Monday, May 15, 2017

Accomplished Boothe Quietly Departs

Obituaries for Texas-born actor Powers Boothe, who died in his sleep on Sunday morning, aged 68, headline a variety of film and TV projects he participated in over the decades—everything from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Sin City to Tombstone, Hatfields & McCoys, and 24. Strangely, less is made of his Emmy Award-winning role as charismatic cult leader Jim Jones in the 1980 CBS-TV miniseries Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones, and it’s the rare tribute that mentions he played Raymond Chandler’s best-known protagonist in the 1983-1986 HBO-TV series Philip Marlowe, Private Eye.

Boothe started his career on the stage, joining the repertory company of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and moving from there to Broadway. In 1977 he appeared as part of an ill-used Richard III cast in the Herbert Ross/Neil Simon movie The Goodbye Girl. Lifted further into the limelight by his portrayal of the suicidal/homicidal Jones, he went on to roles in films such as Red Dawn (1984), Tombstone (1993, playing outlaw Curly Bill Brocius), and Nixon (1995, in which he portrayed White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig), as well as in small-screen dramas ranging from Joan of Arc (1999) to Deadwood (2004-2006), in the latter of which he stood out as corrupt but otherwise complex brothel proprietor Cy Tolliver.

However, it was as the hard-edged, wisecracking Marlowe that Boothe first came to my attention. The character had appeared previously on television—in a 1954 episode of Climax!, played by Dick Powell, and later in the 1959-1960 ABC-TV series Philip Marlowe, starring Philip Carey. But Boothe brought an authority and muted toughness (if maybe a bit too much world-weariness) to the role that Carey had lacked. There were 11 hour-long episodes of Philip Marlowe, Private Eye, all adapted from Chandler short stories, though Marlowe hadn’t originally been the lead player in every tale. Among my favorites was “The Pencil,” adapted from Chandler’s last actual Marlowe short story (which was originally published in 1959 as “Marlowe Takes on the Syndicate”). At least for now, you can watch “The Pencil” as well as other installments from the series on YouTube. Another standout episode was “Finger Man,” which guest-starred not only Gayle Hunnicutt (who had appeared with James Garner in 1969’s Marlowe) but also Ed Bishop (former star of the 1970-1971 science-fiction TV series UFO). Sergio Angelini offers synopses of the Season 1 episodes of Boothe’s series, plus video clips, in his blog, Tipping My Fedora.

Variety reports that “there will be a private service held in Texas” for Boothe, In addition, “a memorial celebration in his honor is being considered for a future date.”

READ MORE:Powers Boothe: The Guardian Obituary,” by Michael Carlson (Irresistible Targets).

1 comment:

Mark Coggins said...

And don't forget another Marlowe/Chandler performance: