Last night I watched an old Clint Eastwood movie with my family - Every Which Way But Loose. Eastwood is such a gifted artist that watching his movies is always a pleasure. He was good as the complex Philo, a guy who hangs out with a baboon.
But it was Ruth Gordon who stole the show. Feisty, salty, and funny, she commanded the screen. She called herself a “helpless old lady” and proved herself to be anything but. During the scene where Gordon uses her shotgun to deliver some comeuppance to a rowdy group of bikers, my son said, “She’s just like Mama Hussey.”
Mama Hussey was my mother. And though she has been dead for more than five years, everybody in the family still tells “Mama Hussey” stories. And, yes, she kept a shotgun under her bed. She knew how to use it, too. Mama was the picture of a perfect Southern lady, always dressed to the nines, the more jewelry the better. She loved good books, good movies and a good laugh. But let a stranger show up on her front porch after dark, and he’d find himself looking down the barrel of Mama’s shotgun.
Mama was larger than life. And so was Ruth Gordon’s character in Every Which Way But Loose. But they had something else in common, too: they both reminded you of someone you know. They were ordinary, approachable, and likeable, somebody to root for. Full of spirit and big of heart. Much like my Pony Jones (The Tender Mercy of Roses by Anna Michaels, 2011). Pony is the most memorable in a long list of characters I’ve created over a career that spans twenty-six years.
What about memorable bad guys, you ask? Of course, we remember
as the personification of evil. But it’s not the evil that makes him memorable: it’s his complexity - his relationship with Clarice, his longing for a window, his uncanny ability to get into the minds of the other characters and plant seeds of doubt and discontent. Hannibal
There is much more to say about memorable characters, but I’ll leave that for another day. Meanwhile, I invite you to tell me about characters you remember, the ones you love to love and the ones you love to hate.
I also invite you to check out the revised e-book edition of Where Dolphins Go, one of my classic women’s fiction novels. (Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.) Changes I made in the e-book reflect changes I made to the screenplay after this book was optioned for film. Enjoy!
Peggy Webb writes mysteries under her own name and literary fiction under her pen name, Anna Michaels. Currently, she is working on her next Southern Cousins Mystery, plotting another book as Anna, and bringing back her early romance classics as ebooks. Visit her at http://www.peggywebb.com/ and http://www.annamichaels.net/ and on Facebook under both names. She’s fond of saying she’s eating for two. Send chocolates.