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Who's Who [imagemap with 10 links]

Who's Who

Edna Earle Ponder
JoBeth Williams

Gossipy but good-hearted, Edna Earle is the brains of the Ponder family, doling out common sense and generally saving Uncle Daniel from himself. The proprietor of the Beulah Hotel, Edna Earle comforts Grandpa Ponder as Uncle Daniel, generous to his own detriment, proceeds to give away the family fortune, first through random gifts to the people of Clay County, then with his marriage to Bonnie Dee Peacock.

"I fell in love with Edna Earle when I read the script," says actress JoBeth Williams. "She's such a strong character. ... I think looking back on Edna Earle as women of our own age, we feel that she was a victim. ... I don't think Edna Earle felt bad herself. I think she took a certain pride in being the one that everyone turned to. ... Today, she'd make a good boss. In those days, she was sort of the boss of the family."

Williams, a native of Houston, Texas, has starred in The Big Chill, the enormously successful Poltergeist series, Kramer vs. Kramer, and Wyatt Earp, among other films. Her television work includes roles in such landmark movies as Adam, The Day After, My Name is Bill W., and From the Earth to the Moon.

In Welty's words:

It's always taken a lot out of me, being smart. I say to people who only pass through here, "Now wait a minute. Not so fast. Could you hope to account for twelve bedrooms, two bathrooms, two staircases, five porches, lobby, dining room, pantry and kitchen, and still be out here looking pretty when they come in?"

The Ponder Heart, chapter 1

Grandpa Ponder
Boyce Holleman

Grandpa Ponder, who has amassed the greatest fortune in Clay County, Mississippi, watches helplessly as his son, Daniel, slowly gives it away.

Born in Wiggins, Mississippi, 76-year-old actor Boyce Holleman worked as attorney for 51 years before beginning his acting career in 1975. "I had a neighbor ask me about trying out for some local plays," Holleman told the Mississippi Clarion Ledger. "I did Big Daddy in Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. It just grew from there." He has appeared in episodes of In the Heat of the Night and America's Most Wanted and in several movies shot in the South, including Kingfish, The Beast Within, A Simple Twist of Fate, and Secret Passings.

In Welty's words:

When I used to spot Grandpa's Studebaker out front, lighting from the country, and Grandpa heading up the walk, with no Uncle Daniel by his side, and his beard beginning to shake under his chin, and he had a beautiful beard, I'd yell back to the kitchen, "Ada! Be making Mr. Sam some good strong iced tea!" Grandpa was of the old school, and wanted people to measure up -- everybody in general, and Uncle Daniel and me in particular. He and Grandma raised me, too. "Clear out, you all," I'd say to who all was in here. "Here comes Grandpa Ponder, and no telling what he has to tell me." I was his favorite grandchild, besides being the only one left alive or in calling distance.

The Ponder Heart, chapter 1

Uncle Daniel Ponder
Peter MacNicol

Uncle Daniel is the generous but simple son of the richest man in Clay County, Mississippi. He bestows everything from thrift shop dresses to the family gas station on friends and strangers. When his father and niece decide it's time for him to marry, he has no objections, but he does have his own idea about who should be his bride. While in the movie Daniel, charmed by the doll-like Bonnie Dee, leaves Miss Teacake at the altar, in the book they marry, but the marriage "didn't hold out." Only after they are separated does Bonnie Dee arrive on the scene.

"As an actor, I respond to the extravagance of the characters," says actor Peter MacNicol. "They're flamboyant, quietly mad. The dialogue is always surprising and a little skewed from naturalism."

Born in Dallas, Texas, MacNicol made his movie début in the 1982 Disney fantasy, Dragonslayer. Next came his breakthrough screen acting role as the aspiring writer Stingo, opposite Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline, in the film adaptation of William Styron's Sophie's Choice. His career since has ranged from the subtle drama of the television series Chicago Hope to the broad comedy of Ghostbusters 2. He has starred on Broadway in Crimes of the Heart and Black Comedy/White Liars and in New York Shakespeare Festival productions of Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, and Twelfth Night. He is probably best know, however, for his performance as quirky lawyer John Cage in the television comedy Ally MacBeal.

In Welty's words:

You'd know it was Uncle Daniel the minute you saw him. He's unmistakable. He's big and well known. He has the Ponder head -- large, of course, and well set, with short white hair over it thick and curly, growing down his forehead round like a little bib. He has Grandma's complexion. And big, forget-me-not blue eyes like mine, and puts on a sweet red bow tie every morning, and carries a large-size Stetson in his hand -- always just swept it off to somebody. He dresses fit to kill, you know, in a snow-white suit. But do you know he's up in his fifties now? Don't believe it if you don't want to. And still the sweetest, most unspoiled thing in the world ...

The Ponder Heart, chapter 1

Miss Teacake Magee
Joanne Baron

A vocal member of the church choir and an upstanding Baptist, Miss Teacake is Grandpa and Edna Earle's choice for Uncle Daniel's bride.

Joanne Baron has starred in countless feature films and produced several as well. Her film acting credits include Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (also directed by Martha Coolidge), The Secret Life of Girls, Someone to Watch Over Me, and Real Genius. She acted as producer for Perfume, Brooklyn Babylon, and Allie & Me. Recently, she appeared in Hard Luck and The Myersons.

In Welty's words:

... Miss Teacake Magee, lived here all her life. She sings in the choir of the Baptist Church every blessed Sunday: couldn't get her out. And sings louder than all the rest put together, so loud it would make you lose your place ... Miss Teacake Magee is of course a Sistrunk (the Sistrunks are all Baptists -- big Baptists) and Professor Magee's widow. He wasn't a professor of anything, just real smart -- smarter than the Sistrunks anyway. He'd never worked either -- he was like Uncle Daniel in that respect. With Miss Teacake, everything dates from, "Since I lost Professor Magee." That shows you how long ago his time was.

