Sunday, May 13, 2012
Happy Movie Mothers Day II: The Revenge. This Time It's Motherly!
By Special Movie Matriarch Correspondent, Bill S.
Last year, I offered a list of all-time worst moms in movies. But as with any list of that sort, it wasn't quite complete, so I'm serving up a second edition. If any of these ladies don't make you more grateful for your own, then...well, I guess you were really screwed. [be forwarned: spoilers to follow]
Mrs. Vale (Gladys Cooper) in Now, Voyager (1942) Never missed an opportunity to let daughter Charlotte (Bette Davis) know she was a mistake, a child she didn't really want. When Charlotte finally stood up to her, Mrs. Vale makes her feel guilty by dropping dead from a heart attack.
Ma Jarrett (Margaret Wycherly) in White Heat (1949) She's very supportive of her boy's career as a psychopathic gangster.
Violet Venable (Katherine Hepburn) in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) Her matchmaking method for her gay son left something to be desired. Also, not such a great Aunt, either.
Eleanor Iselin (Angela Lansbury) in The Manchurian Candidate (1962) A political wife who was secretly a Commie agent, and used her son as an assassin by turning him into a brainless robot (granted, for Laurence Harvey, that's kind of a lateral move).
Pamela Voorheese (Betsy Palmer) in Friday the 13th (1980) A serial killer whose son went into the family business in all the sequels. The film itself is a bad mother, having spawned the Dead Teenager Movie, a genre that proved inexplicably popular in the early '80's until it was supplanted by the Horny Teenager Movie (producers correctly guessed that teenaged male moviegoers preferred hot chicks with their heads still attached to their bodies.)
Beth Jarrett (Mary Tyler Moore) in Ordinary People (1980) So obsessed with keeping things neat and orderly that when her son (Timothy Hutton) attempts suicide, she treats his emotional problems like a carpet stain that won't come out. (For some reason -- maybe it's just the hair -- Beth reminds me of Nancy Reagan)
Momma Lift (Anne Ramsey) in Throw Momma From the Train (1987)
"I'm a friend of Owen's"
"Owen doesn't have any friends"
"That's because he's shy."
"No it isn't, it's because he's fat and he's stupid!"
Yeah, I'd want to pull a Bruno Anthony too.
Beverly Sutpin (Kathleen Turner) in Serial Mom (1994) Combining the pristine homemaking skills of Beth Jarrett with the knife-wielding skills of Pamela Voorheese, the "heroine" of John Waters' underrated black comedy was, among my friends, the most frequently cited Bad Mama when I asked who I overlooked in last year's column. I guess she's better to have on your side than it is to piss her off. Still, it must make it difficult to make friends when your mom's a homicidal maniac.
WORST MOMS ON TELEVISION:
Donna's Mother (Naomi Stevens) in "The Courtesans" episode of Barney Miller. Though she only made one appearance, for me it's memorable enough to make the list. Arriving to bail out her daughter, who was busted on a prostitution charge, she strikes up a conversation with Barney's wife, Liz (Barbara Barrie) and expresses her confusion about what went wrong:
"She never saw a naked body. She never heard a dirty word. Sex was practically never used in our home." When Liz points out that children have a natural curiosity, she replies, "Boy, did she ask questions! Look at her, things are bad enough! Imagine how they'd be if we'd given her answers!"
Mrs. Gordan (Chip Fields) on Good Times. If, like me, you were still a kid yourself when you saw this multiple episode story arc on child abuse play out on the show, the image of her coming after little Penny (Janet Jackson) with an iron, probably scared the crap out of you.
Alexis Carrington Colby (Joan Collins) on Dynasty. The nicest thing about her was her wardrobe, and even that didn't look like it offered much warmth.
Agnes Skinner (Tress MacNellie) on The Simpsons. For sheer nastiness, Principal Skinner's mom might be the only person in Springfield who could give Mr. Burns any competition. If he set the hounds on her, they'd be the ones running in terror.
Estelle Constanza (Estelle Harris) on Seinfeld. It's a wonder George made it to adulthood without smothering her with a pillow. Or committing suicide.
Patsy's Mom (Eleanor Bron) on Absolutely Fabulous. "Take it away...and bring me another lover!"
Evelyn Harper (Holland Taylor) on Two and A Half Men. I think the results of her mothering skills speak for themselves.
All of the mothers on Toddlers and Tiaras. Creepier than Helen Jorgenson, more obnoxious than Estelle Costanza, and uglier then Agnes Skinner.
So that's the list for 2012. If I missed any, feel free to offer suggestions for next year.