Let’s be honest, y’all. When you think of Clue, the first thing that comes to mind is Madeline Kahn talking about the flames on the side of her face. Don’t you worry: we’re gonna talk about it. But first, let’s talk about the wonder and the glory of Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White. Take a deep breath (or a heaving breath, if you prefer) and picture her with me.
Madeline Kahn is one of my favorite comedic actors ever. She can handle so many flavors of humor, and she finds the right blend of kookiness and sincerity. She brings hilarious physicality to her roles – the lady can crack me up with the twitch of an eyebrow. Madeline Kahn never forces a laugh; she has so much ownership of her work that she can let her audiences come to her.
As Mrs. White, I appreciate the cool sophistication of the character. She’s trying so hard to keep it together through the chaos of the film’s events, but you see little bursts of crazy bubbling behind her eyes. Occasionally the crazy comes through – her voice quavers as she describes her ex-husbands, she throws a glass into the fireplace over a “simple yes or no”. These moments are little appetizers to prepare us for the delicious comedy entree Ms. Kahn serves us later in the film.
Then there’s the “flames on the side of my face” moment. According to interviews from the rest of the cast, the line was supposed to be “I hated her so much that I wanted to kill her.” But instead, Madeline Kahn ad-libbed three or four different versions of a “fugue of anger” about her reasons for killing Yvette. The version that made it into the movie is a moment of brilliance of glory. She searches for the words, her fingers grasp at invisible flames, her costars stare in disbelief. The moment embraces what makes Clue such a great movie: we love those moments were the zaniness finally breaks through. A delightful performance in an equally delightful film.
More About Kelsey Celek
- Favorite Movie – The American President. I’ve watched it so many times I can recite the entire thing from memory. I still cheer every time Michael Douglas announces “I AM the President!”
- First Clue Experience – A friend gave it to me for my birthday and assured me I “wasn’t a complete person” until I’d seen it. Turns out he was right.
- Where and With What Would You Kill Mr. Body? – In the library…with a Slinky!
- Most-Anticipated Movie? – Sisters. I’m giggling just thinking about it.
- Give an Oscar to a Nominated Performance That Didn’t Win – Amy Adams for American Hustle.
More of Ensemble Flashback!: