nor other Hollywood hype machines. And they’re not reality
show attention whores who are famous for simply being famous…or trying
to be famous. What they are is all too frequently the
unheralded; the people whose solidly consistent work affects and often
delights us. They’re the ones who don’t always get the credit
when the credit is due. We aim to change that.
Name: James Thomas Patrick Walsh
- 54 years old at time of passing
- 6′ 1″ tall
- From San Francisco, CA
Notable Roles: Sgt. Major Dickerson, Alderman Marty Swayzak, Lt. Col. Matthew Andrew, Happy, John Ehrlichman, Senator Mavros, Warren “Red” Barr, Big Bob.
Career Hiccup(s): True Identity.
- “You better not even come within range of anything that happens or your ass is grass, and I’m a lawn mower.”
- “You see that glow in the corner of your eye. It’s your career dissipation light and it’s going into overtime.”
- “I don’t want a deal and I don’t want immunity. I want you to know that
I am proud neither of what I have done nor what I am doing.”
- “Anyone check you for a heartbeat recently?”
- “You got people dying because he didn’t make the varsity football team.
You got the Constitution hanging by a thread because the old man went
to Whittier instead of Yale.”
- “We created Frankenstein with these damn Cubans.”
- “It’s not what I want, it’s what you want, and how bad you want it.
‘Cause it’s gonna cost you. Can’t show it to you right now, but it’s
about 5’5″, 115 pounds, three or four of that just pure tit. Nice curly
brown hair, upstairs and down. Interested?”
- “Well, we’re safe for now. Thank goodness we’re in a bowling alley.”
Why We’re Saluting: Opportunists. Malcontents. Weasels. Tight-asses. Villains.
The Establishment. Outright bastards. These are characters that J.T. Walsh excelled at portraying. He was one of Hollywood’s most reliable antagonists, guys on the wrong side of morality or just straight up assholes. Leonard Maltin perhaps put it best: Walsh was known for playing “quietly sinister, white collar sleazebags.”
Walsh didn’t get his start in film until he was 40. But within 15 years, he had appeared in over 70 film and television roles, alongside some of the biggest stars in Hollywood…and usually causing them grief of some sort. One of his best early roles was as the aptly named Sgt. Major Dickerson opposite Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam. Other early roles included appearances in Hannah and Her Sisters, Tequila Sunrise, Wired, The Grifters and The Russia House. It was in the Early ’90s when he secured key scumbag roles in both Backdraft as Alderman Marty Swayzak and Red Rock West as Wayne.
Those were followed by two back-to-back appearances alongside Jack Nicholson in both A Few Good Men and Hoffa, as the subservient Lt. Col. Markinson and Frank Fitzsimmons respectively. Other roles as Happy, the corrupt booster in Blue Chips, roles in The Client, The Last Seduction, and Nixon only added to his appeal. Was there anyone who didn’t know that Senator Mavros was going to be getting his in Executive Decision? And get a perverse enjoyment out of it? Walsh also did several TV roles, including a memorable portrayal of the corrupt prison warden, Leo Brodeur, in the X-Files episode, The List where, among other things, he beat a shackled prisoner to death.
The end of Walsh’s career saw no decline in the quality of his work. In fact, the last three years of his life saw more notable roles, including appearances in Sling Blade and The Negotiator. But it’s perhaps his role as the cunning, murderous trucker, Red Barr, in Breakdown where Walsh truly went all out. In that film, he and his cohorts terrorized a husband and wife (Kurt Russell, Kathleen Quinlan) in the Southwest, including a memorable finale involving a semi, a truck and a bridge. Walsh was truly at his best in this role and his memorable comeuppance was the capper to a great career of them. A last appearance in Gary Ross’ excellent Pleasantville as Big Bob, the town Mayor who reeked of McCarthyism and thinly-veiled bigotry capped a memorable career that ended before it should have.
J.T. Walsh died rather suddenly of a heart attack on February 27, 1998. Among the honors he were received were dedications on his final films, Pleasantville, Hidden Agenda and The Negotiator. Jack Nicholson also dedicated his Oscar win for As Good As It Gets to Walsh. For the majority of his career, J.T. Walsh was eminently detestable. And we enjoyed every minute of it.
J.T. Walsh Factoids: Walsh worked in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway. He co-starred with Kurt Russell in four films: Tequila Sunrise, Backdraft, Executive Decision and Breakdown. He once worked as an encyclopedia salesman and a middle school teacher and was fluent in German.
J.T. Walsh Homework (Click the images to get ‘em via CHUD):
Mr. Walsh, we salute you.