Wednesday, 21 June 2017


My obit of Stephen Furst, immortalised as Flounder in Animal House, is up on the Guardian online. You can link to it here. It should be in the paper paper sometime in the next few months.

If you believe, as I do, that most of life's situations can be explained or solved or at least papered over by quotes from Animal House, Kent Dorfman becomes a central existential figure. I was pleased that the G left in my quotes of Flounder's dialogue, especially 'You can't spend your whole life worrying about your mistakes. You fucked up. You trusted us'.

Three of my favourite, less famous, Flounder moments are: when we see him and his roommate, Larry Kroger (Pinto), in Donald Sutherland's English class. Flounder appears to be taking notes: the camera looks over his shoulder and he's drawing jet fighters blasting away, like a little kid in school.  Then's there the time Flounder walks in on a card game, sidles up to the table, and asks 'you guys playing cards?'. And finally that tremendous reveal when we see his high school sweetheart who has come up for a visit, and she is lovely. It forces us to look at Kent Dorfman in a whole new way.

Otherwise, as I say, it was interesting that Furst recapitulated Flounder over and over, but also used parts of that character in his most successful roles. He rarely was given the chance to branch out, however, into villainy, which I think would have been interesting. There's a comparison to be made to Wayne Knight, who played Newman in Seinfeld after playing Numa in JFK.

Furst acted in, wrote, directed and produced an awful lot of films that were derivative from other movies. He must have had a good idea of what could sell, especially as a TV movie, and he was probably, as an actor, just big enough for roles in those B pictures and TV movies. But as I say in the piece, there were some interesting exceptions. And I have to say I've never seen Atomic Shark, though I think I might have to now.

As often happens, my closing was edited out of the piece. Here is the last graf as I wrote it. I think Mohammad, Jugdish, Sidney, Clayton and Lonny would have liked it.
Furst died at home in Moorpark, California, of complications from his diabetes. He is survived by his wife and sons. As tributes poured in, one actor posted the video of Flounder, in his undercover agent raincoat, watching the chaos Delta House and his marbles inflict on the college's annual parade. Furst's smile fills the screen. 'Boy is this great,' he chortles.

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