Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Tribute

It was on this day 29 years ago that the world lost one of the greatest actors of all time.  LuckyLadybug mentioned last year about how it seems strange to lament an actor gone before our time—I’ve gotten that before, too.  It’s all too true that Simon passed away before I was born; how then, in a world where television and movies have taken a vastly different direction since the time Simon was on the screen, was he able to strike a chord with myself, as well as Ladybug?  How can we both miss someone who never even existed at the same time we did?

I’ve pondered over this many a time—the numerous times when I get a blank look after naming Simon as one of my favorite actors.  It seems to be the fate of a character actor—to have their faces known, but not their names.  Simon even mentioned something along those lines in an interview about how people would often walk up to him and ask him if they knew him from somewhere, and how he believed that it was simply because people saw him on TV so much, people felt that they knew him.

And then I looked at that interview again, and it hit me.  That’s it.  That was it.  It didn’t matter if he was before my time; seeing him on the screen, in his element, breathing life into people that were just so believable, they do seem so real…  There’s a part of his spirit and soul in every character he brought to life, even the villains, which, in another interview, he had said that he tried to make them the slightest bit sympathetic—or, at the very least, give them hidden depths.

It is through Simon’s many characters that it felt as though I had gotten to know him as a person.  Only I wouldn’t be making the same mistake as those people who would idly think they knew him from somewhere and just couldn’t place him.  No; I’d be the shy, awed fan who would truly be able to appreciate the talent and genius of a brilliant actor and Renaissance man who deserves far, far more credit than he ever received.

That overdue credit is one of the main reasons why, last year, LuckyLadybug and I decided to put this blog and website together—because we couldn’t find any tribute sites to Simon already in existence, and we determined that just would not do. 

And while we wish that Simon had not left this world before our time—that he’d have lived long enough to hear that there were two fans of his determined to ensure that his name is not forgotten—there’s a part of me that wants to believe that, somehow… he knows.  Even before watching Kolchak, I’d always believed that the line between this world and the next was not an impassable, one-way barrier—that those on the other side can still be aware of what goes on here.

And I’d like to think that every time Luckyladybug and I make a post here, update the website, or excitedly discuss with each other about the latest role of his we’ve discovered, somewhere on the other side, Simon just shakes his head and gives a good-natured chuckle, thinking, There they go again.

It’s a thought that manages to make me smile, even as I miss him.

~Crystal Rose

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Birthday Tribute Post!

… Well, that was interesting, in a bad way. I’ve just wasted over thirty minutes trying to access the blog. It refused to let me in, even though I know I had the right password. I double-checked and double-checked. I don’t know whether it was hacked or if the website is just being a moron, but I am royally aggravated. I finally had to reset the password.

ANYWAY! It’s hard to believe that this blog has been up for over a year. And today is the first anniversary of the accompanying website.

We have been looking for new Simon material to watch, and while we’ve been waiting, we’ve kept Simon in our hearts despite the lack of posts here. And now, finally, on the 97th anniversary of his birthday, I can report on two more of Simon’s wonderful guest-spots.

The first is part of a show about Ellery Queen, a little episode called The Adventure of the Pharaoh’s Curse. Simon plays Norris Wentworth, a wealthy man who is into aircraft manufacturing and has just donated a mummy to the museum. His wife is seeing someone else, his son hates him, and an Egyptian is furious with him for buying the mummy and then donating it to be on display. He wants the dead laid to rest. Can’t say he doesn’t have a point, but he becomes far too emotional, making a huge show of it right at the unveiling and threatening Norris.

Apparently the poor man has been disliked for years. During World War II, he was accused of not building his airplanes strong enough, causing the deaths of many young airmen. His wife is quick to point out that he was acquitted of all charges and that he always insisted he hadn’t done it.

Norris is eventually, mysteriously murdered, as it turns out, by suffering a heart attack after the guard in the museum tries to literally scare him to death with the mummy. His son was one of the airmen who died. The guard snarls about how cowardly Norris became when he realized he was going to die, and how he sniveled and pleaded for his life.

The thing about Norris, I was quick to realize, is that nowhere in the episode did it ever say he really had been guilty for ruining those airplanes. The guard was convinced of it, but many people were, and we have to remember what Mrs. Wentworth said. And that, as well as the guard’s confession, are the only times it’s brought up. Thus, the question has to be faced, What if Norris really was innocent? What if the ruined airplanes were the fault of someone else in his company, maybe some lazy bums working in the plant? It’s a sad and sobering thought.

Norris is a gruff and serious sort, but he’s friendly and likes a good drink. He also doesn’t believe in superstitious nonsense, or at least, he doesn’t want to. He knows his son doesn’t like him and feels badly about it. And I felt plum sorry for the poor man, even moreso since we don’t even know that he was guilty of the terrible crimes he was killed for.

Recently, thanks to Netflix, I was also, finally able to see Simon’s guest-spot on the Ronnie Schell comedy Good Morning World, in the episode The Lady and the Pussycat. It’s one of Simon’s rare appearances in a comedy of any kind, and it’s a gem. This time there’s no doubt that his character, Harry Lewis, is a good guy.

Harry is the father of the main character, and he sells surfboards and other assorted items in Honolulu. He’s come to the mainland to see his son and daughter-in-law, and also the two women he’s trying to choose between for a wife. He’s lonely after fifteen years of his first wife being dead, and each of these women has touched him in a special way.

The younger Lewises aren’t sure what to make of either one of them. The first is a girl much younger than Harry, but they get along well and seem to enjoy each other’s company. They met when she went surfing with a rented board from Harry and he decided to go out after her since she hadn’t had experience. They ended up wiping out in a wave, but Harry ended up nearly dying and Genevieve had to perform artificial respiration on him (!).

David doesn’t like the idea of Harry being with a girl so much younger than himself. Linda doesn’t seem to mind so much. When David tries to talk with Harry about it, Harry reveals that there is another girl too, and he’s having trouble deciding which one.

This girl, Mary-Margaret, is closer to his own age. She’s very conservative—doesn’t drink, doesn’t like modern music—and she brings cookies for David and Linda. But there’s something I didn’t like about her, and it seems Linda was bothered too. David was too caught up in the cookies and the ages to notice. I’m not fully sure how to explain it, but she felt somewhat snooty. Maybe it was just in her aristocratic accent. But I really had the sense that she didn’t care about Harry, at least not as a romantic interest. When she’s leaving, she even arranges for a cab instead of having him drive her home. She claims it’s so he can spend time with the kids, and that could be, but I had the feeling that maybe she didn’t want him to drive her home, period.

It’s not really surprising when she turns down his off-screen proposal later on. She feels he’s too immature for her. And when he asks Genevieve, she feels he’s too old. But she must still like him and want to be friends, at least, as she comes with him to dinner once again. When David asks what his father is going to do, Harry gives him a mischievous grin and says, “Try to age her a little.” They then embrace.

Harry Lewis is quite adorable, a lovable teddy bear of a man in his fifties who doesn’t feel he’s too old to still have some fun in life. I like to think that Genevieve later changed her mind about him. Despite David feeling both girls were wrong for him, I felt that he and Genevieve were very nice together. They certainly felt more real and lively than Harry with Mary-Margaret. And Genevieve would definitely have a hard time finding a catch anywhere as good!

So once again, there we go with two characters who are extremely different but whom Simon played to perfection and believability. Today we honor and remember Simon on what would have been his 97th birthday. A wonderful actor and human being, lost far too soon. But we will treasure all of the characters he left us. Simon’s acting legacy lives on.

~Lucky Ladybug