Saints of the Quirky

Some of Quirky Cinemas most honorable or anti-heroic ACTORS, CHARACTERS, DIRECTORS

Hal Ashby (1929-1988), a significant figure in the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. He directed The Landlord (1970), Harold and Maude (1971), and Being There (1979), all included in the Comedy/Drama section, as well as The Last Detail (1973), Shampoo (1975), Bound for Glory (1976), and Coming Home (1978). Here he is with Ruth Gordon and the head of Bud Cort on sets for Harold and Maude.

Pat Ast (1941-2001) went from being a Warhol star to a bad girl in Donna Summers “Bad Girls” video…and then forever into the cult-o-sphere. Possessing both comic quirks and gutter grit, Ast is known most for the cult classics Heat (1972, with Joe Dallesandro) and Reform School Girls (1986, with Wendy O. Williams).

Edith Bouvier Beale a/k/a Little Edie  (1917-2002) and her mother Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale a/k/a Big Edie (1895–1977) are the subject of one of the most famous documentaries of all time—the verité-defining Grey Gardens (1975) by brothers Albert Maysles and David Maysles.

Louise Beavers (1902-1962), actor known for supporting roles in over 150 movies as well as her starring turn in the TV show Beulah. Here she is in her most important movie role as pancake entrepreneur Delilah Johnson in the original Imitation of Life (1934):

Joe Berlinger (b. 1961) & Bruce Sinofsky (1956-2015), directors of the documentary My Brother’s Keeper and the Paradise Lost series.

Beulah Bondi (1889-1991) graced the screen with unparalleled sincerity. That she played mother to a James Stewart character in four movies serves as her legacy: Vivacious Lady (1938), Of Human Hearts (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Her most unforgettable role is surely the displaced old mother in Make Way for Tomorrow (1937). She is brilliant as very different backwood matriarchs in the best Disney movie no one remembers So Dear to My Heart (1948) and decades later in a recurring role on The Waltons (pictured below in center) that earned her an Emmy.

Jane Campion (b. 1954), Australian director of Two Friends (1987), Sweetie (1989), An Angel at My Table (1990), The Piano (1993), Top of the Lake (2013), and more.


Nick and Nora Charles, famously slick characters in Dashiell Hammett’s detective novel The Thin Man (1934) and the comedy-mystery film series starring William Powell and Myrna Loy (1934-1947). Classic and classy, iconic down to their dog Asta.

Bob Clark (1939-2007), maker of beloved low-budget horror movies from the 1970s: Black Christmas, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, Deranged, Deathdream, as well as the comedy She-Man. He hit it big with his Porky’s movies in the early 1980s. Pictured with the iconic lamp from his now revered A Christmas Story (1983).


Elwood P. Dowd, character played by Jimmy Stewart in Harvey (1950). Here he is admiring a portrait of himself and his pal Harvey.

Marie Dressler (1868-1934), known for her rough’n’tumble costarring roles with Wallace Beery. Min and Bill (1930) earned her an Oscar for Best Actress and Tugboat Annie (1933) led to her Time cover. Her career began in the silent Tillie movies with Charlie Chaplin. She died at the height of her popularity, a true national treasure.


Edie Falco (b. 1963), actor well-known for several roles. On TV shet’s the title character on Nurse Jackie (below right) and Mrs. Soprano on The Sopranos. On the indie scene she’s in Hal Hartley’s first two films, Unbelievable Truth and Trust, Eric Mendehlson’s Judy Berlin and 3 Backyards, and John Sayles’ Sunshine State (below left).


Frankenstein’s Monster, character in the James Whale adaptations (1931, 1935) of Mary Shelley’s gothic novel Frankenstein. Played by Boris Karloff.

Frieda, character played by Daisy Earles in Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932).


Will Geer (1902-1978), actor equated with his Grandpa role on The Waltons (below right). His career actually spans back to Broadway in the late 1920s. In California in the 1930s, he joined the Communist party and fell in love with pioneering gay activist Harry Hay. During the McCarthy era, he starred in a film that was blacklisted, Salt of the Earth (1954), and was blacklisted himself. Supporting roles in later films include John Frankenheimer’s Seconds (1966) (below left) and Karen Arthur’s The Mafu Cage (1979).


