the only witness, he threatens to kill him too. Bonus bad dad: Dominick and Eugene's father, who we learn was the cause of Nicky's brain damage, sustained from the beatings he gave his son as a boy.

Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) I find Daniel's drag alter ego amusing on its own terms, and perhaps you do too. So it's easy to lose sight of why he had to resort to this ruse: because as a father, he's an irresponsible goof. Worse, when his wife Miranda (Sally Field) complains about having to always be the grownup, he has the nerve to complain that she's no fun anymore. Of course she isn't, she's the one paying the bills. Imagine trying to get out of work, racing to get home for your kid's birthday, and finding the house has become a zoo, literally, and your husband  telling you, "We were gonna clean it up before you got home!" (On the assumption she'd be working late. Thanks for that dig, asshole. No wonder she dumped him.)
[side note: Mara Wilson, who played the Hillard's 6 year old daughter, wrote a very sharp, funny column about her experiences as a child actor. It's worth checking out. ]

Guy Quoyle (John Dunsworth, played by Andrew Fowler in flashback) in The Shipping News (2001): Made his son feel worthless, even when the kid nearly drowned while learning to swim. He was also a terrible brother, having raped his sister when she was twelve, which explains her treatment of his ashes after he dies. He was also universally despised by the entire town, so there's that.

Tom Lagatos (Steven Charles Fletcher) in Dorian Blues (2004): So reactionary he made the Great Santini seem like the dad on "Family Ties". When his son Dorian, at age seven, begins having anxieties about the possibility of one day going to war, his father assures him, "You're not going to Canada. You're GOING TO WAR. And you might get killed, but you'll get killed like a man!"

Gerry Ryan (James Caan) in Mercy (2009): Advice to father's out there: when your son is grieving the death of his fiancee, which he feels responsible for, and wants to talk about it, the appropriate response is not to complain about the way he's being a buzzkill.
(a special thank you to Anntichrist S. Coulter for recommending this sleeper to me. Thanks, Annti!)

Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) in There Will Be Blood (2007): Adopted a deaf orphan to improve his standing as a businessman, using the boy as a prop, more or less. When the boy grows up to be an adult with ideas of his own, Plainview mocks his son's handicap and reveals his origins -- "There is none of me in you!" which can only be a compliment, considering what a rat bastard he is. There's also the matter of beating his son's brother-in-law to death with a bowling pin, which is bound to make the next Thanksgiving dinner a bit awkward.


Chester Tate (Robert Mandan) on "Soap":  A serial adulterer and embezzler, he also murders his daughter Corinne's boyfriend, and, at the wedding of his daughter Eunice, hooks up with (and eventually marries) the maid of honor. When he's missing and presumed dead, the family holds a memorial service, and nobody -- including his children -- can think of one good thing to say about him.

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) on "Mad Men": It's a close call between him and ex-wife Betty (January Jones) as to who the worse parent is, but I think Don has the edge, if only because he's spent a lifetime deceiving his kids with a false identity. (The only thing Betty pretends to be is happy, and nobody buys it.)  Small wonder then, that when daughter Sally catches a woman breaking into the apartment, she half-believes the woman's claim that she was Don's nanny. When she calls her father to see if the story checks out, she sighs, exasperated, and realizes, "I don't know you at all." Words I'm sure she'll live to regret after the latest episode where she caught him banging the next-door neighbor.

(Hey, that's two shows featuring a character named Peter Campbell.  I don't know what that signifies, just thought I'd note the coincidence.)

Ryan Howard (B. J. Novak) on "The Office":  He didn't become a father until the final episode of the series, when he turns up at Dwight and Angela's wedding with a newborn in tow. When he reunites with ex-girlfriend Kelly (Mindy Kaling), the two decide to run off together, and he ditches the baby, leaving him with one of the guests, who, understandably, calls child services. Considering what a complete and utter little shit Ryan was throughout the series, we can't help thinking the baby might be better off.

and last, but not least:

Janie's dad.

Happy Father's Day to all the World O' Crap dads out there. I promise you did a better job with your kids than those guys did!

-Bill S


Doc Logan said...

Funniest awful father is the father in the Kids In The Hall sketch "Daddy Drank", a magnificent slice of dark humor.

"Hey son, you know how you've been bugging me to go and get you a puppy? Well today after work, I went out and I bought you one. But on the way home, I got hungry and I ate him! I'm joking. I'd never buy you a puppy."

Makes me laugh (and wince) every time.

Anntichrist S. Coulter said...

Darling Bill, I promise to come back soon and read this entirely highly-entertaining-looking post, my dear heart, I promise.

Just wanted to pass on some good kitteh news: Chuckie reappeared on Friday afternoon, while I was outside doing ungawdlessly unholy YARD WORK and dying of heat prostration.

Kept him captive in the house/sleeping on the back porch at night, playing inside during the day, except for the afternoons when I take James out for his "kitty time," on harness & 30-foot longe line. Chuckie wasn't taking to the harness/lead concept whatsoever, and he'd already murdered my little pink calla lily that I'd repotted after impulse-purchasing it @ Winn-Dixie for Breeders' Day (Female), seeing as how James would never go out and get me a Breeders' Day prezzie HIMSELF.

