While up late last night with newly minted Tommaso, I couldn’t help but thinking about the character Guy Woodhouse (played brilliantly by John Cassavetes) from Polanksi’s brilliant Rosemary’s Baby (1969). Thinking about how Guy sold out Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and his unborn child to the local Satan worshippers in order to further his acting career ranks him amongst the scummiest husbands in film. Here is the scene where Rosemary figures out the whole craziness, and Guy tries to reassure her that he was promised she wouldn’t be hurt:
So then I started thinking, who are some other scummy husbands in film, and the list i starting to take shape: Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) in The Shining (1980) is a layup. Jerry Lundegaard from Fargo (1996) would rank right up there, and Jerry Blake (Terry O’Quinn) from The Stepfather (1987) is a candidate as well. And if we head back, I imagine Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer) from George Cukor’s Gaslight (1944) and Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) from Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder (1954).
The best part of such a train of thought, is that it could go on for a long, long time….I can see it now, “The Top 100 Husbands from Hell.” I know it’s an odd moment to be thinking about such things, but for some reason Rosemary’s Baby, like The Shining, is just one of those films I can’t shake, and when it’s late at night with a baby in your hands, one needs things to think about. So, who would you add to the list?
Ju Dou (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099902/) was the first Chinese film I saw that didn’t feature martial arts. The old husband in that film (played by Wei Li, I think) is a piece of work.
Rosemary’s Baby is one of my favorite horror films because it does what the best horror films do- add a certain familiar casual demeanor to those perpetrating the horrors. The character of Guy Woodhouse is so likeable and jaunty that it’s hard not to be charmed by him at the beginning. And the fact that they never show the conversation taking place in which he sells out his wife makes it all the more appalling.
Another scumbag husband you might want to include is De Niro’s Jake La Motta in Raging Bull. The only caveat being that his cruelty seems to come more from his stupidity and the culture around him than any true evil or soullessness. But he still treats women like property.
Here’s an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dS5eez_f4d8
The only other one I can think of is Albert Spica, the Thief from Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover
Yeah, JuDou is an excellent example, and as soon as you said it it makes me think about Raise the Red Lantern, and the internecine battles between the wives because of the status and role of the husband—that adds a whole different element. Nice.
La Motta is an excellent example, and I think you are right about the culture surrounding him, the film itself really pushes that angle wherein the violence in the ring is constantly spilling outside of it.
Albert Spica from The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover is a brilliant ick. He is one of the most evil villains of film. I’m still appalled by the thought of him…excellent choice–just his name, SPICA!
A request to do a whole entry on Jerry Lundegaard and the slow burn of Nordic white cold insanity. What an amazingly cruel guy with a Wonder Bread smile.
I’d argue that Jack Torrence might have been able to turn around his alcoholism and NOT be a bad husband if he didn’t have malevolent ghosts messing with his head and spurring him on. He was possessed by the evil of the Overlook. He went there trying to get away from booze, to concentrate on writing a book and doing better for his family. It’s hard to blame him because he happened to pick a haunted place to do so. He was a victim himself, turned horrible because of his weakness.
Contrast that with Guy, who wasn’t being controlled or manipulated. Guy was a willing participant. He was given a choice: Defend his wife and refuse, or offer to let Satan rape her and then give away the baby. He CHOSE to betray Rosemary, to lie to her, to gaslight her, and to manipulate her. He sat there and berated her for not liking the (drugged) chocolate mousse (because her instincts told her something was wrong with it) because he knew the next step was to let the Prince of Darkness sexually assault his wife and therefore give him fame and fortune. He controlled her whenever she brought up her suspicions. He took Hutch’s glove which led to Hutch’s death. He tricked Donald Baumgart’ into trading ties knowing that he was going to be stricken with blindness and have his career ruined– All just to get ahead himself. He constantly gaslights Rosemary, and at no point is there ever any threat against Guy. He acts purely out of greed, selfishness, and a complete lack of compassion for Rosemary’s suffering.
Guy is the worst of the bunch because he’s not even doing it to hurt her intentionally. This woman he’s supposed to love and protect is purely incidental to his plan. He just doesn’t care. He’s indifferent to her suffering, sorrow, and fear.
Satan’s not the villain of that story. Neither are the Castevets or the coven. It’s Guy, all the way. He sold his wife’s body, sanity, and trust for a part in a play.
I always wondered what Roman did to convince the cynical Guy to betray Rosemary. Guy had nothing but contempt for Roman and Minnie before the dinner as bothersome old people. He reluctantly goes to the dinner and seems bored first. He smirks at Rosemary a few times. Roman seems clumsy and doddering while Minnie seems silly and loud. Guy looks like he cannot wait to escape.
However, Roman has Guy in his clutches in the short time Minnie and Rosemary were in the kitchen doing dishes. The conspiratorial look shared between Guy and Roman when Rosemary came out of the kitchen always made me wonder. What did Roman have to do in that short time to persuade Guy that he would have unlimited success if he let the devil impregnate Rosemary?
The Faustian deal for sure, not long after his competition is breaking legs and he is the devil’s own!