CaveGirl

Best Old Biddies

64 posts in this topic

In life, one can meet the most delightful people, but often this pleasure is mitigated by another type of person, the incessantly annoying busybody who ruins every day with their meddling. Now the garden variety type in films usually has one modus operandi, cataloguing a complaint that really is just a shield for their real irritation, which is usually the belief that somehow, somewhere, someone is having a good time...and most be stopped!

Whether intruding into another's business takes the form of watching a neighbor's house through the biddie's curtains, or going through their garbage in the dark, such meddling always proves to be fun to watch, in a movie. In real life...perhaps not so much, but one can bet that most movie meddling is based on real life entities that the screenwriters have sadly encountered. We all have someone in our lives, who probably thinks it is their duty to tell us how to wear our hair, drive our cars or prune our yard shrubs sadly and they just won't give up this duty until we off ourselves, and cry "uncle".

The female of the species makes the best buttinsky, and biddie and with their caustic tongues they often portrayed such parts in films as spinsterish landladies, shrewish wives and town gossips with prissiness and officious sounding complaints against humanity which would make Heinrich **** seem mild mannered. My personal favorite of this type of biddie is the great Doro Merande, since she manages to somehow seem so innocent when she vents her bile. In second place I would of course have to put the talented Florence Bates, who always appears to be ready at any moment to use her forked tongue to take someone down. Who can forget her in the film "Rebecca" and her treatment of the unnamed heroine?

Who's your favorite busybody biddie...but please, only mention ones in the movies. We would not want to incur any online lawsuits. Thank you!

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The two aunts from ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, of course they did MUCH more than just gossip about their houseguests....

They were busybodies all right, just not within the law, lol.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
36 minutes ago, Bethluvsfilms said:

The two aunts from ARSENIC OLD LACE, of course they did MUCH more than just gossip about their houseguests....

They were busybodies all right, just not within the law, lol.

Oh, I adore Josephine Hull in that and also in "Harvey", Beth. 

Great choices...thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
47 minutes ago, Bethluvsfilms said:

 

Forget the quote.  My response to it was negated right after I posted this.

 

Hmmmm. . .  I will have to think about some of my favorites.  I swear I've seen so many movies they all become such a blur.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Looney said:

Forget the quote.  It was negated as soon as I posted a response.

 

Hmmmm. . .  I will have to think about some of my favorites.  I swear I've seen so many movies they all become such a blur.  

"Blur" on, Looney!

A friend had a tv which had aged poorly and we used to say it created "Blur-Vision Tv".

It's like fuzzy feedback on a Who hit and I'm sure I can appreciate it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

She wasn't that old, I guess, but if she hadn't gone on to do Bewitched, Agnes Moorehead would probably be best remembered for playing busybodies and gossips. I'm thinking immediately of Since You Went Away and Dark Passage.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wouldn't call Agnes Moorehead a biddy in Dark Passage. She is too utterly evil, and her motivation is really lust for Bogey.

Ellen Corby is a great biddy in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte. In fact, she's billed as "Town Gossip."

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Zeffie Tilsbury (SECOND CHILDHOOD with Our Gang)

Una O'Connor (THE INVISIBLE MAN)

Ida Moore (more crafty than biddie but still...)

and then there's the anti-biddie - everybody's "mother" - Margaret Mann.

PS - I should mention the "sometimes biddie" Beulah Bondi!

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Btw, the word "biddy" derives from the Irish maids who often worked for the English. Biddy is short for Bridget.

 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love old biddies in movies and thought of writing a book entitled Biddies, Frumps, and Hags, but haven't gotten to it yet. Old biddies are a dying breed!

Josephine Hull in Harvey and Arsenic and Old Lace

Margaret Hamilton in Nothing Sacred

Emily Fitzroy in Zander the Great and Show Boat

Agnes Moorehead in Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte

Marjorie Main in The Egg and I

Mary Boland in The Women

Jane Darwell in The Grapes of Wrath

Patsy Kelly in Going Hollywood

Polly Moran in Hollywood Party

May Robson in Lady for a Day, Lady by Choice and Bringing Up Baby

Thelma Ritter in The Mating Season, All About Eve and The Misfits

Jan Duggan in The Old Fashioned Way and A Damsel in Distress

Ellen Corby in I Remember Mama

Hope Emerson in Caged

Lee Patrick in Auntie Mame

Esma Cannon in Jassy and Holiday Camp

Judith Anderson in Rebecca

and of course Marie Dressler in any film she ever made!

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
45 minutes ago, sewhite2000 said:

She wasn't that old, I guess, but if she hadn't gone on to do Bewitched, Agnes Moorehead would probably be best remembered for playing busybodies and gossips. I'm thinking immediately of Since You Went Away and Dark Passage.

I have to laugh. I knew someone whose kid had a freebie acting class with Moorehead in high school, and he was complaining about how she was a bit haughty, and the mother was complaining about it to me!

