Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rip Torn

In the New York Observer Spencer Morgan writes about not only Rip Torn's current problems but some of his dilemmas in the past. In case you haven't heard:

"State police responded to an alarm at the Litchfield Bancorp building in Salisbury, CT at 9:40 PM last night. Police say they found Torn "with a loaded revolver" and he was "highly intoxicated." Law enforcement sources tell us Torn gained access through a broken window, which they believe Torn broke himself. Torn was taken to the Troop B barracks in North Canaan and is being held on $100,000 bond. Cops say Torn was charged with carrying a pistol without a permit, carrying a firearm while intoxicated, first-degree burglary, first-degree criminal trespass and third-degree criminal mischief." (Gawker)

Here's Spencer Morgan..I've done a lot of excerpting. Sorry for the choppiness.

"40 years ago… (Norman) Mailer and Rip Torn had bumped into each other by chance. They’d been walking in opposite directions on 23rd Street when the sound of gunfire put them behind the lamppost, together.
“Norman always dressed to the nines,” said Mr. Torn.
“And so behind the lamppost, he turned to me and said, ‘Why you always dressed like a fuckin’ bum! Dress up, put on a nice shirt and tie, and you’ll get more respect.’”
Mailer asked what was up with the (new film). Mailer meant Easy Rider, in which Mr. Torn had been offered the part that Jack Nicholson eventually played.

“I said, ‘They’re not going to pay me anything; they only offered me scale.’ Mailer said, ‘How much money you want?’ I said, ‘$3,500.’ He said, ‘I’ll give you $3,500.’” Which is how Mr. Torn ended up playing Norman Mailer’s crazed half-brother in Mailer’s film Maidstone, which included the improvisational fight scene that ended with Mailer chomping on Mr. Torn’s ear. You can still see the bite marks, 40 years later!

Mr. Torn points out that when he hit Mailer three times with the hammer, the head was “deliberately turned to the flat.” When Mailer was biting his ear, Mr. Torn called out, “Daddy, I need that ear to work!”

Rip Torn doesn’t like to fight, but he takes his fights seriously. He and Dennis Hopper got into it over dinner in Hollywood in 1967; Mr. Hopper apparently pulled a knife.

When Hopper later told the story on The Tonight Show, he said it was Torn who pulled the knife. Torn went to court. “It’s the only time I ever sued and I won a million dollars,” said Mr. Torn. Actually, it was more like $900,000. But that was still pretty good money.

for the rest go here:

Ed here: This news story will be funny to everybody but alcoholics who were blackout drunks. I say blackout because I doubt Torn could reconstruct his night even under deep hypnosis. That much booze fries millions of brain cells. Being a recovering alcoholic and having had more than my share of blackouts, I'm trying to imagine what Torn is going through today. Hopefully they've sedated him. The panic must be terrible.

I've been watching his movies and tv appearances since the early sixties. He was rarely bad but he has phoned a few performances in once in awhile. I never liked him in Tennessee Williams plays because Williams' work is usually so close to hysteria the lines don't need any help to go over the top. And Torn cartooned it up. Williams was my favorite American playwright for years until I hit thirty or so and then the mordancy of the melodrama started getting to me. At his best he redeemed it with his own style of bitchy wit as with Big Daddy in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. But if Torn had the good fortune to be in one of Williams' best plays I never got to see it.

For me Torn's greatest triumph was his role as the only adult on The Larry Sanders show. Between Larry's insecurity ("Do these pants make me look fat in the ass?") and Hank's (the peerless Jeffrey Tambor) feckless ambitions (remember Hank's insistence that he wear his yarmulke on tv because he was proud to be Jewish when in fact he only wore it so he could tempt the lady rabbi into his bed which he didn't have a chance of doing) Artie kept the trains running.

You had the sense sometimes that in the final episode Artie would empty a Glock into both of them. Maybe his best performance was when his son who couldn't hold a job decided he wanted to work behind the scenes on the show. Artie being a lady chaser and a boozer had never been much of a father so out of guilt he talks Larry into let the thirty year old "kid" work there. Well between hitting on the women in the office and insinuating that Larry was gay and wrecking a car, the kid did all right. This was a Ricky Gervais moment done when Gervais was probably just finishing high school--you writhed through most of the episode. The kid was somebody who needed to meet a baseball several times in just half a minute or so. The ending was a great and totally unexpected hoot however. And Torn handled it perfectly.

I wish him the best.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Just watched an old Larry Sanders today on Hulu and he was brilliant, Among many performances, like him in Forty Shades of Blue, just a few years ago.

Evan Lewis said...

I found that ear-chewing scene from Maidenstone on YouTube. It's here:

Carl V. Anderson said...

I couldn't help but shake my head when I saw this on the news this morning. Thanks for the interesting additional stories. He is definitely quite the character. My six degrees of separation with Mr. Torn comes from the fact that my cousin, a working model at the time, was married in some ceremony (not sure if it was a legitimate marriage or just a fun thing they did and made official later) by Rip Torn many, many years ago.

Todd Mason said...

Whatever else one might say about or for him (and he was too kind to Mailer, clearly), he did help his cousin Sissy Spacek establish herself as an actress, for which I think we can all be grateful.