I once visited Kenneth Mars‘ North Valley home with three or four actor friends. It was sometime in ’83 or ’84. A nice Sunday afternoon barbecue thing in the back yard with beers and Margueritas. I’ve never forgotten Mars’ greeting at the front door: “Mi casa? Su casa!” Instant relaxation and acceptance. And now he’s gone. And I’m sorry.
Mars was a farceur. His best-known role, of course, was Inspector Kemp in Young Frankenstein, followed by Franz Liebkind in The Producers — both from the gifted brain of Mel Brooks, who was easily Mars’ best friend in a professional sense.
But everyone forgets that Mars played Shirley MacLaine‘s husband in Frank D. Gilroy ‘s relentlessly grim Desperate Characters (’71). I think there may even have been a sex scene of some kind. There are some guys you just don’t want to think about in a sexual context and Kenneth Mars was one of them, but Gilroy went there anyway. And I’m kind of glad that he did now. Because that 40 year-old film kind lends an extra dimension to Mars that we otherwise wouldn’t have.