Remember Elisha Cook? He was in Shane, the best Western ever made. Elisha Cook was in there just so Jack Palance could humiliate and terminate him; evil Jack easing into his black, death-dealing gloves to blast the little guy who dares confront the greedy, power-crazy rancher who’d hired the gunfighter. Palance was usually killing someone in his films, just like Cook was usually getting killed. He was gutsy but didn’t have the face or the size to get respect, which set up a neurosis, thus making him over-compensate and provoke the tough guys so that Cookie always got either humiliated or duffed up or killed, but usually all three. I imagine he made a lot of money doing the part, but I’m sure there must have been times he wished he’d looked like Palance.
Humphrey Bogart was not a big man, but Elisha Cook weighing in at five foot five was even less big, and in The Maltese Falcon, John Huston cast ‘lysh as the muscle for the Fat Man played by Sidney Greenstreet: Ha-ha-ha! I like your style, sir, I really do. Muscle. Elisha may have looked like he could stab you in the back, but you knew, if you stood down to him, he was all wind and garters—you’d seen him cave often enough. Humphrey verbally abuses the little fellah then duffs him up, though he doesn’t kill him. Someone else does that.
And that was Elisha, like the cockroach or the pigeon, he’s another of my unlikely heroes, he kept coming back to get humiliated, duffed up and done in. Whatever he did earn, it should’ve been more because he provided free therapy for every little weasel in the audience who took comfort from knowing there was at least one pint-sized git in the world he was capable of duffin’up himself. I loved the man.
Note: …Cookie died aged 92, long continuing to give wonderful performances. In later years, he lived in the desert near Bishop, California, far from Hollywood, without an agent, working whenever someone took the trouble to track him down. (imdb.com)