The continued existence of this site depends entirely on contributions from its readers. If you're able to, please consider donating or subscribing to CF. Thanks!



Another one they aren’t making any more of these days

That would be gifted actor, horseman, Marine veteran, Hollywood stuntman, ranch hand, jazz singer, blacksmith, and world-champion poker player Wilford Brimley.

Anthony Wilford Brimley (September 27, 1934 – August 1, 2020) was an American actor. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and working odd jobs in the 1950s, Brimley started working as an extra and stuntman in Western films in the late 1960s. He became an established character actor in the 1970s and 1980s in films such as The China Syndrome (1979), The Thing (1982), Tender Mercies (1983), The Natural (1984), and Cocoon (1985). Brimley was known for playing characters at times much older than his age. He was the long-term face of American television advertisements for the Quaker Oats Company. He also promoted diabetes education and appeared in related television commercials for Liberty Medical, a role for which he became an Internet meme.

Brimley joined the Marines in 1953 and served in the Aleutian Islands for three years. He also worked as a bodyguard for businessman Howard Hughes as well as a ranch hand, wrangler, and blacksmith. He then began shoeing horses for film and television. At the behest of his close friend and fellow actor Robert Duvall, he began acting in the 1960s as a riding extra and stunt man in westerns. In 1979, he told the Los Angeles Times that the most he ever earned in a year as an actor was $20,000. He had no formal training as an actor, and his first experience in acting in front of a live audience was in a theater group at the Los Angeles Actors’ Theater.

His first credited feature film performance was in The China Syndrome (1979) as Ted Spindler, a friend and coworker of plant shift supervisor Jack Godell (portrayed by Jack Lemmon). That same year, he appeared in the Robert Redford/Jane Fonda feature film “The Electric Horseman” cast as simply “The Farmer” while assisting Redford and Fonda’s characters evade troopers while transporting the horse in a cattle hauler. Later, Brimley made a brief but pivotal appearance in Absence of Malice (1981) as the curmudgeonly, outspoken Assistant Attorney General James A. Wells. In the movie The Thing (1982) he played the role of Blair, a biologist among a group of men at an American research station in Antarctica who encounter a dangerous alien that can perfectly imitate other organisms.

Brimley’s close friend Robert Duvall (who also appeared in The Natural) was instrumental in securing for him the role of Harry in Tender Mercies (1983). Duvall, who had not been getting along with director Bruce Beresford, wanted “somebody down here that’s on my side, somebody that I can relate to.” Beresford felt Brimley was too old for the part but eventually agreed to the casting. Brimley, like Duvall, clashed with the director; during one instance when Beresford tried to advise Brimley on how Harry would behave, Duvall recalled Brimley responding: “Now look, let me tell you something, I’m Harry. Harry’s not over there, Harry’s not over here. Until you fire me or get another actor, I’m Harry, and whatever I do is fine ’cause I’m Harry.”

It was Brimley’s showstopper star-turn as AAG James J Wells (not James A Wells, as Wiki erroneously has it above) in Absence of Malice that sent me down the Wilford Brimley rabbit hole today, after re-watching Brimley’s riveting performance on YewToob. Interesting thing about the apparent James J/James A flub: Brimley’s character may very well have been James A in the script (don’t know, didn’t check), judging from what appears to be his momentary hesitation when giving his name as James J in the AoM final cut:

Note ye well that Mr Brimley, a relatively unknown bit-player-cum-character actor at the time, just walked in, sat down, riffled some papers, opened his mouth, and proceeded to steal the entire film from screen titans Paul Newman and Sally Field, without so much as breaking a sweat. By God, that there is what you call acting, bub. Ahh, but how very typical of Wilford Brimley: Kurt Russell, Robert Duvall, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon—running scenes with all of these fine actors and many more, he refused to be intimidated or overawed, nonchalantly holding his own with all those marquee names, making it look not just easy, but effortless.

More rich, buttery Brimley goodness from AoM:

One more time:

Over the years I must’ve seen Absence of Malice about, oh, I dunno, forty or fifty times—enough that I’ve long since had every word of Brimley’s dazzling five minutes or so of screentime towards the end down by heart, anyway—and still ain’t no way tired of the flick. If you’ve never seen the movie, I urge you with all my heart not to let another sun go down before you rectify that gap in your cinematic education. They ain’t making movies like Absence of Malice anymore, nor actors like Wilford Brimley, nor sturdy, versatile, by-God American men like him, for that matter.

Anybody else thinking, as I just was, that the AAG Wells character, in fact pretty much all the G-men in the above climactic scenes, represents another long-gone American totem: the competent, reasonable, and trustworthy public servant? Not to mention Sally Fields’ newspaper reporter, who, although she lost her way temporarily and compromised her professional ethics in pursuit of a red-hot scoop, nonetheless proves herself to be basically decent in the end, deeply regretful for betraying her integrity and resolved that she will NOT let it happen again.

As Wells says of the DA ensnared in Michael Gallagher’s clever trap: “Yeah, he’s a nice guy, he just forgot about the rules.” When the dust has settled, the wayward but basically well-meaning are chastened, the corrupt and malifecent made to face serious consequences, and AAG Wells has somebody’s ass in his briefcase, as promised.

