The movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is a delightful film written by and starring Nia Vardolis. One of the charming recurring features of the story is her father, played by Michael Constantine, uses Windex to cure any physical problem. A funny moment is on the ride to the wedding reception, when she confides to her new husband, played by John Corbett, that she woke up with this big zit. He said he did too, but her father fixed it with Windex.
These little quirky traits make the movie a better window into real life characters. The trait may actually be a physical one, which can be even more endearing. In “Motherless Brooklyn,” starring and directed by Ed Norton, his detective role has Tourette’s Syndrome long before anyone knew to call it that. He would shout out uncontrollably things that popped into his head. It was done in great taste as part of the storyline and actually was a useful trait to endearing himself to people he wanted to interview.
There is a television series based out of Canada called “Coroner” starring Serinda Swan (not to be confused with a BBC show called “The Coroner”) as Dr. Jenny Cooper. Swan is recently widowed and moved her teenage son to take this job as a needed change. But, she suffers from PTSD and anxiety that we learn is due to her sister’s death as child. So, when her medications are not regulated, she has disabling attacks. To add further, she is a sleepwalker resulting from these issues.
Leaving the more serious traits aside, the most humorous quirky character contrived built on the skills of Don Knotts as Barney Fife in “The Andy Griffith Show.” The funniest example of Fife’s quirkiness is Andy would not trust him with a loaded gun, but Fife needed to have one. So, Andy let him carry an empty gun, with one bullet in his buttoned shirt pocket. So, the funniest scenes occurred when Fife had to go for his bullet when in perceived danger. The writers deserve a medal for that one.
Going back to the movies, our friend Hugh likes to bring up one of the best character actors around, Strother Martin. He appeared in two popular Paul Newman movies. In “Cool Hand Luke,” Martin played a corrupt warden in a southern prison where Newman was a detainee. But, the movie is accentuated with Martin’s great line after he would take action to quell an uprising from a rebellious prisoner. He would say “What we got here…is a failure to communicate.” Martin would use his drawl to elongate the words.
In the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” with Newman and Robert Redford, Martin shows up late in the movie that had started to drag a little bit. When the bandits went to Bolivia to try to have regular jobs, they worked to guard a payroll under Martin’s management. Martin chewed tobacco and as he rode his horse, he would spit the excess juice out. You learn after several spits, he would say “Dammit” when the juice dribbled onto his chin and “Bingo” when he successful expelled the juice. He also called his two man crew “morons” when they were worried coming down the mountain. He said “we don’t have any money coming down the mountain.”
There are many quirky characters on television shows that I have written about before such as Abby Sciuto on “NCIS” played by Pauley Perrette and Penelope Garcia on “Criminal Minds” played by Kirsten Vangsness. But, the quirkiest character may have been the lead in “Monk” played by Tony Shalhoub. A former police detective, Adrian Monk suffers from intensified obsessive-compulsive disorder and a variety of phobias since the murder of his wife. Yet, his OCD helps him solve crimes given his attention to detail.
These folks are endearing or maddening dependent on the role or scene. I recognize fully I skipped over many other great examples. Let me know some of your favorite quirky characters and why.