Respect for the formidable Wilford Brimley, the flinty character actor who passed on 8.1.20 at age 85. His performances were always convincing and unaffected and touched by gruffness, but there were only two that I regard as serious standouts. Okay, maybe three.
I know I’m supposed to say that his baseball team manager in The Natural and the lovable old codger in Cocoon were his two best, but I don’t feel that way. Odd as it may sound, I thought his chunky, snarly villain in The Firm (’94) was his absolute finest moment (particularly that scene with Tom Cruise when Brimley shows him the sexy beach photos and says the line “oral and whatnot”). My second favorite was his performance as Betty Buckley‘s manager, “Harry”, in Tender Mercies (’83). He was also quite good in a relatively small role (Assistant U.S. Attorney General James A. Wells) in Absence of Malice.
Brimley began working in the mid ’70s on TV (The Waltons) and his last film was in ’16 — a 40-year run give or take. But his peak period lasted only 15 years or so, or roughly from The China Syndrome (’79) to The Firm. He was certainly noteworthy in The Electric Horseman, Brubaker, The Thing, High Road to China, Harry & Son, The Hotel New Hampshire, The Stone Boy, Terror in the Aisles and Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.