Monday, June 09, 2008

Spoon Me Some Icey!

I'd like to quickly highlight a performance that is generally forgotten or ignored or overlooked but nevertheless is wonderful to experience and one that makes me smile from ear to ear each time I see it: Evelyn Varden as Icey Spoon in The Night of the Hunter.

Varden had a career on the stage for years before coming to film with a minor role in Pinky (1949). She died in 1958 having only been featured in fifteen films. Her biggest movie was probably The Bad Seed (1956) which got better box office and recognition at the time. But The Night of the Hunter is the icing on the cake of Varden's acting career. In a film with as dynamic and creepy a central performance as Robert Mitchum's it's amazing anyone could stand out but Varden, as Icey Spoon, manages to do just that.

There is an old saying that goes "Some people think they're very generous because they give alot of free advice." Let's just say that Icey Spoon must consider herself among the most generous women on the planet. Free advice is her forte, it's what she does.

My favorite Icey Spoon moment comes at the picnic when she delivers a speech on love and sex that sails clear past the "Too Much Information" benchmark set by most people.

Giving the young ladies present at the picnic advice on what's important in a marriage - and to Icey it ain't sex - she says this about making love to her husband (with him present eating a fried chicken leg): "When you've been married to a man for forty years you know all that don't amount to a hill of beans. I've been married to my Walt that long and I swear in all that time I just lie there and think about my canning." The camera then cuts to Walt, dropping the chicken leg from his mouth with a look that can only be described as "priceless."

Evelyn Varden received no nomination for this or any other performance from her all too brief film career. It's too bad. Evelyn Varden may not have been a Hepburn or Stanwyck or Davis and she may not even have had much of a range beyond this role. Nevertheless, for this role she did a fantastic job. All hail Icey Spoon!


Jason Adams said...

Such a great, great film. And your post made me feel ashamed because Varden is wonderful in the movie but it's one of those performances that just seem so natural I never gave any thought to the fact that she was acting until you just pointed it out. It always felt as if they just threw this real blabbermouth woman into the movie.

Greg said...

She's a joy to watch in it. I particularly like in the end when she's the leader of the lynch mob after Mitchum. She goes from advice doler to lynch mob leader and doesn't miss a beat.


I love this film too but i haven't seen it in years and years. It's so horrible that Lillian Gish didn't get a nomination for it.

what were they thinking?

Greg said...

The whole film was ignored. As they say, "Time is the ultimate critic."

CanadianKen said...

Delighted to read your spirited appreciation of Evelyn Varden's work in NIGHT OF THDE HUNTER. I 've always thought both she and Gish deserved nominations for their roles. And I'd have nominated Varden for PINKY too. She's the best thing in the movie.