Anyway, James, who'd mourned Chuckie's disappearnce over a month-5 weeks ago TERRIBLY, acted like he didn't know the orange fucker anymore and din't want to share me with him, not in JAMES' house. So today (Sunday) when it was James' couple hours outside in the smothering heat/humidity/incessant skeeter attacks, I took James out on his harness/lead, and let Chuckie wander out on his own volition, with no harness or lead.

And the orange fucker, with a very full belly, a severe dose of flea/tick drops on his neck, a nice new good collar & a springy-band of citronella-spiked "bracelet" around his neck as an easy and easy-to-escape-in-emergency skeeter/heartworm deterrent, oh, and I shared one of James' heartworm chewies with the orange shit, too.

He never even looked back and said "goodbye," "kiss my ass," NOTHIN'. Didn't even sniff James' face to say g'bye, NOTHIN'. Cold-hearted motherfucker, that one. I'd already spent a small fortune on printing/copying fliers all over the neighborhood over the past month, in hopes that he was holed-up somewhere with one of these trust-fund-baby "starving artists" who go to Tulane or Loyola and "slum" here to get "the soul" of New Orleans absorbed through multiple kegs of cheap beer around the corner at, I shit y'all not, "Mercede's Place." That's the exact grammar.

Hopefully the fucker will come back again, and not make us wait a month of worrying like crazy, 'cause now that he's GONE AGAIN, James is whining and bitching up a storm 'CAUSE I LET HIM LOOSE IN THE BACK YARD. Alllll MY fault, when JAMES was the one acting JEALOUS of that orange fucker. So, we know that Chuckie is still alive, just as fickle as ever. He'll come back when he's hungry enough, I imagine.

Shutting the fuck up now and returning the thread to its actual purpose. Thank y'all for your time & patience.


Anonymous said...

Chuckie is two-timing you,
Annti.He'll be back.
For fathers, I always return to Teh Klassicks.Teh Bibble. Hmmm Where to start? Adam (incest), Also Lot, Abraham (offing the kid) Also David. etc And of course, the Big Daddy of them all, G-d the Father. I mean - do I have to spell it out? What he put his own son through - Jeeze.
Blows the lobes.

Anonymous said...

What, you've wiped The Passion of the Christ from the memory banks?

Bill S said...

I've never seen "The Passion of the Christ". I'm waiting for the special edition DVD that includes a blooper/gag reel as an "extra".

catnmus said...

Wow, three annual lists and no mention at all of Zack Mayo's (Richard Gere's dad) in "An Officer and a Gentleman". Stuck with a 12-year-old shipped to him in the Philippines when the kid's mother dies, he's a hands-off kind of dad who just wants the kid to stay out of his way. Before Zack joins the service, we see him and his dad waking up from what might have been a drunken orgy. That's some bad parenting!

Bill S said...

Good choice, catnmuss! I'll include him next year.

grouchomarxist said...

Harrison Ford, as Allie Fox in The Mosquito Coast. A brilliant but erratic inventor -- "nine patents, six pending" -- who drags his wife and children to the jungles of Belize, so they'll survive the nuclear war he believes is inevitable. A chronic screw-up who tries to build a utopia and ends up killing a lot of people, burning down his own house and his ice-making plant, and polluting the river with chemicals from the ruined plant. Tricks his family into staying, when they want to go home, by telling them the war's happened. Almost lets their houseboat get carried out to sea in a storm before he reveals he's hidden the parts that make the motor work. And other assorted fun.

Anntichrist S. Coulter said...

SuezBoo, darlin', I'm afraid you may be right. Saw the slut-boy cat on the street a couple nights ago, called out to him gently (Y'all shut the hell up, I can, TOO call out gently, you fuckers!) and the guilty shit slithered over to hide behind garbage cans across the street. I'm pretty sure that Big Yellow is double-dipping as well, as NO cat stays THAT fat/sturdy on the ONE meal that I put out a day.

Oh, and Bill, darling, one thought that I forgot to express (yes, I know, tres tragique...) was that the video for "Janie's Got A Gun" has ALWAYS pissed me off, even when I liked Aerosmith, because it's such the Hollywood LIE. There isn't any other state in the union where "Janie" wouldn't have been arrested & taken-in for questioning, AT THE VERY LEAST. Poetic license, my ass, it's a flat-out fucking LIE. Believe y'all me.

BTW, if anybody ever wants to review a ROYAL stinker of a flick, CineMoi is currently screening the 1985 Golan-Globus "classic," "Mata Hari," with one delightfully lovely pair of ta-tas in the title sequence. The film itself is horribly written, utterly-inaccurately costumed, and the usual Golan-Globus comedic sin of horrible filmmaking. Add in that the featured players are all PAINFULLY Caucasian/WASP, and there you have it. A 7th-grade R-rated "historical" play for the end of the school year. Golan-Globus at their finest, almost as good as "Hercules" and the voice dubbing THERE...