It has cost me to select them, but it’s them. And it was not easy, because the list is long. It emerged the other night, having dinner with Javier Marías. We ended up talking about movies, as is often the case, and we continued to do so as we walked towards the Plaza Mayor and he smoked his usual pair of cigarettes. Villains of classic cinema: the bad guys of film that in our childhood were the first vision of the face of evil, and that made them unforgettable. Halfway I said I was going to write about that, and Javier laughed and said he would send me a list with his people, which he did the next day. Seventy, we put together one and the other. And here you have me, fulfilling. They do not fit all, but my favorites, which almost all match his. Maybe some of you do not sound certain names, but if you type in an Internet search engine you will see your photos and recognize them at once.
While shuffling names, I divided them into groups. That does not mean that many of these actors can also be placed in others. They even made good, like John Ireland, who was chachi in Spartacus and bad in Duel of the Titans. The first group is that of the western. There are common indisputable villains, although my favorite wild group is Lee van Cleef (Death had a price), Jack Elam (one-eyed concealer or Laramie’s man) and Robert Wilke, the coldest look in the West in the super black and white of Solo before the danger. They can join with all the honors Rodolfo Acosta, who inflated to make bad Mexican and Indian even worse in films by John Ford, and also Ted de Corsia, Leo Gordon and especially Henry Brandon, unforgettable in his Quanah papers Parker in Two ride together and Chief Scar in Desert Centaurs.
From the West, through an all-terrain bad guy like Dan Duryea (Winchester 73, The Last Bullet) who also excelled playing black movie villains (The Woman in the Picture, The Ministry of Fear), we can turn to that, the police and criminal cinema , remembering the brutal face of Neville Brand in the great With the hours counted, the malevolent and plump Robert Middleton, George Macready and his magnificent scar on his face (unforgettable enGilda), Gert Fröbe, who after being supervillain in The bait and Goldfinger ruffled the curl as a bad guy in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Michael Madsen, whose scene of torture to a policeman in Reservoir dogs places him in the Olympus cinematographic bad, almost at the height of the great Christopher Lee, one of the most conspicuous villains that in the movies have been. And among those who would be unfair to forget the formidable Erich Von Stroheim (frivolous wives I think a masterpiece), Sydney Greenstreet, great fat in The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, and one of my favorites, Peter Lorre, present in those two films and capable of doing terrible in The Vampire of Dusseldorf and good in the extraordinary The mask of Dimitrios.
Of course, since the cinema is the cinema, there are bad guys of the black genre who repeat without complex villainy in the historical or in the western. It happens with Jack Palance (“A face that only a mother could love”, said Elia Kazan), that with that mask of his almost always had to be bad, from deep roots to Barabbas; or Henry Daniell, who did the same for Professor Moriarty in three Sherlock Holmes films that starred in one of the best sword duels in cinema (against Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk), almost as good as the enormous Basil Rathbone ( the best Holmes of all time and my favorite bad guy when he plays bad) runs very villainously in The Sign of Zorro, Robin of the Woods and Captain Blood.
Anyway. The page is over and there are not many more, but I can not ignore the recycled villains. Those who after doing a lot of evil ended up playing good roles or specialized in ambiguous characters, with one foot on each side of justice. Of the latter, my favorite is Arthur Kennedy (They died with their boots on, Laramie’s man). And of the first, I revere two fundamental names: Richard Widmark (from The Kiss of Death to Victors or Vanquished) and that extraordinary actor who was Lee Marvin, capable of getting himself killed by John Wayne being the evil Liberty Balance, or killing him to John Casavettes in Code del hampa (“I now know why he did not defend himself: he was already dead”) with the same naturalness that he used to play the good protagonist in Los profescios o Twelve del patíbulo.
And well, that. Of villains and bad women, if you want, we talk another day.