Wilford Brimley passed away on Saturday, and I think we should remember this great actor who was only ever in good movies and even better commercials, as far as I’m aware.
I’m actually going to go back and watch some of these movies and commercials.
Probably his most iconic role was in Cocoon (1985), where he played an old man who was given a cure for eternal life by aliens.
Relatively low budget, even for the 80s, it had a fascinating story that made it one of the best science fiction movies of 1985, which was a year of good science fiction movies. Back to the Future and Brazil would beat it as the best scifi movies of that year, but I think it is better than Mad Max 3, Lifeforce, Explorers and Enemy Mine.
I will post the first paragraph of the plot description from Wikipedia, to give you an idea of the story without spoiling it:
About 10,000 years ago, peaceful aliens from the planet Antarea set up an outpost on Earth on Atlantis. When Atlantis sank, twenty aliens were left behind, kept alive in large rock-like cocoons at the bottom of the ocean. Now, a group of Antareans have returned to collect them. Disguising themselves as humans, they rent a house with a swimming pool and charge the water with “life force” to give the cocooned Antareans energy to survive the trip home. They charter a boat from a local captain named Jack, who helps them retrieve the cocoons. Jack spies on Kitty, a beautiful woman from the team who chartered his boat, while she undresses in her cabin, and discovers that she is an alien. After the aliens reveal themselves to him and explain what’s going on, he decides to help them.
The film would have been much lesser of a film if it were not for Wilford.
Good job, Wilford.
Before that, Brimley starred in John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of The Thing, which was one of the best scifi movies of that year as well.
It was peak John Carpenter, being able to flesh itself out properly on the standard low budget of his 80s films. While it’s not as close to my heart as They Live (because They Live is about the Jews), it is among the top 3 John Carpenter films. The soundtrack was not done by John Carpenter alone, but as a cooperative project with the famed Ennio Morricone.
The film is about an alien found at an Antarctic research base that is capable of taking the form of a human, and Brimley plays this alien for the better part of the film, having been the first to have his body snatched.
Highly recommended, and great job, Wilford.
Wilford is also very well known for his role in 1984’s The Natural. I haven’t seen this movie, because I only watch science fiction movies and commercials. I might make an exception now that I am in a state of mourning for Wilford.
In the same year as Cocoon, Brimley starred in “Murder in Space,” which was one of the most underrated films of 1985.
This entire film is available on YouTube, for free.
It’s a murder mystery in space. Someone on a spaceship is killed, and you, the viewer, have to figure out who did it. Brimley plays a space traffic controller who is in communication with the crew of the ship as they try to solve the murder.
Brimley stars alongside (though does not share screentime with, due to the locations of the two characters) the famed science fiction favorite Michael Ironside, known for his roles in such favorites as Scanners, Total Recall and Starship Troopers.
The year 1985 was a big year for Wilford, and he also starred very importantly in the underrated Star Wars made-for-TV spin-off film Ewoks: The Battle for Endor.
I will tell it to you true, reader: when I was a child, I had all of the Star Wars movies on video cassette tape, and I did not recognize a difference between the core trilogy and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. In my view, it is just as good as either the first or third films in the original trilogy, surpassed only by The Empire Strikes Back.
It is much better than any of the six newer films, as it is an actually interesting adventure story, which contains a solid plot, good characters, wonderful costumes, and amazing practical effects, including some serious claymation.
Unfortunately, the whole film is not available on YouTube for free, but an epic fight scene between Brimley and the bad guy is.
Highly recommended. Great job, Wilford.
Another notable appearance of our good friend Wilford was in the 1993 Jean-Claude Van Damme film Hard Target. In this movie, he used a long bow.
I was amazed the first time I saw him use that longbow, and I must say that he did a really great job.
Despite the magic of his many beautiful films, the thing that the internet will most remember Brimley for, however, is his role in television commercials.
First, he found renown advertising Quaker Oats.
I’m an especially big fan of this one, where he tells lazy young people what to do with pennies and nickels.
These ads brought much joy to children and adults alike.
Most memorably, he did did commercials for Liberty Medical, where he talked about his “Diabeetus.”
This became one of the original “epic memes” of the internet.
Many people had a really good and happy time with these memes, as Wilford did a great job bringing joy to the internet.
The meme became an iconic “OBEY” style sticker.
There were many popular t-shirts.
Several people got the tattoo.
Perhaps most famously, there is a cat that looks like him, which also has Diabeetus.
Wilford Brimley was born in Salt Lake City, and was a devout Mormon his entire life. He served in the Marine Corps, stationed in the Aleutian Islands. He worked as a farmer and a rodeo rider, before working as a bodyguard for Howard Hughes. He began his career in showbiz shoeing horses for films and TV Westerns.
RIP Wilford Brimley.