After a mere 4 hours of sleep, I awoke to some rather upsetting news. Kevin McCarthy, one of the greatest character actors of all time, has died. These things happen and I’m growing more use to them thanks to the slew of celebrity deaths in the recent years. But when you’re a man who has uncovered an alien race of plant-people trying to take over the world, helped the government develop a breed of killer piranha that can live in cold water, and attempted to crush a punk kid’s UHF television station, fighting pneumonia in Cape Cod should be a minor inconvenience instead of a curtain call.
If you are a true child of the 80’s, you’ll know who Kevin McCarthy was. His role in the 1950’s sci fi/horror classic Invasion Of The Body Snatchers should stand out to anyone who has seen Gremlins or has a NetFlix account. Don’t know what I’m talking about? For shame. It’s the scene when Billy and Gizmo fall asleep after feeding the evil mogwai past midnight.
Some of Kevin’s better rolls (in my opinion) were when he played a mad-man or a nervous old guy, more so the ones when he was a mad-man. I will always remember his portrayal of R.J. Fletcher, the douche who ran Channel 8 in “Weird” Al Yankovic’s film UHF. He was the personification of what an old-school villain should be: arrogant, short tempered, and always ready to give his mustache a twirl in evil victory.
Twilight Zone: The Movie pitted Kevin McCarthy (or “Uncle Walt”) against a 10 year old boy who make anything happen, and I mean ANYTHING. This brat took his sister’s mouth away for yelling at him, bamfed his “new” sister into the cartoon world for telling his secret to Helen “School Teacher” Foley, and puts peanut butter on everything from cheeseburgers to ice cream.
Being a slimy business man came naturally to Mr. McCarthy. Innerspace gave him the chance to show the world how one might obtain top secret miniaturizing technology to sell on the black market. Is there a clientele for such a thing? Who knows. If there was, no one else could handle their cowboy contact’s super face-changing better than Kevin McCarthy.
Even with an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe under his belt, Kevin was never able to make that big leap from B-List to A in the celebrity world. Well you know something, I’m glad. B-listers are the ones who stay true to themselves and only pick rolls that they feel would be challenging/interesting, even if they don’t get a $1, 000, 000 check per film.
So here’s to you Kevin McCarthy. Your unique acting style, stark white hair, and wild eyes will never be forgotten. May the world be over-run by plant-people should that day ever come.