Revisiting her role as Laverne Hooks, a Wannabe Cop…
Rejoining the first of this movie franchise, in her first (but not her last) of the Police Academy movies.
TackleBerry and Hooks, Rauloarg
I was sad to hear of the passing of Marion Ramsey, an actress who played one of the most much-loved 1980s characters in the Police Academy film franchise. For those of us with a similar tiny height and a wee high pitched, soft voice, her character Laverne Hooks inspired many of us to follow our career dreams as she graduated as a police officer.
This was Marion Ramsey’s first film role. On joining the cast, Marion (in an interview put up on YouTube by Unger the Radar) had only known of Steve Guttenberg due to a previous film role and Bubba Smith due to his football connections. Her Laverne Hooks was seen in the first six out of the seven movies from 1984 to 1988. This first film was the only one to be rated R and made for just over 4.1 million dollars and made over 81 million at the box office.
In remembering this actress I am looking at her film moments from only the first of these crime comedy films. In Police Academy (1984), the film’s premise is seen in some written on-screen blurb, which tells that due to an increase in crime, the newly elected mayor, Mary Sue Beal has made a ruling that anyone and everyone can enrol for the police academy. Cue a montage as a handful of “unlikely” types of all sorts, talk of their new profession.
The chief of police deems these trainees as unsuitable an encourages them to quit their training. He has Lieutenant Harris (GW Bailey) to help them quit, but Harris plans to use corrupt means. However, the kindly Lassard (George Gaynes) is keen to encourage the newbies in this career. Harris enrols new cadets Copeland and Blankes to help him in his dastardly plans…
Laverne Hooks is just one character of many familiar faces from the franchise in this class of 1984. Her classmates including Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg), a policeman’s son who attends rather than go to jail, and Moses Hightower (Bubba Smith), an ex-florist who is as tall as Laverne is small. Eugene Tackleberry (David Graf) joins up as he loves guns and the military and Larvell Jones (Michael Winslow) has the ability to do a huge variety of sound effects.
These characters each have their own story within this first film. The characteristics of these film characters are shown in many fun situations, however, now some of the comedy in this film is quite shocking and offensive. However, I’m going to concentrate on Marion’s character. Marion in this interview also noted that she and none of the coloured cast got love interests during this franchise.
She also added that she asked to wear a fat suit for this role, to make the audience feel sorry for her. Interestingly the intention had been for her character to lose weight in this first film, but this characteristic was kept in for future movies. However, there is one scene remaining in the film with a slimmer Laverne.
I heard in the interview here – by Unger the Radar – that this actress parodied her character’s little voice on Michael Jackson’s. She said she had by a twist of fate met Jackson the night before as he visited her backstage while she was performing in The Little Shop of Horrors. This wee unassertive and timid voice is played convincingly to comic effect when Lt. Harris first meets the recruits when she speaks with him as they line up and in the classroom. In the former situation, he asks her to repeat herself, saying “I can’t hear you…”.
Laverne’s timidity is also reinforced in a classroom scene when she answers superquietly and here she adds nervous mannerisms. In her interview, Marion says she improvised matching gestures. Marion also showed credibly how a little voice and nervousness in another scene, this as Hooks tries and fails to control traffic. Her lack of authority leads to chaotic results.
Another scene has her role-playing as a cop apprehending a burglar in this same style with her nemesis, Lt. Harris. I did feel for her character in this scene as Harris did seem to bully her more than the others, possibly due to her quiet nature. However, as she becomes more assertive during the film these quirks disappear, with her outbursts with much louder speech terrifying others later in the film.
Marion’s small height was used for comic effect in the first film as seen as she trains in a physical assault course. This seen when she tries unsuccessfully to scale a high wall. However, she is pretty determined to do this, and in time she does. As a wee person, I both empathised with her and cheered.
I was sad to learn that Hooks, didn’t get written into the script for the final Police Academy film Mission to Moscow. However, Marion joked about this in the interview stating “what a mission that was….”. So it’s in these arresting comic moments of this first of a possibly never-ending franchise with a rumoured new film on its way, I hear her. This as I’ll remember this portrayal of a character with a little voice but a big presence.