© 2024. Randolph Hub. All Rights Reserved.


Alan Arkin as a Manhattan dentist in “The In-Laws,” a hilarious comedy from 1979. 

Mr. Movie: Alan Arkin

Alan Arkin died recently at 89. He was a true Renaissance man and his movie credits are long and noteworthy. He was nominated for Oscar four times and won once.


His first important part in a significant film was in the heart-breaking The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (1968). Updated to the ’60s from Carson McCullers’ great novel, it is the story of people who are damaged in various ways trying to connect and make a life. Arkin plays Singer, a deaf mute. His only friend is mentally challenged Sprios, who gets committed to an institution. Singer moves into the Kelly household to be near his friend, and tries to make friends with their teen-age daughter Mick. Arkin’s performance is just stunning. He was nominated for Oscar but lost to Cliff Robertson, who won for Charly.


Arkin has the starring role as Yossarian in Catch-22 (1970), adapted by Mike Nichols and Buck Henry from Joseph Heller’s dark comedy about World War II. The adaptation was a herculean task because there are so many characters and so many stories. On the whole, I think it succeeds and Arkin is in good company with Bob Balaban, Martin Balsam, Richard Benjamin, Art Garfunkel, Bob Newhart and even Orson Welles. Catch-22 has become a modern idiom for can’t win situations.


Little Murders (1971) is a difficult film from a difficult book by Jules Feiffer. Alan Arkin directed this film and appears in a minor role as Lieutenant Practice. It chronicles life, and death, in NYC where people try to live and seem to get dead for no apparent reason. Elliott Gould is featured as a man who apparently can’t feel pain — or pleasure. This film is not to casually dip into, but worth the trouble if you stay with it.


Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1972), adapted from Neil Simon’s Broadway hit, stars Alan Arkin as a stumbling middle-aged husband trying in vain to have an affair. It’s not a great play, or movie, but has some laughs and Arkin is good as a guy who just does not get it (pun intended!)


The In-Laws (1979) stars Arkin (as Shelly) and Peter Falk (CIA man Vince Ricardo) as fathers of a bride and groom-to-be. The plot is the classic innocent man getting involved in shenanigans as Vince ropes the helpless Shelly into increasingly bizarre and dangerous situations. Shelly tries in vain to convince his daughter not to marry into this questionable family. You can find out if he was right!


All of the movies in this article are available on DVD. All are really for grown-ups. And, oh yes, there are lots more Arkin movies. Stay tuned.