Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Movie Mothers Day II: The Revenge. This Time It's Motherly!


By Special Movie Matriarch Correspondent, Bill S.
For those of us lucky enough to have a great mom, Mother's Day is a most special occasion. But some of us aren't so lucky. Last year, I offered a list of all-time worst moms in movies. But as with any list of that sort, it wasn't quite complete, so I'm serving up a second edition. If any of these ladies don't make you more grateful for your own, then...well, I guess you were really screwed. [be forwarned: spoilers to follow]

Mrs. Vale (Gladys Cooper) in Now, Voyager (1942) Never missed an opportunity to let daughter Charlotte (Bette Davis) know she was a mistake, a child she didn't really want. When Charlotte finally stood up to her, Mrs. Vale makes her feel guilty by dropping dead from a heart attack.

Ma Jarrett (Margaret Wycherly) in White Heat (1949) She's very supportive of her boy's career as a psychopathic gangster.

Violet Venable (Katherine Hepburn) in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) Her matchmaking method for her gay son left something to be desired. Also, not such a great Aunt, either.
Helen Jorgenson (Constance Ford) in A Summer Place (1959) All the parents in this movie are horrible, horrible people, but I think Helen earns the title as the worst for that ultra-creepy moment when she subjects her teenaged daughter (Sandra Dee) to a medical examination in order to verify her virginity. Please tell me this wasn't an actual "thing" in the 50's. (The way things are now, it could be one today. I just know that somewhere in this country, somebody is drafting a bill that would make it legal for employers to request a doctor's note proving virginity from single women applying for a job.)

Eleanor Iselin (Angela Lansbury) in The Manchurian Candidate (1962) A political wife who was secretly a Commie agent, and used her son as an assassin by turning him into a brainless robot (granted, for Laurence Harvey, that's kind of a lateral move).

Pamela Voorheese (Betsy Palmer) in Friday the 13th (1980) A serial killer whose son went into the family business in all the sequels. The film itself is a bad mother, having spawned the Dead Teenager Movie, a genre that proved inexplicably popular in the early '80's until it was supplanted by the Horny Teenager Movie (producers correctly guessed that teenaged male moviegoers preferred hot chicks with their heads still attached to their bodies.)

Beth Jarrett (Mary Tyler Moore) in Ordinary People (1980) So obsessed with keeping things neat and orderly that when her son (Timothy Hutton) attempts suicide, she treats his emotional problems like a carpet stain that won't come out. (For some reason -- maybe it's just the hair -- Beth reminds me of Nancy Reagan)

Momma Lift (Anne Ramsey) in Throw Momma From the Train (1987)
"I'm a friend of Owen's"
"Owen doesn't have any friends"
"That's because he's shy."
"No it isn't, it's because he's fat and he's stupid!"
Yeah, I'd want to pull a Bruno Anthony too.

Beverly Sutpin (Kathleen Turner) in Serial Mom (1994) Combining the pristine homemaking skills of Beth Jarrett with the knife-wielding skills of Pamela Voorheese, the "heroine" of John Waters' underrated black comedy was, among my friends, the most frequently cited Bad Mama when I asked who I overlooked in last year's column. I guess she's better to have on your side than it is to piss her off. Still, it must make it difficult to make friends when your mom's a homicidal maniac.

WORST MOMS ON TELEVISION:

Donna's Mother (Naomi Stevens) in "The Courtesans" episode of Barney Miller. Though she only made one appearance, for me it's memorable enough to make the list. Arriving to bail out her daughter, who was busted on a prostitution charge, she strikes up a conversation with Barney's wife, Liz (Barbara Barrie) and expresses her confusion about what went wrong:

"She never saw a naked body. She never heard a dirty word. Sex was practically never used in our home." When Liz points out that children have a natural curiosity, she replies, "Boy, did she ask questions! Look at her, things are bad enough! Imagine how they'd be if we'd given her answers!"

Mrs. Gordan (Chip Fields) on Good Times. If, like me, you were still a kid yourself when you saw this multiple episode story arc on child abuse play out on the show, the image of her coming after little Penny (Janet Jackson) with an iron, probably scared the crap out of you.

