Wednesday, December 30, 2009

characters: DANA IVEY

As the Hollywood heavyweights get their year-end props, it's important to remember those awesome actors who are best known for roles that tend to not have names so much as memorable situations. And there seems to be no woman out there who can play the uptight, anally organized tiger lady like Dana Ivey. Probably her first big role was in 1985's The Color Purple, in which she played Miss Millie, the somewhat-well-meaning, but ultimately phony, befriender of the discriminated-against black townspeople. Those scenes with Oprah Winfrey are enough to make her uneasy character one of the most powerful prototypes the Alice Walker adaptation had to offer.

And thanks to her penchant for killer uptight staredowns (see the bottom center picture above for a reference point), Ivey found work as the shrewd business type throughout the last two decades, from her role as the hard-nosed uber boss Mrs. Stone in Home Alone 2, to her role as Claire in 1993's Sleepless in Seattle, to her hard-turned-soft role as Congresswoman Libby Hauser in the otherwise atrocious 2003 flick Legally Blonde 2. But perhaps her best-loved and most recognizable portrayal was as mumsy wife extraordinaire and Chinese-finger-trap wearer Margaret Alford, eventual lucky wife of Cousin It in The Addams Family and Addams Family Values.

Thanks to several television appearance on shows like Frasier, Sex and the City, and The Practice, Ivey has aged gracefully in the biz, landing several more mom-type roles in this decade (she played an aging nun in Rush Hour 3 and a leftist democrat mom in Two Weeks Notice). But perhaps her shining achievements most lie in her work on stage, having been nominated for five Tony Awards, four Drama Desk Awards (winning one), and just recently being installed into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2008. But I just can't help but picture her as the big-haired and secretly big-hearted Addams cousin-in-law.


Unknown said...

I always think she's Maggie Smith and she's just as good!

DebbieB said...

Dana Ivey is pretty much amazing. She has this knack for stealing scenes with small parts in big movies. But if you want to really see her at her best, rent Hamlet (with Kevin Kline) or Sunday in the Park with George.