characters: ALICE DRUMMOND

As a tribute to the often unsung heroes of filmdom, I’ve concocted a series to honor the best friends, the mothers-in-law, the psychiatrists, and the curmudgeonly teachers of the world — character actors. First off is the adorable, motherly, and heartwarming…

Alice Drummond


She’s made a career out of playing the kindly grandmother/great aunt type throughout the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s, and nobody can do it better. From her breakout (and still most memorable performance to this day) in Ghostbusters as the librarian who gets more than she bargains before in between the stacks, to Sister Veronica, the elderly matriarch of the nuns of St. Nicholas in Doubt.

I may have to refer back to her early work in the television series Dark Shadows to see if she ever played a non-“sweet ol’ lady” type. But instead, I’ll revel in her work over the past 30 years. She was easily the most enjoyable part of 1990’s Awakenings and virtually stole the show from heavyweights Robert de Niro and Robin Williams. No easy feat, particularly for a 61-year-old character actress. And then there was the sweet-natured Clara, the nurturing small-town sweet ol’ lady in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. Nothing can quite top Ms. Drummond declaring, “I’m a drag queen!” at the climax of the film.

And the 2000s have been good to Drummond as well. She landed plumb roles in both Doubt and 2003’s Pieces of April as the senile but inadvertently insightful Grandma Dottie. At 80 years old, Drummond looks as if she doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon. So hopefully we’ll get several more chances to see her steal scenes well into the next decade.
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