All I could think was "I've seen your kid's performance in a high school play and poor Agnes probably was fed up at even trying to give aid to the untalented!" And yes, she could be a bit of a prig and busybody in films, and was excellent at it, as she was with everything. Thanks, SE!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, Swithin said:

I wouldn't call Agnes Moorehead a biddy in Dark Passage. She is too utterly evil, and her motivation is really lust for Bogey.

Ellen Corby is a great biddy in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte. In fact, she's billed as "Town Gossip."

 

That going out the window scene still gets to me, Swithin. Admittedly she wasn't a biddy in that one but more of a disgruntled female seeking revenge.

Ellen Corby could be a bit of a town gossip, but she's so sweet that even I have a bit of trouble calling her a "biddie". I guess as Grandma Walton though, she could be somewhat annoying. Thanks!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
49 minutes ago, Ray Faiola said:

Zeffie Tilsbury (SECOND CHILDHOOD with Our Gang)

Una O'Connor (THE INVISIBLE MAN)

Ida Moore (more crafty than biddie but still...)

and then there's the anti-biddie - everybody's "mother" - Margaret Mann.

PS - I should mention the "sometimes biddie" Beulah Bondi!

Well, I owe you big time, Ray since though I think I know a lot of old-time character actresses I really did not know Margaret Mann. So I just looked her up and really enjoyed reading about her career.


As for Zeffie, I totally dig her, and Ida Moore is adorable and though always a bit pixilated could fit the bill as being an annoying town gossip or other busybody but always in a rather sweet, unhinged way. And as for Una O'Connor, well she was my mother's favorite character actress. My mom would laugh and laugh as Una swooped through scenes giving out those birdlike shrieks or being overly awed and calling her employer, names like "Yes, my Queen" or "Milady" as she was announcing that a strange man was at the door of the castle like Doctor Praetorius. Her time at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin was well spent and we enjoyed seeing some artifacts of her career there when we visited Ireland back a ways in time.

Everyone has got to love Beulah Bondi, who could be ice cold and then the warmest mother in the world, as she was as Jimmy Stewart's mother. But she definitely could be a nasty old biddie when the script called for it.


Thank you for some great submissions. You really know your "biddies!"!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, CaveGirl said:

Well, I owe you big time, Ray since though I think I know a lot of old-time character actresses I really did not know Margaret Mann. So I just looked her up and really enjoyed reading about her career.

CG - Margaret Mann's big one was the Our Gang short FLY MY KITE. Her rotten son (the other James Mason) and girlfriend Mae Busch try to cheat her out of her house and fortune. The Gang comes to her rescue. A wonderful classic.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, CaveGirl said:

That going out the window scene still gets to me, Swithin. Admittedly she wasn't a biddy in that one but more of a disgruntled female seeking revenge.
 

I'm in the "Madge jumped" camp. It was no accident, it was spite. 

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
26 minutes ago, drednm said:

I love old biddies in movies and thought of writing a book entitled Biddies, Frumps, and Hags, but haven't gotten to it yet. Old biddies are a dying breed!

Josephine Hull in Harvey and Arsenic and Old Lace

Margaret Hamilton in Nothing Sacred

Emily Fitzroy in Zander the Great and Show Boat

Agnes Moorehead in Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte

Marjorie Main in The Egg and I

Mary Boland in The Women

Jane Darwell in The Grapes of Wrath

Patsy Kelly in Going Hollywood

Polly Moran in Hollywood Party

May Robson in Lady for a Day, Lady by Choice and Bringing Up Baby

Thelma Ritter in The Mating Season, All About Eve and The Misfits

Jan Duggan in The Old Fashioned Way and A Damsel in Distress

Ellen Corby in I Remember Mama

Hope Emerson in Caged

Lee Patrick in Auntie Mame

Esma Cannon in Jassy and Holiday Camp

Judith Anderson in Rebecca

and of course Marie Dressler in any film she ever made!

You said a mouthful, Dred! Oddly enough though biddies seem to have disappeared from films there are still lots roaming the streets in our current times. I wonder why this genre isn't being represented in films? Do you think perhaps it would be called politically incorrect to mention that some women still have the buttinsky gene, and like to warp minds with their need to control others? Hate to go against one's own sex but I've met biddies in my time and they make one want to pull one's hair out and are just toxic.

You came up with an amazing list of biddies. I really think you need to pursue that book, and let me add a few more to your list if you do. Kathleen Freeman, Minerva Urecal, and maybe Rosalind Ivan?

Oh gosh, Jan Duggan. What a riot in the Fields' film! I am not familiar with Esma Cannon so shall now go look her up. Thanks again for a fine grouping!



 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, sewhite2000 said:

Agnes Moorehead would probably be best remembered for playing busybodies and gossips. I'm thinking immediately of Since You Went Away and Dark Passage.

