Movie Hero of the Week* – Edie McClurg


So much of the pop culture of my childhood has the stamp of Edie McClurg. Even before I had seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, she was voicing characters on “The Snorks”, “The Smurfs”, The Secret of NIMH, “Tiny Toons”, “Darkwing Duck”, “The Addams Family (cartoon”, and many others. She’s even the voice of Carlotta, Prince Eric’s housekeeper, in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, a film I have shamelessly memorized. I adored her as Hermit Hattie on the Pee Wee Herman Show (not yet Pee Wee’s Playhouse.) My family still shouts her distress call, “Yee-ow, Come Quick! Yee-ow, Come Quick! Come quick! Come quick! Come quick!” She has made a career of the cameo. And she’s hilarious. Any purveyors of the false myth that “women aren’t funny” haven’t bumped into Ms. McClurg (Or they are misogynist fools…or both…I digress.)

I certainly haven’t experienced her career in a chronological order. Her first movie was Carrie, and when I saw that I shouted “Oh my gosh! It’s Mrs. Poole from “The Hogan Family!” You know, like you do. However, no matter when she pops up, be it in a tv show or movie, I am always delighted to see her. Yes, she plays a similar character in the sense she’s got that upper Midwest matron thing down pat. But even a character that broad has it’s subtleties. For instance, let’s take her performance in A River Runs Through It. She plays Mrs. Burns, Jessie’s mom. She is the prime example of the movie’s previously narrated “Methodist – A Baptist Who Can Read.” She’s a Momma. Her kids can do no wrong. She may not be the sharpest tack in the lot, but she’s a Momma Bear. Then let’s look at her in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles:
She’s still thoroughly a classic American Middle Class character, but this time, she’s a rude car rental agent. She looks similar, but Mrs. Burns wouldn’t pull that attitude on a customer.

So this woman is good, and as an actress she’s smart. She gets the joke. Her timing is impeccable, and even at her most devious, her most inept, she’s likeable. I love this woman.

And don’t worry. I wouldn’t dare to leave out her Tour de Force performance. Her Masterpiece. Her effortless, flawless, and to this day unique portrayal of Grace, the Secretary in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.


Here we see her sniffing the white-out.

One of my personal favorite exchanges:

Mr. Rooney: I don’t trust this kid any further than I can throw him.
Grace: Well, with your bad knee, Ed, you shouldn’t throw anybody… It’s true.
Mr. Rooney: What is so dangerous about a character like Ferris Bueller is he gives good kids bad ideas. Last thing I need at this point in my career is fifteen hundred Ferris Bueller disciples running around these halls. He jeopardizes my ability to effectively govern this student body.
Grace: He makes you look like an ass, is what he does, Ed.
Mr. Rooney: Thank you, Grace, but I think you’re wrong.
Grace: Oh, he’s very popular, Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wasteoids, dweebies, dickheads — they all adore him. They think he’s a righteous dude.
Mr. Rooney: That is why I need to show these kids that the example he sets is a first-class ticket to nowhere!
Grace: Oh, Ed, you sounded like Dirty Harry just then.
Mr. Rooney: Really? Thanks, Grace.

And finally, I offer you HER WEBSITE! You can email her! I don’t even know what I’d say.

She’s a Groundling, by trade. And it was the improv school that helped her create these fantastic characters. “Acting isn’t a singular profession, it’s a collaborate profession,” she’s quoted as saying. True, I agree. But her performances certainly are singular.

*What is a movie hero? An un or under-sung member of the film making community who deserves more of the spotlight. And yet lack of such a spotlight often adds to their charm.

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Abby Normal


Individuality is something that is very important to me. I was raised to “be myself” and to not conform to mediocre standards. I think about individuality enough to actually have a guilt complex when I think of other cultures that function on a “benefit to the masses” mentality (and subsequently have better schools and social programs) such as Japan, and many Western European nations, or tribal societies. I think, “Wow. They really have it together when it comes to social organization, etc.” and then I think, “Too bad I can’t be beholden to society!”, and then I flap off to find a pattern for a feathered apron. I had “Free to Be You and Me” memorized as a child, and was raised by a woman who was married in a Gunne Sax dress, and the man who married her. I tell you this not because I’m about to note the joys of individualism, but rather because I’m about to shirk them, at least during business hours.

