I distinctly remember the first time Paul Gleason made me laugh out loud. It was in John Landis' 1983 classic Trading Places, and the surly character actor was playing a mysterious corporate spy called Clarence Beeks. In one particularly memorable scene, Beeks is trying to make a private call on a public phone, so he turns to the person standing in line behind him and says, in a humorously venomous tone: "F*** off." Later in the comedy he got to utter a line I've always adored: "Back off or I'll rip out your eyes and piss on your brain!"

And just like that I was a Paul Gleason fan.

Although he'd appeared in bit parts in The Great Santini (1979), Fort Apache the Bronx (1981), Arthur (1981), and Tender Mercies (1983), it was Trading Places that turned Mr. Gleason from just another stern-faced character actor into one of my generation's most beloved bastards. So while Mr. Gleason was obviously a very talented and multi-faceted actor, his face, his tone, his demeanor, and (especially) his voice seemed to indicate "smug bully," and that's where he buttered his bread.
categories Cinematical