An Appreciation of…Kathy Bates (1948 – present)

There is something about some actors that is just endearing – they feel more than just performers – they feel like family. To me, there is no actor working today that comes across more likeable and homely like Kathy Bates. To me, Kathy remains one of the greatest actresses to ever live, and is comparable to Meryl Streep, Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis and Marlene Dietrich in the vast depths of her talents.

Bates is one of those rare performers who can do comedy and drama equally brilliantly. Her most dramatic roles always entail her giving her usual homely, sarcastic wit, and her most comedic performances are always characters who are just slightly twisted or sinister. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Bates has always been the character actress as opposed to the glamorous starlet many great actresses are. This doesn’t make her any less iconic or her performances any less indelible.

Bates has used her talents to her advantage, popping up in everything from lead roles to small cameos. What makes her able to have such range is the fact that she is able to command a scene, no matter how big or small or part is. Her delivery, expressions and just presence is one of the most powerful in all of Hollywood, and one that she has so intelligently used to make her one of the most iconic actresses of all time.

Here are five essential Kathy Bates performances:

  1. Misery (1990). There is absolutely no other film that shows the pure fireball of talent that is Kathy Bates quite like this darkly comical horror. She is so damn terrifying and sinister, but on the same time so brilliantly enticing. You start to envy Paul Sheldon’s efforts to escape, because I think spending half an hour with this psychotic woman would be so interesting. Annie Wilkes is one of the most incredibly scary villains in pop culture history, and that is in most part due to Bates’ brilliant interpretation of the character.
  2. About Schmidt (2002). The other side of Kathy Bates is the one we all know and love the most – the quirky, hilarious older woman who says whatever and does whatever she wants. The best example of this is About Schmidt, where she has a small role, and with many other actresses, the character would be a throwaway, unmemorable bit part. However, under Bates, Roberta is a hilarious, unforgettable performance, and one of the main reasons Kathy is the go-to actress for roles that require an actress with a unique blend of sincerity and insanity.
  3. Titanic (1997). I have my own issues with Titanic, but Bates’ small performance made it a lot more tolerable. Not much can be said about it, other than the fact that she really did a great job with such a small part and was one of the standouts amongst a large ensemble. In the Leonardo DiCaprio/Kate Winslet reunion film over a decade later, Revolutionary Road, Bates once again gave a great supporting performance.
  4. American Horror Story: Coven (2013-2014). This is a little bit of a cheat, as it is technically a TV series. However, I feel a performance is a performance, and Bates really gave one of her best here. The show was able to make the iconic Jessica Lange not only relevant again, but even more of a legend. I feel like it also helped Bates, who has had so much experience with television, but none quite like American Horror Story: Coven. Playing the real-life terror Delphine LaLaurie, Bates is able to be deliciously terrifying, darkly hilarious and pure, unadulterated evil.
  5. Midnight in Paris (2011). Bates did not have a big role here, but she had a really good one. Playing Gertrude Stein, Bates shows how she can bring life to even the smallest roles. She has less than five minutes of screentime, but she is certainly a great part of the film’s ensemble.

Overall, I adore Kathy Bates. She is quirky, adorable but most of all a really good actress that will go down in history as one of the greatest to ever live. She is now in one of the best stages of her career, and I can only hope she will continue to entertain for years to come.

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