Crispin Glover (b. 1964), actor, director. He first came to notice in River’s Edge (1986), played Warhol in Oliver Stone’s The Doors (1991), and brought Grendel itself to life in Beowulf (2007). He has since secured his cult status with leads in films like Bartelby (2001) and Willard (2003). He’s also directed experimental films like What Is It? (2005) and It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine (2007).

Ruth Gordon (1896-1985), actor known for Harold and Maude (1971) and her Oscar-winning role as Minnie Castevet in Rosemary’s Baby (1968). She and her husband Garson Kanin wrote the famous Tracy-Hepburn vehicle Adam’s Rib (1941). Here she is early in her career, in the 1920s, and in 1971 with her Harold and Maude costar Bud Cort.


Katherine Helmond (1929-2019), one of those scene-stealing supporting players I love most. Her career spanned Hitchcock, mainstream TV, and avant-garde film. Below pictured in her iconic face-stretching scene in Terry Gilliam’s outrageously dystopian Brazil (1985).


Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014), a fearless character actor with impressive range, beloved for his roles in Boogie Nights (1997), Happiness (1998), Almost Famous (2000), Love Liza (2002), Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007), and mainstream fare too like Twister (1996). He won a Best Actor Oscar for his lead in Capote (2005), received a nomination nod for Doubt (2009), and directed himself in Jack Goes Boating (2010). This portrait is by Herb Ritts.

Judy Holliday (1921-1965), actor known for Adam’s Rib, Bells Are Ringing, It Should Happen to You!, and Solid Gold Cadillac. Here she is with her Oscar for Born Yesterday (1950) alongside Gloria Swanson and Jose Ferrer.

John Hurt (b. 1940), British actor who’s played a wide variety of roles, from Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant (1975) to Caligula in I Claudius (1976) to the first victim in Alien (1979) (below left) to John Merrick in The Elephant Man (1980) to Winston in 1984 (1984) (below right). More recently he’s played Ollivander in three Harry Potter movies.


Imogene, a heroic underdog character in Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon (1973) and cohort to Tatum O’Neal’s character Addie. She’s played by PJ Johnson whose only other film role is the Dairy Queen waitress in Bogdanovich’s Texasville in 1990.


Madeline Kahn (1942-1999), actor beloved for her supporting roles in Blazing Saddles (1974), Clue (1985), High Anxiety (1977), Paper Moon (1973), and Young Frankenstein (1974). Her first role was in Bogdanovich’s screwball What’s Up, Doc? (1972) and her final role, a perfectly complex role full of surprise, was in Judy Berlin (1999) (both pictured below). To know her onscreen is to love her.

Jack Nicholson described Carol Kane (b. 1952) as a blend of Bette Davis and Peter Lorre. She is known for supporting roles in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, Hal Ashby’s The Last Detail, and the classic thriller When a Stranger Calls as well as stunning leads in The Mafu Cage, Office Killer, and Wedding in White. She was nominated for an Oscar for her lead in Hester Street in 1975 and won an Emmy as Simka on the TV series Taxi in the early 1980s (pictured with costar Andy Kaufman).


Don Knotts (1924-2006)—iconic as Barney Fife on TV’s The Andy Griffith Show, a deputy too eager and too stupid to be a hero—became a major film star playing a series of reluctant heroes like The Incredible Mr. Limpett (1964), The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968), and The Love God? (1969).

Yaphet Kotto (1939-2021), a powerhouse actor known for gritty-realist roles in Bone (1972), Live and Let Die (1973), Blue Collar (1978), Alien (1979), Running Man (1987), Midnight Run (1988), and the acclaimed TV series Homicide (1993-2000).

