Ethics revelations lurk everywhere, even in the obituaries pages:
The Surprising Integrity of “Big Al”
Al Molinaro, the rumpled, large proboscused character actor best known as “Murray the cop” on TV’s “Odd Couple” and the proprietor of
the diner on “Happy Days,” where he mastered the world-weary catch phrase of “Yeeeaaahh, yeah-yeah-yeah…,” died last week at the advanced age of 96. In his Washington Post obituary, I gained new admiration for Al. (I was always an Arnold (Pat Morita) man, myself, and if you don’t understand that reference, good for you. You ignored “Happy Days.”) At the end of Al’s obit, there was this…
“In 1990, Mr. Molinaro told the Chicago Tribune that Marshall, who went on to direct hit films including “Pretty Woman,” tried unsuccessfully to recruit him for big-screen work.
“I can’t work in movies with Garry because I’m so square that I won’t be in a movie that has four-letter words in it,” Mr. Molinaro said. “That puts me pretty much totally out of films these days. . . . You get to a point where you don’t want to do just anything for the career. You gotta live with yourself.”
Now that’s integrity, and in show business, of all places. Our culture remains civil and benign only if we are willing to fight for it, or at least withhold our assistance as it deteriorates. Molinaro had the courage and integrity to accept this civic duty, Few among as do, and actors—especially specialty character actors like Al, almost never do. I remember that Mel Brooks harbored dreams of getting John Wayne to play “The Waco Kid” in “Blazing Saddles,” and said that he ran in to the Duke and talked him into reading the screenplay. Wayne called him the next day and told Brooks that he loved the script, but that he couldn’t take the role. “It’s too dirty,” he said. “I’m John Wayne!” But he said he laughed all night as he read it, and promised to be “at the head of the line” when it opens. Continue reading