The Universe of Discourse


Sat, 13 Feb 2021

Paul L. Smith as Bluto

Yesterday I wondered who Robert Altman had cast as Bluto in his 1980 live-action film Popeye. The answer turned out to be Paul L. Smith, who seemingly was born to play the part:

Paul L. Smith
is a heavyset, slightly overwight man with a thick, curly black beard
and mustache.  In this (grayscale) picture his shirt, which appears to
be velour, is open at the neck, dispolaying a necklace with a large
star resting among a profusion of curly black chest hair.  He is
wearing a battered leather hat with a wife brim, and is looking
sidelong at the camera, with a smile of amusement.

I have thought for years about how Shelley Duval was seemingly born to play the part of Olive Oyl. (I remember the Mad magazine parody making this observation at the time, and it wasn't funny because it was so obvious.) I have somtimes wondered if Altman got the idea to make a Popeye movie specifically so that he could cast Duval as Olive Oyl.

Anyway, Paul L. Smith, who already looked like Bluto. He was in a fair number of TV productions in the 70s and 80s, and I think it's possible that I saw him in one or another one. But the only other role of his that I remember clearly is from David Lynch's 1984 Dune. He plays Glossu “the Beast” Rabban. Who in many ways is not that different from Bluto: Large, violent, dangerous for his brutality but not his cunning.

Obviously the Baron wanted to cast Feyd-Rautha as Popeye, but events got away from him and Paul became Popeye instead. In a Dune-Popeye crossover I can see Alia as Swee'Pea. That means that Chani has to be Olive, which I can live with.

The correspondence isn't perfect, of course. There is nobody in Popeye like Lady Jessica or Stilgar. (Leto is obviously Poopdeck Pappy.) On the other side, where is J. Wellington Wimpy? It's been a while since I read the book, but I don't remember hom appearing. Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam is clearly the Sea Hag.

Me spinach musk flow! If ya controlsk the spinach, ya controlsk the uni-voice! Ag-ag-ag-ag-ag!


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