By Special WO'C Patriarchy Correspondent, Bill S.
Last month I wrote a Mother's Day column paying tribute to the worst movie moms ever. Thanks to some helpful suggestions from readers, I will be present a revised, expanded edition next Mother's Day. Something to look forward to. For somebody.
But today is Father's Day, so it's time to look at terrible movie Dads. And a few TV ones as well. Feel free to suggest additional candidates.
DR. AUSTIN SLOPER (Ralph Richardson) in The Heiress (1949). Convincing his daughter she's a homely, undateable loser is awful enough. That she happens to look like Olivia DeHaviland makes it just that much worse.
LUCAS CROSS (Arthur Kennedy) in Peyton Place (1957). Guilty of, as his daughter's doctor puts it, "the worst kind of child abuse".
MARVIN'S DAD (Malcolm Atterbury) in High School Big Shot (1959). Allow me to offer this quote from Frank Coniff, taken from The Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, which pretty well sums him up:
"There is one scene that is just about the most depressing moment in any movie I've ever seen. It's the scene where his deadbeat dad asks the kid if he'll split his last five dollars with him. Now, both father and son can each got out on two-dollar-and-fifty-cent dates with gals they really want to impress."
THE FATHER OF Rosemary's Baby (1968). For obvious reasons.
BILL COMPTON (Dennis Patrick) in Joe (1970). Not to be confused with the True Blood character. Bill's actions are motivated by his love for his daughter. But since those actions included beating her scumbag boyfriend to death, and then enlisting the help of a psychopath to track her down, he's not gonna be getting a "World's Best Dad" mug anytime soon. Not from her anyway.
NOAH CROSS (John Huston) in Chinatown (1974). No relation to Lucas (see above) although some of his crimes were the same. But whereas Lucas was a white-trash loser who eventually gets what he deserves, Noah's a rich asshole who gets away with everything.
"BULL" MEECHUM (Robert Duvall) in The Great Santini (1979). He was racist, sexist, and homophobic, and those were his GOOD points. He makes the list just for that basketball scene with son Ben (Michael O'Keefe, who was less tightly wound in Caddyshack...probably because the men in that film were better role models.)
JERRY BLAKE (Terry O'Quinn) in The Stepfather (1987). Hey, all he wanted was the perfect family. So he has to kill a few people in the process. You can't make an omlette without breaking a few eggs.
KING EDWARD I (Patrick McGoohan) in Braveheart (1995). In Mel Gibson's historical epic, most notable for its historical inaccuracies, Edward is depicted as a psycho who inflicts countless acts of abuse on his son Edward II, hitting a low point when he pushes the prince's gay lover out of a window to his death. This didn't really happen, but hey, it was good for a laugh from the audience, wasn't it? (As you may have guessed, I'm not a fan of the film. I'd rate High School Big Shot higher)
FRANK FITTS (Chris Cooper) in American Beauty (1999). Who'd have guessed that a man who rails against gays so much could turn out to be a raging closet case? Only people who've heard of Ted Haggard, George Rekers, etc.
ROYAL TENENBAUM (Gene Hackman) in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). Very often when parents get divorced, kids feel responsible, but, as Royal explains to son Richie, "When you have children, certain sacrifices have to be made, but heavens, no." There, now doesn't that make you feel better, kid?
ADAM & FENTON'S DAD (Bill Paxton) in Frailty (2001). A religeos fanatic/serial killer just isn't a good role model for children.
Worst TV Dads:
HOMER SIMPSON (Dan Castellenata) on The Simpsons. Strangling your son's not an approved parenting technique.
PETER GRIFFIN (Seth McFarlane) on Family Guy . Makes Homer look like Atticus Finch.
TONY SOPRANO (James Gandolfini) of The Sopranos. For obvious reasons.
FRANK REYNOLDS (Danny DeVito) on It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. "Insurance? I canceled that shit when you were nine!"
EVERYBODY'S DAD on Lost. Just about all the characters had a dad who was, in one way or another, completely effed up. Whose was the worst? Jack and Claire's? Sawyers? Locke's? Ben's? Ben's daughter? It's hard to pick.
In any case, Happy Father's Day to any dad reading this. Take some comfort in knowing that, however much you may think you've screwed up...at least you're not one of these guys. I hope.