Remembering John Mahoney in just two of his fatherly roles in film and TV…
Not just Frasier’s dad.. as the Skye’s the not the limit.
I was upset to hear of the recent passing of an actor that I enjoyed in two of his famous patriarchal roles, John Mahoney. The roles couldn’t be more different, with one in a John Cusack classic, late 1980s, romance with a much parodied scene, Say Anything. The other a successful, 11 seasoned American television comedy, Frasier. This TV series being a spin-off from Cheers (1982-93), where Mahoney starred as the titular lead’s father. Cheers was a series Mahoney had also made an appearance in as a jingle writer.
Say Anything… (1989)
Say Anything Trailer, 2663KinkyCyborg, http://www.youtube.com
So a wee bit more on Say Anything, this the first movie directed by Cameron Crowe. And a film that those of us brought up on a diet of Brat Pack films will easy recall as the one with that heavily gifed and parodied scene. The film is one of John Cusack’s many romantic comedies from the eighties, and also stars the lovely Ione Skye as his love interest. And Lili Taylor as one of his best his gal pals, who he often asks for advice from about the fairer sex. Mahoney plays her loving, divorced father Jim. And also starring Californication‘s Pamela Adlon.
The plot tells of underachiever Lloyd who falls for girly swot, pretty Diane Court at graduation and just before she’s due to head off to study in England. Of course as likable as John Cusack’s character is (and usually are), once they start dating, he’s seen as a distraction from her studies by her overly protective dad Jim (Mahoney). Jim wants her to fulfil her educational potential. Jim owns a nursing home and wants the best for his daughter in life and love.
Jim becomes overly concerned about his daughter’s relationship with Lloyd, especially when learning they have slept together. and urges her to split with him. He feels Lloyd is not ambitious enough for Diane, with Lloyd having a dream to be a successful kick boxer. So after the split, Lloyd (Cusack) holds a boom box up high by Lloyd (Cusack), outside his girl’s bedroom window. This to attract her attention and rewin her love…
However Jim has a dark secret, which is threatening to be exposed. With his hopes for his daughter’s continued happiness, seen in Mahoney’s heartfelt and touching performance. He still makes Jim a likeable character, however misguided in his actions. The film easily falls into the Beyond the Brat Pack tag, and along with the timeless story lines, characters, and the character’s motivations can make us look back in empathy for those characters again and again. It’s a film so much more loved and poignant for all ages, compared with the likes of St Elmo’s Fire (1985) and Sixteen Candles (1984).
Frasier – sitcom trailer, Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, http://www.youtube.com
Another treasured performance by John Mahoney was his role in Frasier. This continuing the story line for Dr Frasier Crane, one of the more interesting characters in Cheers and about his life as a radio psychiatrist in Seattle. Mahoney playing his father Martin Crane, a blue collared, retired cop. As Martin, Mahoney was synonymous with his walking aid and his wee dog, Eddie and reclining chair. This a favourite character of my dad’s, who got a chair just like it but not the dog.
The series also introduced us to Frasier’s equally fastidious and neurotic brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce). Also a psychiatrist. In the Frasier series Martin was nursed by a British care giver and physiotherapist, Daphne who helped him due to his mobility difficulties. Daphne was allegedly from Manchester, but sounded less Gene Hunt and more Yorkshire lass. Niles fell in love with her. This despite the constant almost haunting, but never seen presence of his ex-wife, Maris.
Martin had the patience of a saint, putting up with the antics his bumbling, fussy sons and often stole the show (for me anyway). Here Mahoney showed a wonderful camaraderie with his co-stars and a fun comic flair, dry humour and perfect timing. He delivered his script in a dead pan, and non-exasperated way, This despite his clashes with his offspring who were complete opposites to him in character. Making Martin more likeable and refreshingly down to earth compared to his pompous, finicky progeny.
In his fatherly roles as Jim and Martin I’ll always remember Mahoney. Sitting in that reclining chair, delivering sly wise cracks to his kids, as my dad did watching him. And reading more on Mahoney, he was a man full of surprises. He was a voice actor and appeared in many, many parts on stage, tv and film. Including much-loved movies such as Moonstruck (1987) and on TV lending his voice in The Simpsons in an episode with his Frasier screen sons. As you guessed it their father. Patriarchical roles continued with the role of Dan in Real Life (2007) as Steve Carell’s screen father.
It was also incredulous to believe, that this actor known for his American based, illustrious career, was born in Blackpool, in Lancashire in England. Blackpool is a seaside town home to the famous tower and yearly illuminations. And Mahoney moved to America as a young man. But say anything about if you see him as a British or American National Treasure, he lit up the big and wee screen with his timeless, award-winning performances.