Hand me my Hypocrite Club Card and may lightning strike me down for I beg of you: Be normal.

People who visit my office, God help you, be normal! I can no longer abide your odd, ill-informed, ignorant and strange behavior. BE NORMAL.

The task is simple. Enter the front door, tell me your name and who you are here to see, please seat yourself in the comfortable chairs we have provided for people just like you, enjoy the complimentary reading material that’s available on the side table, entreat me for a coffee, water or soda, and soon you will be greeted by your intended. I can provide you with access to the facilities should you need them.

Simple, yes? Even pleasant, if not enjoyable.

But not for you, eh? No. You’ve only been working in the corporate world for ten-fifteen even thirty years. How could you possibly know standard front desk protocol? It’s my high expectations, isn’t it? They always bite me in the ass. How would you know that I’m the receptionist? I mean, all the indicators are there: Headset, front desk, aforementioned amenities, a BOWL OF F*&$*#ING MINTS!?! I apologize for the lack of a blinking neon sign with arrows pointing down to me stating “RECEPTIONIST RECEPTIONIST” but it’s being repaired. Anyway, I’m the one you want, guy. What can I do for you?

Well, first I’ll just buzz open that do–…I’ll just- Hey, stop pulling….I need to-stop! Just let me- Quit it! Stop! QUit fighting it! It’s going to …. break. No problem. I’ll just call the engineer. C’mon in.

You’re here to see David! Great! WHO ARE YOU?! What is your name? I may not be an armed security professional, but you could give me the courtesy of identifying yourself…you cocky little shit.

So I’m just going to call David then…just-yes, I’m—if you stop talking because I’m call-right-yes I know I DAVID! Hi. Yes, I have Smug and Smugger up here and they-ah…okaaay…alright. Thanks.

Um, David says your appointment is for 1:00. It’s 9:30.

Can i ask you something? What do you actually do? I mean…actually do? Like, if you didn’t have your 1:00 apt with David that you show up 3 1/2 hours early for, what would you have done today? It doesn’t matter. Have a seat.

*Ahem* Just, uh…take a seat. Right over there in the chairs. What are you a vulture? Just sit the hell down! Quit looking over my desk and asking for my trash can. How much gum can a person chew?! SIT DOWN.

And stop staring at me. And humming. And whistling. And using your Nokia walkie-talkie. And sneezing without covering your mouth. And asking me about stupid shit. Look, man. I don’t want to be that girl. That bitter evil receptionist. I don’t want to, but you are forcing me into attack mode, you cheeseball sonofabitch.
Don’t tell me how my company is structured or who else I can call, because sweetheart, I already know. What I didn’t know is that YOU were coming in today…thanks, Dave. I didn’t know that grown men in suits could be so jaw-droppingly stupid. I mean you rang the doorbell!!! The doorbell that says “PLEASE DO NOT RING DURING BUSINESS HOURS”. THe doorbell whose speaker is located above my bosses desk and who is startled out of her mind and then blames me when you ring it. You rang it while making eye contact with me.

So again. I beg you: be normal. BE NORMAL. Don’t talk to yourself. Don’t tell me if it’s going to be #1 or #2 when you’re heading for the bathroom. You took the newspaper. I figured ‘er out.

I can handle banal conversation. I’m actually quite good at it. I can give you directions. I can can even wax intellectual on a variety of different subjects including politics, literature, history, and even microbiology…but I won’t need to worry about that, will I?
What I can’t abide is stupidity and bad manners. And you’re a bundle of both.
Receptionists vary, but I know a lot of them and I can promise you this (barring it being his or her first day) 1. She knows more about this company and its structure than you do. 2. She is capable of making things difficult for you…IF and ONLY IF…you do the same for her. But here’s the thing: All you have to do is be nice and be normal. AND SIT. DOWN.