Familiar Faces: Famous Pharmacists in Film and Television
From soap operas and sitcoms to serious hour-long dramas, doctors and nurses play a major role in the entertainment we enjoy. Along with lawyers and policeman, federal agents and first responders, and all manner of highly trained and educated individuals have taken on the role of bringing a smile to our faces or dragging us to the end of our seats. One professional seems to have been left out of the mix, however. Not on purpose, mind you, but perhaps because of their perceived position in the life or death dilemma.
They may not literally hold a client’s heart in their hands, but the drugs they dispense can make the difference between health and a hospital stay. Below are 10 examples of pharmacists who’ve been featured in film and television, from major leading roles to minor, one-off appearances. All are intriguing, and a reminder that, in the grand scheme of things, a chemist is just as impactful as a surgeon, if not so dramatic or electrifying. Enjoy.
Tom Craig (John Wayne): In Old California
It’s hard to imagine cinema’s most iconic cowboy as a turn of the century dispenser of ointments and tinctures, but that’s exactly what he is in this Gold Rush themed drama from 1942.
Mort Goldman (John C. Brennan): Family Guy
Seth Macfarlane’s popular animated sitcom is not known for its subtlety, and with its portrayal of the local druggist, the media mogul pushes the boundaries of stereotype and silliness.
Mr. Gower (H.B. Warner): It’s A Wonderful Life
In Frank Capra’s holiday classic, a young George Bailey (eventually played by Jimmy Stewart) prevents an accidental poisoning death at the grief-stricken hands of this aging, angry character.
Russell (Martin Mull): Two and A Half Men
Compared to Charlie Sheen’s cad of a character, this cool and calculated chemist can’t compare. But that doesn’t mean he’s a good guy. The skeletons in his closet could haunt a couple dozen houses.
Russell Morton (Dave Thomas): Grace Under Fire
Another sitcom, another Russell, another drug store-based character (except, this time out, he’s a series regular). Played by ACTV alum Dave Thomas, he was a perfect buffer for controversial star Brett Butler.
Eldon Stammets (Aidan Devine): Hannibal
On a show built around an infamous serial killer (Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar playing the title fiend), it’s hard to find a psycho as brilliant or as baffling.
The Three Stooges (Moe, Larry, and Curly): Pardon My Scotch
While not “technically” pharmacists in this episode, the trio of bumbling slapstick giants do help a drug store owner come up with an alcohol based “picked-up” drink to sell. Blame it all on Prohibition.
Mrs. Sylvia (Debra Wilson): Mad TV
She’s every sick customer’s own personal nightmare. The character, played purely for comic effect, enjoys embarrassing those who come into her pharmacy by reading their often-seedy prescriptions aloud.
Frank Buffay Sr. (Bob Balaban): Friends
Appearing only once, after the death of Phoebe’s grandmother Lily, this generally decent man is responsible for putting the melody to his daughter’s famous “Smelly Cat” song in her head.
Harold Grossman (Rick Cowling): Modern Family
This quote from the hit TV series sums up the character the best: “Turns out Harold Grossman, our pharmacist, is a rock star. His voice is the drug he should be dispensing, because apparently it’s the cure for everything.”
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