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Intriguing Low Life Characters


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Though dastardly and vile [a lot like me] I must admit some movie characters are still quite enjoyable to watch work their wiles. My personal favorite is the carnal and manipulative, Barrett as played by Dirk Bogarde in Joseph Losey's exceptional psychological study called "The Servant". 

Barrett's complete takeover of of the mind and body of his employer, the aristocratic Tony [James Fox] is masterful. The whole film has an air of corruption and morbidity due to the deviant and diabolic behaviour of Barrett as he wields his power over all, except maybe Tony's girlfriend.

The introduction of Barrett's supposed sister, Vera [Sarah Miles] into the mix makes for a complete travesty of moral values, yet by the end of the film one is so immersed in such tales one feels a bit too numb to voice any complaints. Bogarde's performance is beyond reproach and adds to the fame of this movie.

Perhaps such low life people don't intrigue you, and if so you may choose to not participate in this thread. But if not, name your poison.

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I have always had a weakness for the character of Flamineo in The White Devil, a Jacobean play by John Webster.  An evil character, but an anti-hero by Jacobean standards, because he conspires against the Catholic characters in the play, particularly those closely associated with the Church. The play was written during the heightened Protestant age of James II. I love Flamineo's final speech:

Flam.   I recover like a spent taper, for a flash,
  And instantly go out.
  Let all that belong to great men remember th' old wives' tradition, to
  be like the lions i' th' Tower on Candlemas-day; to mourn if the sun
  shine, for fear of the pitiful remainder of winter to come.
  'Tis well yet there's some goodness in my death;
  My life was a black charnel.  I have caught
  An everlasting cold; I have lost my voice
  Most irrecoverably.  Farewell, glorious villains.
  This busy trade of life appears most vain,
  Since rest breeds rest, where all seek pain by pain.
  Let no harsh flattering bells resound my knell;
  Strike, thunder, and strike loud, to my farewell!   



Joseph Timms as Flaminio, Shakespeare's Globe/Wanamaker Theatre. One of two or three productions of the play that I have seen. Another comes to NYC next month.

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A classic low life character but one with style and charm is Alonzo Emmerich from The Asphalt Jungle.

Of course there are other low life characters in the film,  e.g. "Doc" Erwin Riedenschneider,   but I don't find them as developed as that of Emmerich.

Louis Calhern plays Emmerich perfectly;    one can't help but have some sympathy for the guy regardless of the fact we all know what a snake he is.  


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