Couch Potato Guide: So Long, Mickey

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To pay tribute to a man, go find something he made. In his 89 years, Burgess Meredith directed two films: The Yin and Yang of Mr. Go was not so good; The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949) was considerably better, thanks to Charles Laughton, Franchot Tone, and Meredith's own turn as a hapless myopic accused of double murder. Laughton is Inspector Maigret, the portliest policeman since Orson in Touch of Evil, and Tone is Radek, his "Candide"-quoting psychopathic prey. From behind the camera (reportedly with some help from Laughton), Meredith delivers a lean, cerebral mystery with plenty of wit, and one that never pauses for cliché. One minor flaw: Meredith's landmark-spiked view of Paris, which is even credited with a 'role' in the film, is utterly bereft of French-speaking or even French-sounding people. (Or is that really a flaw?)

But Burgess Meredith was an actor. It all began with his doomed hero in Winterset, a reprisal of the stage role that launched his career. Then on to 1939's Of Mice and Men, wherein Meredith, opposite the immortal Lon Chaney Jr., fields a lot of questions about rabbits. Finish with the languorous, creepy Hollywood pic The Day of the Locust (1975), with Meredith, Karen Black and Donald Sutherland as a fellow actually named Homer Simpson. It earned Meredith his first Best Supporting Actor nomination (they would stiff him twice).

Oh, and you should probably take a look at those first few Rocky films.