The Ponder Heart, chapter 1

Bonnie Dee Peacock
Angela Bettis

After a chance encounter with Uncle Daniel, Bonnie Dee Peacock, a new arrival to town from backwoods Polk, becomes Mrs. Daniel Ponder and quickly accustoms herself to the family fortune, spending with reckless abandon.

Angela Bettis, a native of Austin, Texas, made her film debut in Franco Zeffirelli's Storia de una Capinera (Story of a Sparrow), starring Vanessa Redgrave, Sinead Cusack, and Valentina Cortese. She won rave reviews for her performances in the recent films Girl, Interrupted and The Last, Best Sunday. Recently, she appeared in an adaptation of Perfume, the international best-selling novel, as well as the feature films Vallen and Coastlines.

In Welty's words:

Meantime! Here traipsed into town a little thing from away off down in the country. Near Polk: you wouldn't ever have heard of Polk -- I hadn't. Bonnie Dee Peacock. A little thing with yellow, fluffy hair. ... Bonnie Dee was one of nine or ten, and no bigger than a minute. A good gust of wind might have carried her off any day.

The Ponder Heart, chapter 2

Narcissa Wingfield
Jenifer Lewis

Narciss (known as Narcissa in the film), the maid at the Ponder house, takes to chauffeuring Uncle Daniel and Bonnie Dee back and forth from town in Grandpa's old Studebaker. She's witness to both Bonnie Dee's spending habits and her untimely demise.

Actress Jenifer Lewis has had major roles in a wide variety of films, including Beaches, Sister Act, Poetic Justice, Renaissance Man, The Preacher's Wife, and Castaway. On Broadway, she has starred in Dream Girls and Eubie. On television, she won a leading role in the miniseries The Temptations, and was a series regular on In Living Color, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Murphy Brown. She was also once one of Bette Midler's back-up singers the "Harlettes."

In Welty's words:

Then bang up against the hitching post at the curb pulls in that Studebaker. It honks, and the motor huffs and puffs, and the whole car's shaking all over like it does if you stop it too quick after running it too long. It's been going all day, too. I shade my eyes and who do I see but old Narciss at the steering wheel. She's the cook out at the place. She's looking at me, very mournful and meaning and important. She always does look like that, but I never in my life knew she knew how to drive.

The Ponder Heart, chapter 2

Dorris Grabney
Brent Spiner

Dorris Grabney is the prosecuting lawyer in the case of Mississippi vs. Daniel Ponder, concerning the untimely death of Miss Bonnie Dee Peacock. In the transition from book to film, the character's last name changed from Gladney to Grabney.

His appearance in this period drama marks a departure for Brent Spiner, known around the world as the compassionate android Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, a role he has also played in three Star Trek motion pictures. A native of Houston, Texas, Spiner's other film credits include Independence Day and Woody Allen's Stardust Memories. Spiner has also starred on Broadway in a number of musicals, including 1776, Big River, and Sunday in the Park with George.

In Welty's words:

Uncle Daniel spoke to the Peacocks, but then I saw his face light up, like it only does for a newcomer in his life. And in sailed that lawyer, Dorris R. Gladney. Long, black, buzzardy coat, black suspenders, beaky nose, and on his little finger, a diamond bigger than mine, but not half as expensive. Walked too low, and got up and sat down too fast, like all the Gladneys. We all know people who're in a terrible hurry about something! And I understand Mr. Gladney has been peppered with buckshot on several occasions in the course of his career -- shows you what kind of people he's thrown in with. He rushed up and down the room several times, to show he'd come, and patted the little Peacocks on the head, but they didn't smile an inch.

The Ponder Heart, chapter 5

DeYancey Clanahan
Lenny Von Dohlen

The grandson of Judge Tip Clanahan, Grandpa Ponder's dear friend, DeYancey defends Uncle Daniel against the charge of murder.

Actor Lenny Von Dohlen was a regular on David Lynch's television series Twin Peaks and also starred in the film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. His other film credits include Tender Mercies, Cold Heaven, and Leaving Normal. On the small screen he has guest starred on Chicago Hope, Thirtysomething, and Picket Fences, and played a recurring role on The Pretender.

In Welty's words:

Uncle Daniel has always considered DeYancey one of his best friends, and was always partial to him until this happened. DeYancey came out and announced that Uncle Daniel wasn't going to open his mouth at his own trial. Not at all, not a word. The trial was going to proceed without him.

The Ponder Heart, chapter 4

Ovid Springer
Victor Slezak

Mr. Springer, a traveling salesman, is a frequent guest at the Beluah Hotel and an ardent admirer of Edna Earle.

A native of Youngstown, Ohio, actor Victor Slezak is a familiar face both on television and at the movies. His film work includes roles in The Trade, Lost Souls, One Tough Cop, The Devil's Own, and The Bridges of Madison County. On television, he has guest starred on Law & Order, Hyperion Bay, and Miami Vice.

In Welty's words:

I used to say Mr. Springer was the perfect listener. A drug salesman with a wide, wide territory in seldom enough to forget between times, and knowing us well enough not to try to interrupt. And too tired to object to hearing something over. If anything, he laughed too soon. He used to sit and beg for Uncle Daniel's favorite tale, the one about the time he turned the tables on Grandpa.

The Ponder Heart, chapter 1

A Eudora Welty Timeline | One Writer's Place | Voices of Mississippi
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