3. In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Big Daddy’s spastic colon looms large. Burly Burl Ives sang folk ditties most of the time, but that did not stop him from knocking it out of the park with his nasty-ass depiction of a rage-filled cancer-riddled Southern patriarch.
4. Victor Buono was great as King Tut in the original Batman TV series, but his finest fat moment occurred when he played Bette Davis’ sweaty, anxious-but-amused musical arranger in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.
5. I see the exploding Mr. Creosote, played by Terry Jones in the movie Monty Python: The Meaning of Life, as a watershed moment. The end of an era. After this, there were no more iconic fat-for-the-sake-of-being-fat actors, unless you count Grizz on 30 Rock.
As I watched these old clips I found myself thinking of an English politician named Cyril Smith. Now deceased, M.P. Cyril was the Gutman/Creosote of the House of Commons. A 400-pounder, he never married, preferring to feast on his mum’s Yorkshire pudding. It was only after old Cyril popped his clogs that we faced the truth: Cyril was in the pocket of the asbestos industry.
Would Mitt Romney’s ratings improve if he packed on a few pounds like old Cyril? Might a little girth give him a dash of much-needed gravitas and halt his downward spiral? It might be worth a shot. His current retro-wholesome matinee idol shtick—I associate him with Rock Hudson’s wooden character in that strangely artificial Douglas Sirk movie The Magnificent Obsession—could use the realness of a beer belly.
However, I am not wildly optimistic that it would help. These days, fat and politics are unhappy bedfellows. Other than New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, there are no supersized politicians who spring to mind. The Churchill effect has expired. Now, being fat is associated with addiction and dropping dead. If Winnie were around today he would undoubtedly be found hula-hooping frantically outside Number 10, while guzzling Activia. What gave gravitas and prominence on a distant hilltop in ancient Rome is now merely a one-way ticket to audition for The Biggest Loser.
While I look back fondly at the era of the Greenstreets and the Big Daddies, I will, when the election finally rolls around, be putting my trust in the other bloke, the guy with the lean and hungry look. You know who I mean.