Amorous Dean’s wife in ‘Animal House’
Verna Bloom, who in her first feature film, the semidocumentary “Medium Cool,” moved anxiously through the rioting in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and who a decade later played the lustful wife of the stiff-necked college dean in “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” died Wednesday in Bar Harbor, Maine. She was 80.
Her husband, critic and screenwriter Jay Cocks, said the cause was complications of dementia.
While “Animal House” was probably her bestknown role, “Medium Cool” offered Bloom an auspicious beginning.
She had been acting mostly onstage when a small role in Studs Terkel’s play “Amazing Grace” led Turkel to recommend her for “Medium Cool” (1969), cinematographer Haskell Wexler’s first feature as a director.
Shot in cinéma vérité style, “Medium Cool” is the story of a local news cameraman (Robert Forster) who meets Eileen (Bloom), a poor woman from West Virginia raising her teenage son in Chicago, while covering the city’s social unrest.
Blending actual events with a fictional story, Wexler filmed Bloom — dressed in an easily seen canary yellow dress — walking through Grant Park, hoping to find her son while encountering demonstrators who had been bloodied and tear-gassed by police officers.
Bloom followed “Medium Cool” with several prominent screen roles, including one opposite Clint Eastwood in his western “High Plains Drifter” (1973), and another as Frank Sinatra’s wife in the made-for-television detective movie “Contract on Cherry Street” (1977).
But few of her roles resonated like Marion Wormer, the boozy wife of Dean Vernon Wormer in “Animal House,” the raunchy hit comedy about the reprobates of a fraternity house at fictional Faber College.
In her first scene with Otter [Tim Matheson], the suave leader of the frat, Bloom established her identity.
Otter is clumsily trying to seduce her in a supermarket produce aisle by talking about cucumbers. “My name is Eric Stratton,” Matheson says.
“They call me Otter.”
“My name’s Marion,” Bloom says. “They call me Mrs. Wormer.”
“We have a Dean Wormer at Faber.”
“What a coincidence,” she replies, puncturing his confidence. “I have a husband named Dean Wormer at Faber.”
She later shows up a frat house toga party and ends up in bed with the young man.
Verna Frances Bloom was born Aug. 7, 1938, in Lynn, Massachusetts. Her father, Milton, owned a grocery store, and her mother, Sara (Damsky) Bloom, was a homemaker.
In addition to Cocks, Bloom is survived by her son, Sam Cocks.
Bloom’s final movie role was as Mary, Mother of Jesus, in Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988). Fifteen years later, she played the stepmother of White House press secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney) in an episode of “The West Wing.” It was her final television appearance.