Bea Arthur Syndrome, or "We need someone realy ugly!"

The “is Bea Arthur bitter?” thread got me to thinking about character actors and actresses hired specifically because they are ugly, unsexy, hatchet-faced bastards, and how they dealt with that—also, who some of your favorites are.

Bea Arthur. Margaret Hamilton (the definition of “hatchet-faced crone”). Thelma Ritter. Nancy Kulp. Jerry Colonna. Marty Feldman. Edna Mae Oliver. Marie Dressler. Incredibly talented, all, but cast specifically for their lack of good looks.

“Hey, we got a role here for a human punchline—you’d be perfect!” As a hatchet-faced crone myself, I don’t know how happy I’d be making a living like that (though one can argue women who market themselves as human sex-bombs have self-image problems, too). From what I’ve heard, Bea Arthur and Margaret Hamilton were certainly well-adjusted women who took it with a grain of salt, though I read once that Edna Mae Oliver wanted all her life to be “pretty.”

Ernest Borgnine. James Woods.

Anne Ramsey.

Jack Elam

Lee Van Cleef (not so much ugly as inherently menacing)

Clint Howard

As is Billy Drago.

What’s so ugly about Bea Arthur? I think she’s nice looking. And Sarah Jessica Parker is easily twice as ugly as Bea Arthur. Sarah Jessica has the classic Witchy-Poo face, warts included. Yet they pass her off as beautiful.

What the ???

I’ve also been surprised to see how many young people think Lucille Ball was unattractive. My God, she was gorgeous when she was young.

Who was great as John Bly in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr..

Ann B. Davis (not so much ugly as plain)

Kathy Bates

Kathleen Freeman

Carol Kane

And a special nod to Alyce beasley, who got (IMHO) the best non-comic line in the entire run of Cheers as Coach’s daughter:

“Look at me Daddy. Really look at me! Tell me what you see.”

Coach: “Oh my God. I never saw it before. You look just like your mother.”

“That’s right. I look just like her. And my mother was not (pause, looks at Coach) comfortable with her beauty.”

LaWanda “Aunt Esther” Page on Sanford & Son (with Norma “Dolly” Miller, Nancy Kulp making recurring appearances)

Eddie Deezen- the stock nerd in many 70s and 80s films.

[Mary Grace Canfield](LaWanda “Aunt Esther” Page on Sanford & Son (with Norma “Dolly” Miller, Nancy Kulp making recurring appearances)

[URL= (who in addition to Ralph Monroe played Gomer’s “dog date” and other “beyond-plain Jane” roles.

Fran Ryan was a 'there’s what’s her face" character actress who could have been Marjorie Main’s illegitimate daughter with Walter Brennan. She was often the butt of ugly jokes.

Personally I never found Bea Arthur the least bit ugly, just unconventional looking. My mother loved it when Maude became a hit because she felt women who weren’t short and dainty were represented on TV for the first time in an attractive light.

IRL she was married to Vincent Schiavelli (best known for this performance) who also fits this category. They have a daughter- I’m wondering just out of curiosity what she looks like. (Of course if she looks like the daughter of Richard Kiel, she’s gorgeous (Kiel’s daughter was a beauty queen and model in England a few years back).

Linda Hunt is my favorite. It must take guts to go into serious acting when people look at you and automatically think “weird.” I could listed to her forever, though.

It must also be odd to be cast as the ugly duckling/monster when you are actually reasonably attractive (e.g., Cloris Leachman.)

I always though Bea Arthur was rather striking, which, I realize is not the same as pretty. She has the kind of features that hold up well, where more conventionally beautiful types don’t. Kathleen Turner, for example.

Ted “Lurch” Cassidy, Al “Grampa” Lewis and Fred Gwynne also have a place on here.

The late Marty Feldman

“Hatchet-faced crone?” You? Sorry, I’ve seen your picture, and all I have to say to that is, pull the other one; it’s got bells on.

Anyway, unless it happens while I’m previewing, nobody’s mentioned Martha Raye.

I thought he was best known for [url=]this performance](

Rats. This performance.

You mean this Carol Kane? She’s gorgeous.

Oh, come on. Margaret had plenty of sympathetic roles where she just happened to be homely. Let’s not forget, poor Kim McGuire, who only had two film roles. One was an almost insignificant character, and in the one where she got plenty of limelight, she played… …Hatchet-Face. :smiley:

Several actors who suffered from acromegaly were almost exclusively cast for their “monstrous” appearances.

The most famous fella is probably Rondo Hatton. Another sufferer was the above-mentioned Richard Kiel, who is best known as “Jaws” in the Bond films, and as the Kanabite embassador in the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man.”

Paul Benedict’s relatively mild acromegaly gave him an odd (but not scary) appearance that made him suitable for roles such as “Bentley” on The Jeffersons.

Hell yeah-- she started as a pin-up girl, for chrissakes. When she first did the Abbott and Costello radio show, she was the beauty-queen guest, not the visiting comedienne.

Carol Kane is drop-dead gorgeous, too. These are women who simply haven’t been limited in their careers by their incredible good looks.

How about Steve Buscemi?

Oh no, I ain’t goin’ down in the basement with THAT guy. He looks like Boris Karloff!

Who, Raymond Massey? :wink: