Field Guide to the North American Baldwin Brothers
They’re unlikely fat heroes – each ballooning nicely in their old age (even Stephen), crabbylicious and strike terror into the heart of any shaving instrument. All born in New York State – Alec in the applicable Amityville – Daniel, Billy and Stephen in Massapequa. Best known for their truculent personalities, dulcet speaking voices and Robin Williams-esque hairiness. Actually on the hairiness scale the Baldwins are a notch away from Williams. They don’t say hairy as a Baldwin for nothing.
In the order in which I like them
Daniel, the second eldest (despite looking older than the rest), is my favorite Baldwin. Like most rabid Team Daniel members I came to know of #2 through his stellar work on Homicide: Life on the Street as Det. Beau Felton. Probably better known as “the fat Baldwin”. (Can’t say that anymore, since they’re all chunkerbutts! Yes, Virginia, even the younger two!) He’s my kind of cute: beefy, a little rough around the edges, but possessing a vulnerability detectable when they aren’t flying into an unprovoked rage. It’s been a long time since his glory days on H:LOTS and lately it appears he to be wrestling Tom Sizemore for the title of “Sublimely Talented Actor Most Likely to Squander Their Gift Chasing the Bottom of the Bottle/Weed Bag”. Apparently, where ever this dude is gathered there is also a fifth. But things are turning around in the most Bonnie Tyler of ways as he is currently a series regular on Cold Case. You know, the show you watch when all the CSIs/Law & Orders/Bones episodes are ones you’ve already seen. I saw him once in Santa Monica during the height of H:LOTS. I didn’t feel like getting cussed out that day so I opted not to say hello, scurrying past him before he noticed and hurled something at me.
In the beginning there was a gorgeous dude with the name Americans defiantly refused to pronounce properly. His name was Alec Baldwin and he pwned the patent on sultry, cheeky bastards as seen in She’s Having a Baby, virtually wrestling the focus away from its star Kevin Bacon. Of all his film roles my favorites include: The Narrator in The Royal Tanenbaums (nobody says “preternatural” like Alec), The Hunt For Red October and Glengarry Glen Ross. Alec “Coffee is for Closers” Baldwin was the absolute best Jack Ryan and oddly enough the best thing to happen to Harrison Ford’s career. Many high profile roles such as the sequels to Red October and splashy update of The Fugitive fell into Ford’s lap when Baldwin turned them down. Probably a smart move, as there wasn’t enough room for him and Tommy Lee Jones’s Texas sized ego. Of course there were missteps – basically anything where he co-starred with his then wife Kim Bassinger (with the exception of their hilarious guest appearance in The Simpsons episode “When You Dish Upon a Star”). Then there is his infamous “temper”. Nobody seems to do foul mouthed ass clownitude like a Baldwin. Often he is in fact the biggest ass clown at the rodeo. Maybe being conventionally hot all those years was too much for him. As he’s bloviated he’s gotten less polite, while still being quite the actor. Fat, thin, mean, not as mean (no such thing as a “nice Baldwin”) he’s one of our best. And only Sutherland the father and James Earl Jones can rival that voice. He’s co-hosting the Oscars with Steve Martin this year and no doubt it’ll be worth watching, if only to see how long he can go without verbally smacking someone down.
It’s really like comparing airline food to hospital food as far as the baby Baldwins are concerned. I don’t think I have ever intentionally watched a Billy Baldwin film unless under duress. I keep meaning to watch Backdraft, but the trifecta of Billy, Liotta and Russell have scared me away. Ray Liotta is a fine actor with scary windex blue eyes that gave me nightmares when I stayed up late one night watching some crapfest where he terrorized Madeline Stowe. As for Russell, I just don’t care for him, but have tolerated a few of his works. Back to Billy, as the “cute” Baldwin he had quite the run in the mid to late 90s before the Baldwin bloat caught up to him and people realized it’s better to go with the original than a copy.
Who ever heard of a blond Baldwin? That’s like a blond Batman, which does not compute. That said, by the time the talent gods got around to this one the bag was nearly empty! Fortunately, he hasn’t acted much – or at least I haven’t found myself strapped to a chair and forced to watch his acting efforts. I’ve seen two of his films: The Usual Suspects and Threesome. Actually, I am more familiar, thus more fond of Blond Baldwin the person – prior to his Evangelical transformation – as a regular at the Starbucks where I worked in Brentwood, CA. He ordered a grande red eye, was extremely pleasant (to me, anyway) and always tipped five bucks.