Helton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour

Percy Helton IRS Commissioner John Koskinen turned in a memorable performance before the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday morning. I wrote about it here.

Koskinen looks like he was sent by central casting to front for the Democrats in the IRS scandals. Indeed, he reminds me of the character actor Percy Helton, whom you would have seen in dozens of movies and television shows if you are anywhere near my age; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was the last of the many films in which he appeared. I’ve inserted the photo of Helton above to help you bring him to mind.

Were he alive, Helton could in any event play Koskinen without much effort. As this site puts it:

Generally Helton was cast as the superficially friendly but smarmy undertaker/janitor/clerk and so on, who smiled in your face but had larceny or something worse in his heart and would sell out his own mother for a nickle. The word that first comes to mind when thinking of Helton’s portrayals is “weasel.”

Koskinen could undoubtedly pursue a lucrative career in Hollywood if things don’t work out for him at the IRS. Helton’s career attests to the fact that there is a lot of work in Hollywood for a character actor to fill that niche.

The site’s write-up on Helton continues:

Perhaps his most famous appearance was in the film Kiss Me Deadly, in which he squeals in agony when anti-hero Ralph Meeker sadistically crushes his fingers in a desk drawer. Helton was always very adept in his roles, but he was so unique [sic] in his way that he really wasn’t the kind of expert character actor who could lose himself in a characterization — he always seemed to be playing a variation of Percy Helton. In spite of this he was a very busy actor throughout the 50′s, 60′s and for many years afterward. My mother once said that if Don Knotts made her stomach turn, Percy Helton made her flesh crawl. Helton, who radiated a quietly sinister quality that served him well on such series as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, was decidedly one of a kind. One of his best roles was in Wicked Woman with Beverly Michaels.

In a stroke of good luck, YouTube has the clip below from Wicked Woman (it’s posted here with a slightly facetious summary). Helton doesn’t show up until about 3:00 minutes into the clip, but his appearance is worth waiting for.

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