The first time I read this thread I immediately thought of Moorehead in Dark Passage because I just watched it again, but then I realized the title was "Old Biddie" and her Dark Passage character was not old so I didn't say anything.  And as Swithin pointed out, Madge might be too evil to give such a title.  I have been associating the designation of "Biddie" to be someone who causes problems, but is by no means a true villain.  I guess because the term has a bit of a humorous tone to it.   So are true villains like Madge in Dark Passage to be referred to as a "Biddie"?  She meets the criteria, but to a very extreme measure.

And I was totally going to bring up the "Jumped" debate, Swithin. (Like Minds. LOL)  I want to say she jumped, but I also just saw it and it almost looks like they wanted you to think she might have tripped while trying to be cute and clever.  

I like making the titles bold.  I've found it interesting to see the different manners in which Members post movie titles. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, CaveGirl said:

Oh gosh, Jan Duggan. What a riot in the Fields' film! I am not familiar with Esma Cannon so shall now go look her up. Thanks again for a fine grouping
 

Jan Duggan provides the only moment I really like in any W.C. Fields film, when she's "Gathering up the shells..." Maybe she's a biddy.

But Ma Joad and some if those others? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Looney said:

The first time I read this thread I immediately thought of Moorehead in Dark Passage because I just watched it again, but then I realized the title was "Old Biddie" and her Dark Passage character was not old so I didn't say anything.  And as Swithin pointed out, Madge might be too evil to give such a title.  I have been associating the designation of "Biddie" to be someone who causes problems, but is by no means a true villain.  I guess because the term has a bit of a humorous tone to it.   So are true villains like Madge in Dark Passage to be referred to as a "Biddie"?  She meets the criteria, but to a very extreme measure.

And I was totally going to bring up the "Jumped" debate, Swithin. (Like Minds. LOL)  I want to say she jumped, but I also just saw it and it almost looks like they wanted you to think she might have tripped while trying to be cute and clever.  

I like making the titles bold.  I've found it interesting to see the different manners in which Members post movie titles. 

I tend to agree that the term "biddie" is for a character that isn't a true villain but just someone that causes problems and is a mix-it-upper type.    Dred mentions some biddies but also included some that cross over into that true villain category.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, CaveGirl said:

"Blur" on, Looney!

A friend had a tv which had aged poorly and we used to say it created "Blur-Vision Tv".

It's like fuzzy feedback on a Who hit and I'm sure I can appreciate it.

I just commented that I didn't think the Aunt's from Arsenic fit your criteria, but then you chimed in and accepted that they did meet your criteria.  After I posted it I couldn't get it to edit out the entire quote so that is why I "Blur"red things for you.  ;)

 

I'm sorry, but this thread may need to be closed so I don't have to find and watch all of these movies. :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, Looney said:

And I was totally going to bring up the "Jumped" debate, Swithin. (Like Minds. LOL)  I want to say she jumped, but I also just saw it and it almost looks like they wanted you to think she might have tripped while trying to be cute and clever.  

TCM seems to agree with the jumped theory: From the Full Synopsis: "Vincent asks Madge to sign a confession, but she refuses and jumps to her death. With Madge's death, there is no way for Vincent to prove his innocence."

I think the three aunts in Love Me Tonight have biddy potential, though they don't really get fleshed out much as characters: Blanche Frederici, Ethel Griffies, and Elizabeth Patterson.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Swithin said:

TCM seems to agree with the jumped theory: From the Full Synopsis: "Vincent asks Madge to sign a confession, but she refuses and jumps to her death. With Madge's death, there is no way for Vincent to prove his innocence."

This is an old debate but I'm on the side that she jumped out of spite.    But I still don't understand what she is pulling at right before she falls out the window.    Was that supposed to be her tripping over a cord?   

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, Ray Faiola said:

CG - Margaret Mann's big one was the Our Gang short FLY MY KITE. Her rotten son (the other James Mason) and girlfriend Mae Busch try to cheat her out of her house and fortune. The Gang comes to her rescue. A wonderful classic.

OMG, Ray! I just found it on Youtube. I'm familiar with many of those episodes but just in memory and actually think I've seen it and she is the quintessential old mother in films. My own mother used to laugh about how in the 1920's and 1930's the women playing mothers to kids like Jackie Coogan, looked to be around 65 years old. Margaret Mann did look more recognizable to me after watching the video. It looked to have Stymie, and Wheezer and that Mary Ann girl in it; maybe from before the heyday of Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat and Porkie?


Enjoyed watching that...thanks! I shall go back now and watch the whole thing without fast forwarding.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

  Was that supposed to be her tripping over a cord?   

Exactly what it looks like, though "jumped out of spite" makes sense.  It is just so visually awkward.  I wonder if there were "Code" reasons they needed to make the act a question?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Swithin said:

Btw, the word "biddy" derives from the Irish maids who often worked for the English. Biddy is short for Bridget.

 

I didn't know that but since my mother's great grandfather and grandmother immigrated from Dublin and all her aunts used the term "biddy" about busybody old maids*, then it makes sense where they got the word. Oddly enough, their great grandmother's name was Bridget. Thanks so much for educating me on this terminology, Swithin!

*not the kind of "maids" you are referring to...haha!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us