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'Cinema's Greatest Writer Villains'


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#1 dirac

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Posted 07 April 2010 - 02:55 PM

From Salon: Cinema’s Greatest Writer Villains

You'd have to be nuts to decide to be a novelist, and no one has more thoroughly explored the fine line between novel-writing and insanity than Stephen King. Although King never cared for Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of "The Shining," it remains the definitive depiction of how writer's block, self-pity and isolation – combined with one very evil hotel – can turn even the most mild-mannered family man into an ax-wielding maniac.


I would also add Fred MacMurray’s Lieutenant Keefer, prodding an impressionable Van Johnson into very big trouble in The Caine Mutiny. Any others?

#2 papeetepatrick

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Posted 07 April 2010 - 04:38 PM

Saw the Salon list, have only seen 'The Shining' and 'As Good As It Gets'. Was actually surprised they had this many because couldn't think of any myself. They started in the 80s with the Shining, I'll see if I think of anything in the Old Periods. Pretty specialized, I can't even think of many writer movies evne when they weren't villains, 'Beloved Infidel' about F. Scott comes to mind, I guess 'Up Close and Personal' was about a journalist, not much else just at the mo.

#3 dirac

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Posted 07 April 2010 - 05:02 PM

Novelists do show up from time to time in the movies, but the 'villain' qualifier does narrow the field.

I did disagree with Miller's assessment of Briony Tallis of Atonement:

As a movie, it's more of a tragic romance, but the catalyst for the central disaster is still would-be writer Briony Tallis, who at age 13 gets carried away by her own overactive literary imagination and then spends the rest of her life trying to make up for what she's done.


Seems to me that if Briony spent the rest of her life trying to make up for what she did, she'd be no villain. On the contrary: she's a villain because she lived with the lie all her life and then decided to "atone" for the ruined lives of two people by writing up a fake happy ending for them. How nice of her. :)

#4 bart

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Posted 07 April 2010 - 06:12 PM

Would the character of Shrike in Lonelyhearts qualify? He's a newspaper editor, rather than an "author." As Robert Ryan plays him, he is definitely a villain, though not of the "dastardly" or "booze-addled" variety.

#5 dirac

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Posted 07 April 2010 - 06:51 PM

Good question. I don't think Shrike would qualify by the definition of the original article, which seems to refer to "book" writers only. (Ryan was such a great villain. I miss him.)

Don Birnam, the character played by Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend, would qualify as booze-addled -- so would Patrick's example of Scott Fitzgerald -- but not as a villain, so he falls between the two stools, I guess.

#6 Ed Waffle

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Posted 09 April 2010 - 03:17 PM

While he isn't a novelist Sidney Bruhl, played by Michael Caine in "Deathtrap" may qualify. He is a creatively spent playwright who lures a student, a member of a drama writing class Bruhl teaches in order to make a few dollars to his Long Island estate in order to kill the student and take credit for his work. The student, played by Christopher Reeve, has his own ideas of how to deal with Sidney.

#7 dirac

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 01:07 PM

I think we can let playwrights in on a pass. :)

#8 sidwich

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Posted 10 April 2010 - 10:35 PM

Although not a novelist or a playwright, Clifton Webb's Waldo Lydecker in Preminger's "Laura" is the first thing I thought of when I saw this topic. There's a very twisted Pygmalion aspect to Lydecker, and how he can't bear to have this perfect woman who he has created end up with any other man.

#9 canbelto

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Posted 11 April 2010 - 03:13 PM

He wasn't a movie character, but I'd have to include Christopher Moltisanti on The Sopranos. His struggles as a screenwriter made for one of the best running jokes during the whole series, and added a lot of dark humor to what could have been a one-note villain.

#10 dirac

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 11:01 AM

Although not a novelist or a playwright, Clifton Webb's Waldo Lydecker in Preminger's "Laura" is the first thing I thought of when I saw this topic. There's a very twisted Pygmalion aspect to Lydecker, and how he can't bear to have this perfect woman who he has created end up with any other man.



"I don't use a pen. I write with a goose quill dipped in venom....."

#11 4mrdncr

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 07:26 PM

Didn't they make a few movies of Edgar Allen Poe stories? Are there any characters (do protagonists/narrators count as the voice of the writer?) in those stories/films that might fit?

(PS. I remember "Deathtrap" too, but it always reminded me of (the Olivier/Caine film) "Sleuth". But I loved the windmill set, and wondered if it was in the original play.)

#12 dirac

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 07:49 PM

That's a good question, 4mrdncr, but I'm not sure even so if Poe could be included. It's great that you mentioned Sleuth, because Andrew Wyke as a writer of mysteries is eminently qualified for our list. I saw the remake with Caine and Branagh recently - horribly misjudged.

I don't know about the windmill set for Deathtrap but would be interested to hear from anyone who remembers the original production.


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