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George Kuchar (1942-2011), actor and director. Starred in underground classics directed by his brother Mike Kuchar (Sins of the Fleshapoids) and by his protege Curt McDowell (Thundercrack!). Directed hundreds of his own low-budget movies like Hold Me While I’m Naked (1966) and Secrets of the Shadow World (1999). He taught filmmaking to countless San Francisco Art Institute students between 1971 and 2011.

British actors Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton were married in 1929. Laughton won a Best Actor Oscar playing the title role in The Private Life of Henry VII in 1933 and two years later three of his films were nominated for Oscars including Ruggles of Red Gap (see Classic Era). My favorite Laughton movies are Ruggles, James Whales’ The Old Dark House (1932) and David Lean’s Hobson’s Choice (1954). Lanchester is known most for playing the Bride in Bride of Frankenstein (1932), wife #4 in Henry VIII (1933), Aunt Queenie in Bell, Book and Candle (1958), Katie Nanna in Mary Poppins (1964), the domineering mom in Willard (1971), and Jessica Marbles in Murder by Death (1976). Here they are after receiving US citizenship in 1950.

Mike Leigh (b. 1943 ), British director of many excellent films like Abigail’s Party (1977), Another Year (1977), Grown-Ups (1977), High Hopes (1988), Life Is Sweet (1990), Secrets & Lies (1996), and Topsy Turvy (1999). He has been nominated for seven Oscars, usually for screenplay.

“There’s a fine line between genius and insanity,” said Oscar Levant. “I have erased this line.” A concert pianist and film composer turned celebrity personality at large, Levant is known for his sardonic wit and pill-popping. He may be most immediately recognized as Gene Kelly’s grumpy friend in An American in Paris (1951), accompanying Kelly for “Tra La La.” On TV he was a favorite guest of Jack Parr and had his own show in the late 1950s—cancelled after he quipped about Marilyn Monroe converting to Judaism: “Now that Marilyn Monroe is kosher, Arthur Miller can eat her.”

Timothy “Speed” Levitch (b. 1970), former NYC tour guide and subject of Bennett Millers unforgettable documentary The Cruise (1992). Check out Levitch’s series on Hulu called Up To Speed.


Martin, the sympathetic vampire protagonist in George Romeros tragic masterpiece Martin (1976), played by John Amplas.

Edith Massey (1918-1984), beloved player in the early films of John Waters: Desperate Living, Female Trouble, Pink Flamingos, and Polyester. A short documentary was made about her in 1975 titled Love Letter to Edie.

Cameron Mitchell (1994) is a more than a familiar face in westerns, b-movies, horror cheapies, and exploitation flicks, he is practically a “psychotronic” cornerstone.


Clarence Muse (1889-1979), actor and filmmaker, a pioneering contributor to early cinema who emerged from the Harlem Renaissance. He starred in the first all-black film Hearts of Dixie (1929) and later co-wrote with Langston Hughes and starred in Way Down South (1939). He was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1973. His final film appearances were in Car Wash (below left), Passing Through, and The Black Stallion, all in the late 1970s.


Geraldine Page (1924-1987), actor on par with greats like Kim Stanley, Sandy Dennis, and Julie Harris, known for The Beguiled, Interiors, Summer and Smoke, Sweet Bird of Youth, and Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice? Disney fans will recognize her as the voice of Madame Medusa in The Rescuers (1977) (below right). She finally won a much deserved Oscar for Trip to Bountiful (1985) (below left). Check her out as Cousin Sook in Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory (1966).


Mary Kay Place (b. 1947), one of our most reliable character actors, known to most as Loretta Haggers on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (below left) or Adaleen Grant on Big Love (below right). She’s stolen scenes in many a film too, including Being John Malkovich, Citizen Ruth, Lonesome Jim, Manny & Lo, Pecker, and Private Benjamin. Early on she wrote for M*A*S*H and released two very smart country albums.


Aubrey Plaza (b. 1984), much loved for her deadpan delivery on the NBC sitcom Parks & Recreation (2009–2015), Plaza is now impressing audiences and critics in a number of movies like The Little Hours (directed by her husband Jeff Baena, 2017), An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn (2018), Child’s Play (2019), and Black Bear (2020).


