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The TBTS Movie Character Hall of Fame: Evelle Snoats

May 8, 2011
Forsythe, right, with John Goodman

Forsythe, right, with John Goodman

Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re very honored you could join us today; for today, we induct the first member into a very prestigious Hall of Fame: the TBTS Movie Character Hall of Fame. There are many movies, with many characters. Sometimes a movie has more than one character (it’s true!), and sometimes a movie may not have any characters. The latter are generally unsuccessful, while the former continue to thrill us in our “movie chairs.”

It’s a rather fitting day to induct today’s TBTSMCHOF honoree, today being Mother’s Day. That’s because William Forsythe’s Evelle Snoats, from the Coen Bros. film Raising Arizona, takes a bit of a maternal role as the younger of the two villainous ex-con Snoats brothers (his brother, Gale, is played by John Goodman, and both are lacquered down with pomade). As side characters, the Snoats brothers are integral to the plot of the film, stealing away already-stolen quintuplet Nathan Jr. from Nic Cage’s H.I. McDunnough and leading him desertward to a ghost town which will host the film’s final battle.

“Mighty fine cereal flakes, Ms. McDunnough.”

The Coen Brothers have always had an interesting knack for turning an actor against type, but rarely are they as successful (and surprising) than with the casting of William Forsythe, who at the time only had minor roles and guest spots on 80’s TV programs like T.J. Hooker and Hill Street Blues under his belt. Since Raising Arizona, he’s gone on to play literally dozens of detectives, biker gang members and imprisoned convicts, but his legacy among film buffs will undoubtedly be his scene-stealing Evelle Snoats.

As a character, Evelle is a foil to a foil to a foil, being a complement to the more powerful Gale, who himself is an antagonist of McDunnough, but Evelle’s weasly demeanor denotes a deeper innocence few of the characters in the movie seem to have. Holly Hunter’s Ed wants a child because she feels her maternal clock ticking, H.I. wants a child to please Ed, Dot and Glen (Sam McMurray and Frances McDormant) want a child just to have another, tracker Leonard Smalls wants the child in question for the bounty he provides and Gale wants the same child for blackmail purposes. In all this commotion, one of the only characters who seems to emerge as a ready-made parent with a natural instinct for motherhood is Evelle. While the ill-gotten newborn baby is used as bargaining chips for so many of the characters in the movie, it’s Evelle who ends up protecting and caring for the child for roughly the last third of the film. It’s not clear what happens to the Snoats (a dream sequence sees them returning to prison), but neither Evelle nor Gale escape the film untransformed by the charms of an infant. And as Evelle Snoats, William Forsythe is a showstopper.

TBTS salutes you, Evelle Snoats! Happy Mother’s Day to you, sir! And welcome to the TBTS Movie Character Hall of Fame.

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