Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Zelda Rubinstein 1933-2010

And it seemed as if she was rallying...There comes today the sad news that Zelda Rubinstein, the Poltergeist series' unforgettable Tangina, passed away overnight in Los Angeles. Reports earlier in the month that she was gravely ill and had been taken off life support were swatted down by friends and associates, but her death today at the age of 76 has been officially confirmed. Her appearance in the original 1982 film must rank as one of the most unexpected casting coups de theatre ever, as no one in those summertime audiences expected a psychic investigator to be diminutive, maternal, with an inimitable voice like a marshmallow dipped in honey - that could jacket itself in stainless steel when the powers of Hell came knocking. In fact, her very presence struck me at first as being dramatically unnecessary; after all, wasn't Oscar winner Beatrice Straight there to serve that role? But with a handful of lines, and in a matter of seconds, Rubinstein became the compassionate heart of the film and the franchise.

Attention must also be paid to Rubinstein's contributions to a landmark anti-AIDS campaign in LA, as the actress was one of the first recognizable stars to lend her distinctive image to a "safe sex" campaign, portraying the Mother that every gay man wished he had, freely dispensing love, concern and condoms. She became a beloved figure in the gay community, which joins with Horror fans the world over in mourning her passing; small in stature, fragile in body, but mighty in spirit.

"All children must cross over..."

4 comments:

Carl (ILHM) said...

So unfortunate, very saddening to open the reader up to this news this afternoon.. Another Horror legend that will not be soon forgotten!

Wings said...

Sad, indeed. A cool lady, she will be missed. L.I.M.

knobgobbler said...

Sad.
She was one of the best parts of Poltergeist... a movie I'm not really all that fond of, because of the other parts.
I didn't finder Tangina to be 'The compassionate heart of the film' though... I thought she was pretty darn creepy and somewhat untrustworthy... which I liked. She was one of the few things in the movie that had any subtlety to it at all.

rogue evolent said...

She was a heck of a great character actor! Her presence in Poltergeist was a piece of the puzzle that made it the classic that it is.
Her continuing influence in popular culture even extended to being lampooned mercilessly (as is everyone) on that episode of SOUTH PARK where Ike is possessed by the dead spirit of Michael Jackson. I'd like to think Zelda would've gotten a good laugh out of it.