Henry Gibson, who died on Monday from cancer at the age of 73, was a fine comedic actor and living pun. (Born James Bateman, his stage name was a tip of the hat to playwright Henrik Ibsen.) Gibson initially became famous in the late ’60s with his turns on the satirical comedy show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and, more recently, portrayed an idiosyncratic judge on Boston Legal. His film credits included The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Wedding Crashers, and the Blues Brothers, in which he memorably essayed a Nazi. He was also a favorite actor of the director Joe Dante who cast him in Innerspace, the ‘burbs, and Gremlins 2.
It is an indication of Gibson’s talents that another of his Hollywood patrons was the very un-Dante-esque Robert Altman. The late great auteur cast him in a number of films, such as Nashville and A Perfect Couple. But, to me, Gibson will always be Dr Verringer in Robert Altman’s peerless 1973 noir classic, The Long Goodbye. The movie is stuffed with terrific performances from the likes of Mark Rydell, Sterling Hayden, and, of course, Elliott Gould as laconic, private eye-out-of-time Philip Marlowe. Gibson more than holds his own as the reptilian doc who may or may not be holding Hayden’s alcoholic writer against his will at his sanatorium. If you have seen The Long Goodbye, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t? Then you are in for a treat.
“Write the check, Roger…”