Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Goodbye, Charlie!

"It was the easiest and best job any actor could have," John Forsythe once said.

No kidding.

Forsythe, who died last week at age 92, was talking about being the voice of the never-seen Charlie, in TV's "Charlie's Angels."

"Hello, Angels!", Forsythe would greet his stable of female detectives in his distinctively smooth, cool-as-a-cucumber fashion through a tiny speaker.

Those two words, plus the Forsythe-narrated opening to the show, put an indelible mark on the legacy of "Charlie's Angels," which launched Farrah Fawcett into the stratosphere.

Forsythe was also seen in addition to being heard on "Dynasty," playing the role of oil magnate Blake Carrington in the 1980s, for which he won a couple of Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor.

You can have all that, plus a myriad of other Forsythe roles, but I'll match it with a solitary one of his.


John Forsythe: 1918-2010


Rent "...and Justice for All," starring Al Pacino, and prepare to wash the slime off your body when you're done watching it.

This is because in it, Forsythe plays Judge Henry T. Fleming, whose cocky smirk you'd just like to smack off his face with all the force you could muster.

Judge Fleming is accused of sexually molesting a young woman, and is eventually brought to trial. Pacino's character is charged with defending the judge, who quickly is revealed to be not only a judge who hands down unusually cruel and unfair sentences, he's also a cad, and a sexual predator. Yet Pacino defends him in good faith anyway.

But Fleming, so full of himself, can't help but admit to Pacino that not only did he, indeed, rape the plaintiff, but he enjoyed it and would like to do it again.

The film's climactic scene, in which Pacino famously turns on Forsythe, is one of my favorite in cinematic history. Visit YouTube and you can find it after some minimal searching.

Watching Forsythe in "...and Justice for All," and his audacity to make suggestive comments about the alleged victim to Pacino even in the courtroom, is particularly jarring when you consider this was the same man who played the lead in the whimsical 1957-62 TV series "Bachelor Father."

When Pacino turns on Forsythe's Judge Fleming, and when the realization of what's happening materializes on the judge's face, is one of those "YES!!!" moments in movie watching.

That scene contains the famous "YOU'RE out of order!! YOU'RE out of order!! This whole TRIAL is out of order!!" rant from Pacino, after which Jack Warden's Judge Rayford fires a gun into the ceiling to bring true order to his courtroom.

I'm telling you, it's 10 of the most stirring minutes ever laid onto celluloid.

So John Forsythe is gone, succumbing to pneumonia in Santa Ynez, California after a year-long battle with cancer.

"Thankfully, he died as he lived his life---with dignity and grace," his publicist said.

Now Forsythe gets to say it for real.

"Hello, Angels!"

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