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Home Alone: Old Man Marley

There are many reasons why the 1990 smash hit classic Home Alone is very beloved. One of them: the character of Old Man Marley.

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“How you feel about your family is a complicated thing. Deep down, you’ll always love them. But you can forget that you love them, and you can hurt them and they can hurt you, and that’s not just because you’re young.”

About Old Man Marley

Old Man Marley was an old man, the neighbor of Kevin McCallister and the deuteragonist of the 1990 smash hit film Home Alone. He was played by the late Roberts Blossom.

In the film, Old Man Marley was subject to rumors. He was called “the South Bend Shovel Slayer”, and was said to have murdered his family back in 1958 by Kevin’s older brother Buzz. He was also said to have kept his victims in his garbage can full of salt, and that the salt was supposed to have turned the dead bodies into mummies.

When Kevin walks outside his house while saying he is not afraid anymore, he encounters Marley, and turns and runs back inside his house, afraid.

Later, Kevin goes to the drug store, gets a toothbrush and asks the clerk about whether or not it was approved by the American Dental Association. Marley then comes in while Kevin is checking his pockets to see if he had brought enough cash to buy the toothbrush. Kevin then looks up, sees Marley and backs away a little before running off, while also accidentally taking the toothbrush with him (as he didn’t have time to buy the toothbrush).

When Kevin goes to church, he meets up with Marley again, and they talk. Kevin learns that Marley is actually a nice man, as well as a Christian, a father and a grandfather. Kevin also discovers that Marley didn’t really murder his family like Buzz claimed, but rather had a fight with them — more particularly, his son. Marley tells Kevin that the real reason why he was at church was so he could hear his granddaughter sing, and that he can’t come and hear her tonight. When Kevin asked if that meant he had plans, Marley corrected him, saying that he wasn’t welcome — not at the church (as he believes one is always welcome at church), but with his son.

According to Marley, years back, before Kevin and his family moved into the neighborhood, he and his son got into an argument for an unknown reason, and told each other they didn’t care to see each other anymore, causing them to become estranged from each other. Kevin asks Marley to call his son, and Marley says that he’s afraid to because he thinks his son won’t talk to him. Kevin tells Marley that he used to be afraid of his basement until he turned on the lights, and realized that it was no big deal. Kevin then says the point is that Marley should call his son; whether or not his son talks to him, Marley will know and he won’t be afraid. Kevin tells Marley that he should also do it for his granddaughter, who probably misses him and the presents. Marley tells Kevin that he sent his granddaughter a check for Christmas, and Kevin remarks, “Wish my grandparents did that. They always send me clothes”.

Later, when the Wet Bandits trap Kevin at the Murphys’ house, Marley sneaks in and saves him by knocking the burglars out with his shovel before taking Kevin back home.

At the end of the movie, Kevin walks over to the window, and sees that Marley has taken his advice and reunited with his son, his daughter-in-law and his granddaughter. Seeing Kevin, Marley waves to him, grinning, as a sign of thanking him. Kevin, also smiling, waves back as his way of saying “You’re welcome”.

Finally, Marley turns and goes to his house with his family.

Then and Now

Via Google Images

He is one of my favorite characters, and Roberts Blossom did an awesome job bringing him to life in the film, especially when portraying Marley as a man preoccupied with loss.

One reason for that is because in my mind, Marley from Home Alone is kind of similar to Arthur “Boo” Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The Boo Radley (also now known as “The Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold” on the website for TV Tropes and Idioms) is also the archetype of the mysterious loner who’s assumed to be creepy, but is actually misunderstood and has a good heart. :)


In the novelization for Home Alone, Marley chuckles a little before telling Kevin (Macaulay Culkin), “You don’t have to be so scared of me. All that stuff you hear about me — none of it’s true. Just the product of someone’s overactive imagination.”

Where Are They Now?

Via Google Images

Sadly, Roberts Blossom, who did an awesome job with his portrayal of Marley in Home Alone, passed away on July 8, 2011, at a nursing home from a stroke. Kevin McCallister has lost an unlikely ally, and we’ve all lost a brilliant actor and a great man.

Before he was Old Man Marley, Roberts Blossom portrayed Ezra Cobb in the 1974 film Deranged (which was 16 years before Home Alone and based on the real-life criminal Ed Gein).

When Marley sends that final, sweet wave to Kevin, Home Alone fans (including myself) are usually saying goodbye to an old, reliable friend, too.

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