She Canna Take Much More O' This
James Doohan (1920 - 2005)
Veteran character actor James Doohan died early this morning at his home in Redmond, WA, where he'd resided for the past dozen years. He'd been suffering from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's for several years, and except for a few brief appearances had been pretty much out of the public limelight for most of that time.
Doohan was always a sort of inspiration and role-model for me as a performer; the consumate character actor, he had a long and distinguished career in television and film dating back to the early 1950's. You could be watching some old rerun of "Gunsmoke" or "The Man From UNCLE" or "The Outer Limits" on late-night TV, and suddenly there he'd pop up, usually in some thickly-accented supporting role (he was a master dialectician, something for which I have a personal affinity), pulling yoeman's duty backing up the series lead.
Even in his most famous role, the irrascible Chief Engineer Montgomery (his actual middle name) Scott on the original "Star Trek" series from the 1960's, he always played second or third fiddle to the show's leading-man trio, but as is typical for the seasoned character actor, he rarely called attention to himself at the expense of his fellow actors, which ironically granted him the freedom to deliver quirky performances that in their own way were as memorable as the stars he supported. After all, Bill Shatner's Captain Kirk, for all his bluster and bravado would have been literally "up shit creek" countless times if it hadn't been for the exertions of his in-house "miracle worker" constantly pulling his ass out of the fire at the very last second, and furthermore, letting his boss take most, if not all of the credit when it came time to hand out the medals or get the kiss from the busty alien babe.
That's the lot of the character actor, and it was Doohan's great good fortune to be one of the best, eternally underrated, yet always adding that little touch of color, the slight twist of humor, the subtle period to the exclamation point of a scene that made his work stand out, even when he was relegated to the background.
So, if you happen to have occasion, drink a toast to the passing of Jimmy Doohan, actor, and to his eternal alter-ego Montgomery Scott, miracle worker:
"Thou man of crazy care and ceaseless sigh,
Still under bleak Misfortune's blasting eye;
Doom'd to that sorest task of man alive-
To make three guineas do the work of five:
Laugh in Misfortune's face-the beldam witch!
Say, you'll be merry, tho' you can't be rich."
- Robert Burns
on 10:12 AM