Rodney Dangerfield is undoubtedly among the most iconic comedians of his generation, known for his unique brand of comedy that has influenced many great pioneers. Over the course of his career, Dangerfield landed roles in many films as well but his collaboration with Stanley Kubrick remains almost unknown to many.
Alongside his career in stand-up comedy, Dangerfield was also active in the film industry by playing bit parts. Later in his life, he got more iconic roles such as his involvement in the iconic comedy classic Caddyshack as well as his serious dramatic work in Oliver Stone’s 1994 cult film Natural Born Killers which was based on a story by Quentin Tarantino.
However, Dangerfield’s entry into the world of cinema was marked by a very fleeting and uncredited role in Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking interpretation of the film noir genre: The Killing. This early gem by Kubrick gave the world a glimpse of what the great auteur would go on to achieve and set the standard for future heist films.
Featuring cross-cutting timelines and non-linear narratives, The Killing does not get mentioned nearly as much as some of his other works like 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Shining but it has its own place in film history. For one, The Killing is one of the reasons why the use of clown masks in crime and horror films has become a recurring trope in modern films.
Structured as a meticulous heist film, The Killing revolves around an unprecedented robbery of the betting centre at a local racetrack. Incorporating the gripping elements of the heist genre and the stylisations of film noir, The Killing becomes a beautifully unusual cinematic experience when viewed through the unapologetically unoriginal lens of Kubrick.
At the time of making the film, Kubrick was only in his late 20s but many of his colleagues confirmed that he had the assurance of a visionary. “Stanley was an introverted person,” co-star Marie Windsor said while describing Kubrick’s demeanour. “He was very quiet and while on the set I never heard him yell at the crew or anybody”.
“When he had some idea for me to do or change, he would wiggle his finger and we would go away from the action and he would tell me what he wanted or didn’t want,” she added. “One time when I was sitting on the bed reading a magazine, he came up and said, ‘I want you to move your eyes when you’re reading.’ He was only in his 20s but you just had a sense of his having pure confidence in himself.”
If you have already watched The Killing and did not catch Dangerfield’s appearance in the film, I don’t blame you. He can only be seen in one shot when a fight breaks out at the racetrack’s bar in order to distract all the guards for the heist to take place. As Dangerfield would say himself, he “didn’t get no respect” in such a part but it makes for some fascinating film trivia.
Watch Rodney Dangerfield in The Killing below.