Eight Great Actors From the Merrimack Valley
While we wait patiently for the nightly news to tell us something good, our families continue to make an effort to keep busy. Last week we provided a special all-cinema edition of Eight Great, and this week we’re going one step further (because it’s hard to select only eight wonderful films). If you’re thirsty for more entertainment this weekend (or distractions to simply put your mind at ease), we’ve put together an edition featuring Eight Great Merrimack Valley-born actors who have gone on to find success in Hollywood. Get the family ready for another movie night …
Steve Carrell (Concord, Mass.) — One of the great entertainers of our generation was born and raised right in Concord, Mass. Carrell attended The Fenn School and Middlesex School before attending college and launching his versatile acting career. Although known for his iconic comedy roles — as Michael Scott in NBC’s “The Office,” Andy Stitzer in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (2005), Dan Burns in “Dan in Real Life” (2007) and Brick Tamland in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (2004) — his dramatic roles show Carrell at his best. Films such as “Foxcatcher” (2014) and “Beautiful Boy” (2018) are gripping and heart-wrenching pieces. My personal recommendation is “The Way Way Back” (2013). It’s a coming-of-age film with Carrell playing the hostile stepfather to a teenager named Duncan, as they vacation in the Cape (to make this more local, this movie was also filmed in Marshfield). It was my first introduction to Carrell in a serious role, and I am moved by his performance during every re-watch.
Mike O’Malley (Nashua, N.H.) — This Nashua native — who attended Nashua’s Bishop Guertin High School, and the University of New Hampshire — has made his mark in both television and film. He appeared in “Eat Pray Love” (2010) starring Julia Roberts, the 2013 action-comedy “R.I.P.D” with Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges, and the 2016 biopic “Sully” starring Tom Hanks. O’Malley also starred in the hit television series “Glee” as Kurt’s dad, Burt, a role which earned him an Emmy nomination in 2010.
Bette Davis (Lowell, Mass.) — In stressful times like these, a little female empowerment goes a long way. For that, Bette Davis is your leading lady. One of the most iconic actresses from Hollywood’s Golden era was born right in Lowell. Bette Davis’ acting career began at the young age of 21 when she appeared on Broadway, and she went on to frequently “portray many other strong-willed, even unlikable, women who defied society’s rules.” While Davis has a large, successful filmography, she is best known for her roles in the 1935 film “Dangerous” and 1938’s “Jezebel,” for which both films earned Davis an Academy Award for Best Actress. Other notable films include 1937’s “The Petrified Forest” which she starred alongside Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart and 1950’s show-business drama “All About Eve.”
For those looking for an entertaining, witty comedy to lighten their spirits during quarantine, “Blockers” is my recommendation. The film centers around three teenage friends who make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. When their parents, played Cena, Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz, discover this plan, they go to extreme (and hilarious) lengths to stop them. The film balances coming-of-age themes of acceptance, maturity and family with the perfect amount of comedy. A fair warning: it’s a family film, but only if your kids are high school juniors or above.
James Spader (North Andover, Mass.) — This Boston-born actor grew up in North Andover, and attended Phillips Academy before dropping out to work small jobs while pursuing his acting career. He began with supporting roles in hit films such as “Pretty in Pink” (1986), and “Less Than Zero” (1987) alongside Robert Downey Jr. and Andrew McCarthy, but he recently played the menacing villain, Ultron, in 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Spader has been extremely successful on the small screen, known for his lead role as Raymond Reddington on “The Blacklist” and Alan Shore on “Boston Legal” alongside William Shatner.