‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ Star Michael Constantine Captured the Dignity of Immigrant Fathers

Michael Constantine had already received his Emmy greater than three a long time earlier than he performed Kostas “Gus” Portokalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. From the second the precedent-smashing blockbuster debuted, nonetheless, the veteran actor would discover himself autographing one merchandise again and again.

Constantine died of pure causes in his Studying, Pennsylvania house on August 31, The New York Occasions reported Wednesday. The obituary features a quote from an interview Constantine gave his native newspaper, The Studying Eagle, in 2014: “I can’t let you know what number of occasions I’ve autographed a Windex bottle.”

No actor whose work spans greater than 60 years may be lowered to 1 film. However for a technology of viewers, Michael Constantine and his My Large Fats Greek Marriage ceremony character will nonetheless perpetually be synonymous—and for good motive. The film may need been marketed as a romantic comedy, however Constantine and Lainie Kazan provide the actual emotional depth as lovebird Toula’s dad and mom, who wrestle to course of her option to marry outdoors of the native Greek neighborhood.

Gus is a person of a sure age, from what Constantine as soon as described as “a sure form of background,” per his Occasions obituary. He may simply have change into a Windex-toting, closely accented caricature within the improper actor’s palms, a misogynistic mash-up of all of the outdated stereotypes about backwards immigrant fathers. As a substitute, Constantine grounded his satire within the character’s dignity—and highlighted the diploma to which his curmudgeonly nature grew out of his deepest anxieties.

Constantine’s dad and mom had been Greek immigrants, which is likely to be why his efficiency feels so loving at the same time as he places on an accent. His profession started on Broadway in 1955’s Inherit the Wind, and in 1959 he made his display debut within the Mickey Rooney drama The Final Mile. After a long time of movie and predominantly TV work as a personality actor, Constantine received an Emmy for his efficiency as Principal Seymour Kaufman in Room 222. He would obtain his second nomination a yr later. All through his profession Constantine would seem on plenty of common applications, together with The Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke, The Love Boat, and Legislation & Order (twice).

Gus Portokalos, nonetheless, was one in every of a form—a person who coated his Chicago entrance garden with Greek statues and painted the flag on his storage door, all whereas daring anybody who would take heed to “Give me a phrase, any phrase!” in order that he may show that the root of that phrase is Greek.

That oversized satisfaction, nonetheless, belies the quieter worries Constantine brings to life. He covers his furnishings in plastic as a result of he’s afraid that point will soil it, and he doesn’t need his daughter to marry a Protestant “xeno” as a result of he’s fearful of how time will equally erode his household’s traditions. At first, Gus’s bluster is pure comedy—however because the movie unfolds, we see why his dignity is an act of quiet defiance.

Think about, for example, when Gus and Maria meet the dad and mom of their daughter’s fiancé, Ian Miller. WASPs within the excessive, Rodney and Harriet gawk at nearly everybody and all the things. Ultimately they get drunk on ouzo and nauseously flip down the scrumptious wanting lamb that’s been roasting on a spit all day. After the occasion, Toula overhears her father’s anger.

“We had been all good to them, you see it,” Gus tells Maria. “And so they take a look at us like we’re from the zoo!”

Rising up, I used to be obsessive about My Large Fats Greek Marriage ceremony. It wasn’t simply that the movie occurred to be a couple of lady with curly brown hair and a large inferiority advanced—a wrestle to which I, an insecure center schooler who had not found out methods to remodel my frizz into curls, may definitely relate. Toula’s household felt extra actual to me than any I’d seen in a movie earlier than, and My Large Fats Greek Marriage ceremony’s best power is highlighting the way in which everybody they work together with—from impatient neighbors to Ian’s stuffy dad and mom—appears so judgmental and incurious.

By exploring Toula’s background so totally, My Large Fats Greek Marriage ceremony offers context to her insecurities. The “makeover” that transforms Toula from a depressed, dowdy waitress at her father’s restaurant right into a zesty journey agent shouldn’t be merely exterior. Positive, there’s a montage of her fidgeting with hair curlers and studying methods to apply contact lenses, however we additionally see Toula course of her emotions of otherness. Haunted by the reminiscence of being remoted within the cafeteria whereas consuming moussaka, she brings Surprise Bread sandwiches to eat together with her grownup classmates on the Studying Annex. In the long run, nonetheless, she marries a person whose consolation round her household permits her to completely embrace her id. She may need married the human equal of white bread, however their daughter continues to be going to Greek college!

“And in the long run, there her father is, overcoming his discomfort across the Millers by giving a speech that binds the households linguistically.”

And in the long run, there her father is, overcoming his discomfort across the Millers by giving a speech that binds the households linguistically. Portokalos, he says, comes from the Greek phrase for “orange.” And Miller? That comes from the Greek phrase for apple. (A minimum of in accordance with Gus.)

“So, in the long run,” he says, “we’re all fruit.”

Sure, My Large Fats Greek Marriage ceremony is a romantic comedy. However Michael Constantine was its emotional fulcrum. It’s his ache and feeling of rejection that provides the movie actual stakes at first, and his potential to course of these emotions impart suspense all through. It’s apparent that Toula and Ian are going to work out; the query all through the movie is just whether or not her father will have the ability to deal with it.

Gus embracing the Millers represents not only a inexperienced gentle for Toula and Ian, but additionally an equally profound second for him: the belief that even when his daughter branches out from the household enterprise, even when she marries a xeno, even when the household traditions change, she’s going to by no means, as he so deeply feared, need to go away him behind on this place of alternative the place he nonetheless feels so remoted. Possibly that’s why few film moments have made this author cry through the years as reliably as Gus crying and embracing his daughter at her wedding ceremony after her surprised husband reveals he’s purchased them a home. Proper subsequent door.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/my-big-fat-greek-wedding-star-michael-constantine-captured-the-dignity-of-immigrant-fathers?supply=articles&by way of=rss | ‘My Large Fats Greek Marriage ceremony’ Star Michael Constantine Captured the Dignity of Immigrant Fathers


ClareFora is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. ClareFora joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: clarefora@interreviewed.com.

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