Who are the best actors with Southern roots?
This list is troublesome because I keep getting back to that “Southern Thing.” Here’s what I mean: Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty were born in Virginia. That qualifies them, I suppose, but no one thinks “The South” when they talk or perform. George Hamilton was born in Memphis, but … . Therefore, I’ll limit my list to those I just know damn well are Southern.
Joanne Woodward (Thomasville, Georgia). Sure she was sensational in “The Three Faces of Eve,” but she was at her sexy Southern girl best in “The Long Hot Summer” opposite hubby Paul Newman.
Rip Torn (Temple, Texas). He’s collected a bunch of Emmy nominations for his television work during the past few years — I think he won once — but if you want to see him at his best, go rent “Sweet Bird of Youth.”
Tallulah Bankhead (Huntsville, Alabama). OK, so she was not a great actress. But you knew damned well she was Southern, and anyone who describes themselves as being “pure as the driven slush” is a friend of mine.
Bert Reynolds (Waycross, Georgia). Admit it: You laughed your ass off at “Smokey and the Bandit.” He’s done some of his best work in indie films after his big star dimmed: “Mystery, Alaska” and “Boogie Nights.” And don’t forget “Deliverance.”
Thelma “Butterfly” McQueen (Tampa, Florida). Not only “Gone With the Wind” but “Cabin in the Sky” later. Did you know that she was not even invited to the premiere of GWTW?
Andy Griffith (Mount Airy, North Carolina). Forget those endless “Mayberry” re-runs. Watch “No Time for Sergeants” and “A Face in the Crowd.” At one time, he was a real actor—and a good one.