Today’s Favorite: “The Help”

I’m working on a scene that involves a powerful character’s lowly, world-weary servant. He’s basically a custodian. And that has me thinking about memorable custodians, service people, bank tellers, bellhops, bouncers (etc) who are not major characters but who still make an impression in their one fleeting scene.

I think of the woman who endures Steve Martin’s request for a @#$%ing car in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I can remember her expression very clearly.

Or Steve Buscemi, the first time I ever saw him, as Chet, the hotel check-in guy in Barton Fink.

I’m tempted to mention some Gosford Park character, but there are no minor characters in Gosford Park, even among “the help.”


Who’s your favorite big screen janitor, or cashier, or guard… someone who only appears for a scene or two playing what is probably a minimum-wage character, and somehow makes an impression?

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  • The Impressive Clergyman from “The Princess Bride”

  • The janitor from “the Breakfast Club” was pretty cool.

  • volck

    Buck Henry as the Hotel Clerk in The Graduate.

    “Are you here for an affair?”

  • yankeh

    I just read a very short creative non-fiction piece by David James Duncan called “Rose Vegetables” that has a character like this and deals specifically with the issue of minor characters/heroes.

    Whether or not it is what you’re looking for, it is well worth the read and it’s only 3 pages.

    You can read it here:,M1

  • bryanrust

    At the Memphis hotel in Mystery Train (by Jim Jarmusch), Screamin’ Jay Hawkins is far and away the coolest front desk clerk of all time. He also makes an unlikely comic foil for the bellhop, played by Cinque Lee (Spike Lee’s brother).

  • Paul Giamatti as a bellhop in My Best Friend’s Wedding. One short scene, very endearing.

  • nate111

    S.Z. Sakall as the bartender in Casablanca and the butler in The Devil and Miss Jones. I could never tire of watching him and his characters.