Julius Tannen, after a long fame on the stage, came on hard times in Hollywood. For a number of years he was unable to get a job acting. Tannen’s friends were unable to help him. Something always slipped up, and the witty Julius found himself finally in a desperate way. His friends persisted, and after much intrigue a part was secured for Tannen. He was to play an editor in a newspaper drama. All that remained was for the producer to see him and pass on him.
Tannen dressed himself carefully that morning. He was completely bald and wore a toupee which he stuck on his head each morning with a special mucilage.
After studying him for ten minutes and listening to his nimble speech, the producer shook his head and said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Tannen. But I don’t think you’ll do for the part.”
Julius inquired quietly in what way he was deficient. Was he too tall, too thin, too old, too young?
“No,” said the producer. “You could act it very well. But I have always visualized a bald-headed man for the part.”
Julius smiled and slowly pulled the toupee off his head.
“I think I can satisfy you on that score,” he beamed. “I happen to be completely bald.”
The producer sat studying the polished Tannen skull and then shook his head again and pronounced, “I’m sorry, Mr. Tannen. I simply can’t visualize you as a baldheaded man.”
—Ben Hecht, A Child of the Century, 1954
Last year, we asked Harry [Bugin] to play Aloysius, the malevolent door-scraper, in our movie The Hudsucker Proxy. Harry understood immediately that an evil door-scraper would, in the nature of things, have a shaved head, and was amenable to shaving his: “Sure fellas. It grows back.” […]
But any actor can shave his head. As shooting drew near we were still groping for a means of ending the climactic fist-fight in the Hudsucker Building’s clock room. The script called for our great clock to be stopped twice, once by a broom shoved into the gears, which was well and good, and a second time by something else—not just anything, clearly, but a capper that would keep the audience from resenting our repeating the gag of the stopped clock. The nature of this was a puzzle of daunting specificity. The object had to be of just the right size to be stuffed into our great clock gear, and had to be of such consistency as to offer temporary—but only temporary—resistance before being ground away. Mere days before the scene was scheduled to be shot, co-producer Graham Place had a leaping insight: Harry’s character might have his dentures knocked out in the course of the fist-fight. This would leave an ideal gear-stopper at hand, and would incidentally let us punctuate the fist-fight with the classic Chattering Teeth Gag. Dentures were clearly the one perfect—the only perfect—the only conceivable—solution. There remained only one question, and on it rode all our hopes for satisfactorily resolving the very climax of our movie: Did Harry Bugin wear dentures?
“Sure fellas. Full uppers and lowers.”
And that’s why Harry Bugin is our favourite actor.
—Joel and Ethan Coen, "Our Favourite Actor," in "The Positif Collection," Projections 4 1/2, 1995