Today, though, is there anyone left among us so naive, so unworldly, that he seriously expects such unflagging virtuousness from his “public servants,” even in a fictional movie? Yep, the past is a different country all right.


2 thoughts on “Another one they aren’t making any more of these days

  1. Brimley was a pretty special character, thanks for the reminder. Someday I’ll tell the story about meeting Newman, one of two hollywood celebs I have met.

    I’d say that not having any acting lessons was to Brimley’s benefit, lessons would have likely ruined him.

    Heck of a movie, but I’m of the opinion that much of the real DOJ has been corrupt for as long as I’ve been alive. We just didn’t know how bad it was.

Comments are closed.

CF Archives


Comments policy

NOTE: In order to comment, you must be registered and approved as a CF user. Since so many user-registrations are attempted by spam-bots for their own nefarious purposes, YOUR REGISTRATION MAY BE ERRONEOUSLY DENIED.

If you are in fact a legit hooman bean desirous of registering yourself a CF user name so as to be able to comment only to find yourself caught up as collateral damage in one of my irregularly (un)scheduled sweeps for hinky registration attempts, please shoot me a kite at the email addy over in the right sidebar and let me know so’s I can get ya fixed up manually.

ALSO NOTE: You MUST use a valid, legit email address in order to successfully register, the new anti-spam software I installed last night requires it. My thanks to Barry for all his help sorting this mess out last night.

Comments appear entirely at the whim of the guy who pays the bills for this site and may be deleted, ridiculed, maliciously edited for purposes of mockery, or otherwise pissed over as he in his capricious fancy sees fit. The CF comments section is pretty free-form and rough and tumble; tolerance level for rowdiness and misbehavior is fairly high here, but is NOT without limit.

Management is under no obligation whatever to allow the comments section to be taken over and ruined by trolls, Leftists, and/or other oxygen thieves, and will take any measures deemed necessary to prevent such. Conduct yourself with the merest modicum of decorum, courtesy, and respect and you'll be fine. Pick pointless squabbles with other commenters, fling provocative personal insults, issue threats, or annoy the host (me) won't.

Should you find yourself sanctioned after running afoul of the CF comments policy as stated and feel you have been wronged, please download and complete the Butthurt Report form below in quadruplicate; retain one copy for your personal records and send the others to the email address posted in the right sidebar.

Please refrain from whining, sniveling, and/or bursting into tears and waving your chubby fists around in frustrated rage, lest you suffer an aneurysm or stroke unnecessarily. Your completed form will be reviewed and your complaint addressed whenever management feels like getting around to it. Thank you.

"Mike Hendrix is, without a doubt, the greatest one-legged blogger in the world." ‐Henry Chinaski

Subscribe to CF!

Support options

Shameless begging

If you enjoy the site, please consider donating:

Become a CF member!


Email addy: mike-at-this-url dot etc
All e-mails assumed to be legitimate fodder for publication, scorn, ridicule, or other public mockery unless specified as private by the sender

Allied territory

Alternatives to shitlib social media: A few people worth following on Gab:

Fuck you

Kill one for mommy today! Click to embiggen

Notable Quotes

"America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards."
Claire Wolfe, 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution

Claire's Cabal—The Freedom Forums


"There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."
Daniel Webster

“When I was young I was depressed all the time. But suicide no longer seemed a possibility in my life. At my age there was very little left to kill.”
Charles Bukowski

“A slave is one who waits for someone to come and free him.”
Ezra Pound

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”
Frank Zappa

“The right of a nation to kill a tyrant in case of necessity can no more be doubted than to hang a robber, or kill a flea.”
John Adams

"A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves."
Bertrand de Jouvenel

"It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged."
GK Chesterton

"I predict that the Bush administration will be seen by freedom-wishing Americans a generation or two hence as the hinge on the cell door locking up our freedom. When my children are my age, they will not be free in any recognizably traditional American meaning of the word. I’d tell them to emigrate, but there’s nowhere left to go. I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free."
Donald Surber

"The only way to live free is to live unobserved."
Etienne de la Boiete

"History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid."
Dwight D. Eisenhower

"To put it simply, the Left is the stupid and the insane, led by the evil. You can’t persuade the stupid or the insane and you had damn well better fight the evil."

"There is no better way to stamp your power on people than through the dead hand of bureaucracy. You cannot reason with paperwork."
David Black, from Turn Left For Gibraltar

"If the laws of God and men, are therefore of no effect, when the magistracy is left at liberty to break them; and if the lusts of those who are too strong for the tribunals of justice, cannot be otherwise restrained than by sedition, tumults and war, those seditions, tumults and wars, are justified by the laws of God and man."
John Adams

"The limits of tyranny are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
Frederick Douglass

"Give me the media and I will make of any nation a herd of swine."
Joseph Goebbels

“I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.”
Ronald Reagan

"Ain't no misunderstanding this war. They want to rule us and aim to do it. We aim not to allow it. All there is to it."
NC Reed, from Parno's Peril

"I just want a government that fits in the box it originally came in."
Bill Whittle

Best of the best

Finest hosting service

Image swiped from The Last Refuge

2016 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

RSS feed

RSS - entries - Entries
RSS - entries - Comments

Boycott the New York Times -- Read the Real News at Larwyn's Linx

Copyright © 2024