Marlon Riggs (1957-1994), director of important documentaries about African-American and LGBT issues: Black Is Black Ain’t (1994), Color Adjustment (1992), Ethnic Notions (1986), and Tongues Untied (1989).

Zelda Rubinstein (1933-2010), actor known most for her roles as Tangina in the Poltergiest movies (pictured below left) and Ginny on Picket Fences. Her best role is the mom in Bigas Luna’s Anguish (1987). She became an activist early on in the AIDS era, as shown in this public service message:


Margaret Rutherford (1892–1972) and Stringer Davis (1899–1973). Rutherford played quirky older characters, most famously the silver screen’s first Jane Marple. Davis, her husband, often played minor parts in his wife’s films. An endearing sidekick role was written into the Marple comedies just for Davis.


Marianne Sägebrecht (b. 1945), German-born actor known for her winning roles in the films of Percy Adlon: Zuckerbaby (1985), Bagdad Café (1987) (pictured with costar Jack Palance), and Rosalie Goes Shopping (1989). She’s often referred to as “mother of Munich’s sub-culture.”

Diana Sands (1934-1973), actor admired for her roles in the film version of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Hal Ashby’s The Landlord, Maya Angelou’s Georgia Georgia, and the feminist blaxpolitation classic Willie Dynamite. A powerhouse star who died young.

Scout, character played by Mary Badham in the 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee’s thinly veiled memoir To Kill a Mockingbird. Fans should watch the docu Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird (2010).

Seymour, the 78-collecting character who’s “such a clueless dork he’s almost cool” in Terry Zwigoff’s adaptation of Daniel Clowe’s comic Ghost World (2000). Played by Steve Buscemi, equally quirky as an actor (Parting Glances, Fargo, The Sopranos) and a director (Trees Lounge, Lonesome Jim).


Susan Tyrrell (1945-2012), actor beloved for her cranky nonconformity, known for Angel and its sequel, Andy Wahol’s Bad (1977), John Waters’ Cry Baby (1990), the incomparable musical Forbidden Zone (1982), the Zellner Brothers’ Kid-Thing (2012), the original The Killer Inside Me (1976), and Night Warning (1972). She was nominated for an Oscar for her unforgettable, gut-wrenching role in John Huston’s Fat City (1972).


Eleanor Vance, character played by Julie Harris in Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963), a film based on the novel by Shirley Jackson whom deems “The Patron Saint of Oddballs.”


Grandpa Vanderhof, character played by Lionel Barrymore in Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You (1938). Here is Barrymore on the set with Capra (left) and costar Jean Arthur (right).

Melvin Van Peebles (b. 1932), renegade director of the original blaxploitation classic Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971) as well as Story of a Three-Day Pass (1968), Watermelon Man (1970), and Don’t Play Us Cheap (1973). Check out the 2005 docu about him titled How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It), or Isaac Julien’s docu Baadasssss Cinema (2002), or the really solid biopic directed by and starring his son Mario Van Peebles Baadasssss! (2003), all included in Quirky.

Mike White (b. 1970), actor, writer and director known for Chuck and Buck (2000), Enlightened (2011-2013), The Good Girl (2002), and Year of the Dog (2007).

Ed Wood a/k/a Edward D. Wood Jr. (1924-1978), director of the most beloved z-grade movies of all time, Glen or Glenda (1953) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), and subject of Tim Burton’s homage Ed Wood (1994) starring Johnny Depp.

Mary Woronov (b. 1943), actor and cult icon who’s starred in Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls (1966), Lloyd Kaufman’s Sugar Cookies (1973), Roger Corman’s Rock’n’Roll High School (1979, below left), Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000 (1975, below right) and Eating Raoul (1982), Greg Araki’s The Living End (1992), and more. Also check her out in Andy Warhol’s Factory People: Inside the Sixties Silver Factory (2008) and look for a forthcoming docu on her titled Confessions of a Cult Queen.


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