The internet has failed me. I’m too cheap to rent a movie from Amazon in the hopes of getting a screen shot; I’m too honest to torrent one for the same purpose. It has been my tradition, every week, to hunt down a still of the person as the first thing I think of, when I hear their name. I even got June Foray posing with a stuffed Rocky the Flying Squirrel. But the specific thing I first think of, when I think of Ed Asner, is a cameo in Moon Over Parador. I quote the movie every time he comes up. Alas, I can’t find a picture of it without putting in more effort than I’m willing to do.
Actually, he may well be the only person we’ve done with more credits than June Foray. If you can believe it, he has 225 TV credits, according to IMDb, plus about seventy movies. He also appears as “self” on TV nearly two hundred times, which includes some of his voiceover work, and he’s got about fifty documentary credits. He’s got about a half-dozen movies slated to come out in the next two years. My kid has already seen some of his work to pay attention to, since I started him on Freakazoid! today.
While looking for the image I wanted, I saw a lot of earlier pictures, and it seems to me that Asner, like Abe Vigoda, has just always looked old. There’s a picture out there that appears to be from a college football team, and he looks old in that. Now, of course, he is old; there really wasn’t anyone better to cast as surly old Carl Fredrickson in Up. And he wasn’t exactly a young man in his Mary Tyler Moore days, though he wasn’t much older than I am now when the show started, since he was born in 1929 and the show started in 1970. However, he appears to be one of those people who started out old and stayed roughly the same forever, with the exception of his hair going white.
Maybe that’s why he’s also done so well as the surly type. I mean, I don’t know him personally; maybe he actually is that surly. But he looks like a little ball of anger. (In fact, at 5’7″, he’s shorter than I am by half an inch.) Once or twice, he’s more a gravelly old mentor type, but is any line the man has uttered more famous than “I hate spunk”? When you think Ed Asner, you’re much more likely to think of him shouting than of him smiling.
I suspect living through the era that he has is what made him a bit of a conspiracist. It has not always been an easy time to be as liberal as he in Hollywood; there’s so far you’re allowed to go, and I think he’s beyond that. He believes his political beliefs are what got Lou Grant cancelled, in fact. Indeed, I suspect that the reason he wasn’t blacklisted for being a Communist at the beginning of his career is that he wasn’t significant enough at the time to come to anyone’s notice. I don’t know that he actually is a Communist, actually, but since when did that stop HUAC?
In fact, his politics are why he has the cameo he does in Moon Over Parador. He’s playing himself; the CIA has footage of his meeting with a rebel in the jungles of Latin American dictatorship Parador. The rebel is getting Soviet support, though I believe it’s up in the air as to whether he’s actually a Communist or just taking advantage of the fact that the US is supporting the dictator. The video is played in a cabinet meeting, and Richard Dreyfuss as Jack Noah as President Alphonse Simms leans over to the one person who knows his secret, Harvard-educated Roberto Strausmann (Raul Julia) and says, “Is that Ed Asner?” To which Strausmann replies, “I loved him as Lou Grant!”