June 17, 2005

Lorna Thayer died earlier this month. The name probably isn't familiar; she was a character actress who worked in movies for more than 40 years without ever coming close to fame or stardom. But she will be remembered for one great moment: She played the waitress in the chicken salad scene in Five Easy Pieces.

That scene has been included in as many tribute nights and highlight reels as any scene of its era, and I'd wager that Lorna Thayer's name wasn't mentioned at any of them. She seems to have never been bitter about the lack of recognition; her daughter says, "She told me, 'There is no competition in true art, only contributions.' "

We read so much about the Movie Stars that it's easy to forget that there are a lot more Lorna Thayers in Hollywood than there are Brad Pitts, actors who scrape by from one small part to the next, doing the best work they can in parts that don't offer much opportunity for creativity. ("Oh, just think what I can bring to the role of Barfly #3!")

I'm glad to be reminded every now and then to pay attention to the actors in the background, and I hope next time it won't take a death to remind me.

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