Puttin' on the Ritz

A moment of silence, please, for the late, great Peter Boyle, who died yesterday at the age of 71.

Most people probably know him from his work on Everybody Loves Raymond. My limited experience with that show suggests that Boyle was far and away the best, funniest thing it had going. Still, I really couldn't care less about Raymond. Ray Romano's voice is like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Anyway, Peter Boyle is eternally worth remembering for his part in my personal choice for Funniest Movie of All Time, Young Frankenstein.

It's an absolute Murderer's Row of a cast: the immortal Gene Wilder, Terri Garr, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Kahn, and Boyle more than holds his own. One might say, "How hard can it be playing Frankenstein's Monster?" I donno, but I think that if you replace Peter Boyle in that role, you lose something vital. He speaks volumes with a single grunt. His timing and facial expressions are dead-on. Check out the scene between Boyle and Gene Hackman as the Blind Hermit. Hackman is a great actor overall, and underrated as a comic actor, and he's very funny in the scene. But Boyle's acting is what makes the scene the funniest thing in the Funniest Movie of All Time. His constantly thwarted anticipation and ultimate (quite literal) slow burn are just brilliant. And he's equally great in the "Puttin' on the Ritz" scene - how many actors can really dance in a way that is at once stiff and lumbering and yet strangely graceful?

He was also memorable as the Wizard in Taxi Driver, and as the psychic Clyde Bruckman in one of the great X-Files episodes, "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose."

And, according to his IMDB trivia page, he spent time as a monk before becoming an actor, and John Lennon was his best man at his wedding. So that's pretty good, right?