World of Westfahl | Encyclopedia Introduction | All Entries | Acknowledgements
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

O–Q Entries
Simon Oakland
Arch Oboler
Charles Ogle
Willis O'Brien
George Pal
Gregory Peck
Cassandra Peterson
Walter Pidgeon
Jack P. Pierce
Vincent Price
Anthony Quinn
 
OAKLAND, SIMON
(1922–1983). American actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: The Great Sebastians (tv special) (1957); "Quarantine" (1959), episode of Men into Space; Psycho (Alfred HITCHCOCK 1960); "The Rip Van Winkle Caper" (1961), "The Thirty-Fathom Grave" (1963), episodes of The Twilight Zone; "My Favorite Martin" (1963), episode of My Favorite Martian; "Second Chance" (1964), episode of The Outer Limits; The Satan Bug (John Sturges 1965); "The Day Smart Turned Chicken" (1965), episode of Get Smart; "Jungle Dragnet," "The Maguma Curse" (1967), episodes of Tarzan; "It Tastes OK, but Something's Missing" (1967), episode of Captain Nice; "The Frame" (1967), episode of Mission: Impossible; "The Night of the Fugitives" (1968), episode of The Wild, Wild West; On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Vicente Minnelli 1970); The Night Stalker (tv movie) (John L. Moxey 1972); The Night Strangler (tv movie) (Dan CURTIS 1973); Kolchak: The Night Stalker (tv series) (1974-75); "And Only Man Is Vile" (1973), episode of The Starlost; "The Lady on Thursday at Ten" (1978), episode of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries; "Living and Presumed Dead" (1983), episode of Tucker's Witch.
 
Some character actors sparkle in the background; others simply go through the necessary motions and keep the story going. Perhaps Simon Oakland would have been better off if he had stuck with his original career as a concert violinist. However, born with a face and body that made him a perfect representative of Hollywood's stereotypical mobster or tough cop, Oakland may have decided that he could better prosper as an actor, relying more on his appearance than his acting skills to be credible in such roles. Then, somehow, out of a career of grunts and bellows and glares, he reportedly gained the respect of his peers as a serious actor. Well, since some people still believe that Diane Keaton possesses a modicum of talent, I suppose anything is possible.

Oakland was first conspicuous in the painfully anticlimactic conclusion of Psycho, egregiously miscast, it would seem, as the understanding psychologist who untangles and explicates at extreme length the twisted psyche of Norman Bates. Many critics have wondered why a master director like Alfred HITCHCOCK would spoil his brilliant film with this clumsy expository denouément, but his choice of a limited actor like Oakland for the role suggests that he did so to make a point: since our soulless contemporary world destroys or maddens all the warm, sensitive people we might like and care about, like those played by Janet Leigh and Tony Perkins, we are left to endure the company of cold, insensitive people we cannot like and cannot care about, like the man played by Oakland. As Hitchcock was sometimes willing to treat his actresses in a sadistic manner, he resolved to treat his viewers in a sadistic manner, tormenting them with Oakland's interminable tirade in order to epitomize the utter wretchedness of the people they now must deal with in their own daily lives. Does anyone have a better theory as to why Simon Oakland ended up in that scene, and why he was allowed to play the role so unappealingly?

A decade later, Oakland co-starred in two television movies, The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler, that soon led to a series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, best described to contemporary viewers as what The X-Files would have been like if Chris CARTER had elected to cast two homely, middle-aged men as Mulder and Scully. As Darren MCGAVIN's credulous reporter enthusiastically investigated one strange phenomenon after another, it was Oakland's task as his skeptical editor to snarl and treat him like a fool—the perfect marriage of a one-note actor and a one-note role. All in all, it's hard to make a series featuring vampires, zombies, and aliens boring, but somehow, McGavin and Oakland pulled it off.

Oakland might be esteemed simply because of his innumerable performances in a variety of venues, including cop shows (Felony Squad, Kojak, Police Story), courtroom dramas (Perry Mason, The Defenders, Judd for the Defense), comedies (My Favorite Martian, Car 54, Where Are You?, Captain Nice), medical dramas (Ben Casey, The Nurses, Quincy, M.E.), westerns (Have Gun—Will Travel, Laramie, Wagon Train), and even a musical (On a Clear Day You Can See Forever); but while he was always competent, he was rarely memorable. If properly cast as a scoundrel or soldier, he might be effective, as demonstrated by his roles as a double-crossing gangster and submarine captain in two episodes of The Twilight Zone, "The Rip Van Winkle Caper" and "The Thirty-Fathom Grave." But Oakland's inadequate performance as a research scientist in "Quarantine," an episode of Men into Space, seemingly demonstrates that he couldn't appear sympathetic or intelligent on the screen. Still, if one wishes to argue that Oakland had abilities beyond those he normally displayed, there is one piece of evidence: his standout performance in The Outer Limits episode "Second Chance." Completely unrecognizable in monster makeup, and thus forced out of his usual habits, he gave an involving and surprisingly touching performance as an alien attempting to recruit humans to abandon Earth and colonize another planet. Perhaps Simon Oakland should have worn a rubber mask more often.

To contact us about encyclopedia matters, send an email to Gary Westfahl.
If you find any Web site errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to our Webmaster.
Copyright © 1999–2014 Gary Westfahl All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Hosted & Designed By:
SF Site spot art