Alexis Carrington Colby (Joan Collins) on Dynasty. The nicest thing about her was her wardrobe, and even that didn't look like it offered much warmth.

Agnes Skinner (Tress MacNellie) on The Simpsons. For sheer nastiness, Principal Skinner's mom might be the only person in Springfield who could give Mr. Burns any competition. If he set the hounds on her, they'd be the ones running in terror.

Estelle Constanza (Estelle Harris) on Seinfeld. It's a wonder George made it to adulthood without smothering her with a pillow. Or committing suicide.

Patsy's Mom (Eleanor Bron) on Absolutely Fabulous. "Take it away...and bring me another lover!"

Evelyn Harper (Holland Taylor) on Two and A Half Men. I think the results of her mothering skills speak for themselves.

All of the mothers on Toddlers and Tiaras. Creepier than Helen Jorgenson, more obnoxious than Estelle Costanza, and uglier then Agnes Skinner.

So that's the list for 2012. If I missed any, feel free to offer suggestions for next year.

11 comments:

Dr.BDH said...

I nominate the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey. A tongue like a sword. E.g., "I'll take that as a compliment." "Oh, I must not have said it properly."

Anonymous said...

Georgia Caine in Remember The Night? One dip in the purse and her daughter is suddenly Bonnie Parker.

AnnPW said...

Does Norman Bates' mother count?

Carl said...

Needs moar Kris Jenner

Doc Logan said...

How about Vera Cosgrove from Peter Jackson's "Dead Alive"?

jp said...

What, no Betty Draper?

Boo said...

Lysa Arryn and Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones.

Anntichrist S. Coulter said...

Bleached-out ped skag Linda "Hogan" (Bolea) and her fucking press-release moments over being dumped by her "boy toy" who really IS a fucking BOY. Creepy old bitch, cackling about how she doesn't EVER want another "OLD MAN," i.e., somebody HER fucking AGE, or, perhaps, the man who made her so fucking filthy rich, Terry Gene Bolea/"Hulk Hogan" --- why on EARTH would she deserve ALIMONY?!?!? She did SUCH a great job as a MOTHER, after all... Somebody needs to cut that bitch off and get some better programming at this HO-tel Hell, 'cause if I see that peroxide junkie and her kohl-eyeliner addiction ONE MORE FUCKING TIME, I very well make that one last road trip back to Florida...

BTW, excellent job, Bill, as always. Sorry I haven't been worth a shit, but the typing is rather painful, along with breathing, choking, moving, sitting, etc. shoot me now and serve me in Paris as "steak."

Chris Vosburg said...

I thought I had mentioned this in the previous year's appreciation of bad movie moms, but didn't see it there on review:

Petal Quoyle (played by Cate Blanchett, "a real hellion" in the role, according to Roger Ebert), in The Shipping News.

Married Gully Quoyle (Kevin Spacey) out of indifference, gave birth to daughter Bunny in disgust, and amid the next few years of fucking half the south instead of the thoroughly defeated and ineffectual Gully, kidnapped her own daughter and attempted a sale of the unsuspecting Bunny to an adoption mill. Crashed her convertible while consummating the sale, which Bunny survived. Petal didn't.

It's an awesome performance by Cate Blanchett, and a character we would soon come to know quite well from reality TV shows of the subsequent years.

HarpoSnarx said...

When you update the list, add:

Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter): "Everything they do is so dramatic and flamboyant. It just makes me want to set myself on fire."

Lindsay F√ľnke (Portia de Rossi): You know, it's funny-all those years when I pretended to cry ... I used to use Dad's death to get me going. I tried it with Mom's, but I'd just end up smiling and ruining it".

Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders): "It makes a difference, darling, a mixed-race baby is the finest accessory a person in my position could ever have, sweetheart! Oh, my God, it's the must-have of the season! It's the CHANEL of babies!"

Bill S said...

AnnPW, I included Mrs. Bates in last year's column.
Chris: I totally forgot about Cate's character in "The Shiping News", which I STILL haven't seen.
HarpoSnarx: I forgot to include Lucille on my list. Really meant to include her. I was tempted to include Edina, but I think Patsy's mom is worse. Edina did, on rare occasion, display SOME maternal instincts (I'm thinking of the time she punched Gerard in the face and knocked him out cold).