Friday, December 12, 2008

Goodbye, good guy

Van Johnson travels in elephants.*

Nobody would ever mistake Johnson for a dashing leading man, but whatever character he played always seemed to me like someone I'd enjoy sitting down and having a beer with. He came across as the quintessential good guy, whether he was Bogart's not-too-bright but fundamentally decent exec in The Caine Mutiny or Gene Kelly's cynical, tippling sidekick in Brigadoon. Those two roles are what I remember him best for, but he has an impressive list of credits under his name. Time and again, he plays the second banana in an aw-shucks sort of way. (Ack! In looking at his bio, it looks like his marriage was kind of a sordid one arranged by the studio. He married his best friend's wife the day their divorce became final, and Louis B. Mayer paid off the jilted husband with career favors because the marriage enhanced Johnson's own career. Sick and shameful.)

I hope he's somewhere now where I can meet him someday and find out if he's really as nice as he came across on screen.

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