Since the A/V Club hit one of his most famous scenes, I’ll hit the other:
For the calm dignity he brought to this performance — a powerful reproof to those who demonized and humiliated Merrick — Mr. Hurt was rewarded with an Oscar nomination for best actor, critical plaudits and the admiration of the film’s director, David Lynch, who said 10 years later, in an interview in The New York Times Magazine: “John Hurt is simply the greatest actor in the world.” (Robert De Niro won the best actor award in 1981.)
(I’d kind of like to see the Hurt/Egoyan “Krapp’s Last Tape”, but it looks like you can only get that in the “Beckett On Film” set, which is pricy but contains some other stuff I’d like to see as well.)
That role, by the way, was “Della Street”, Perry Mason’s secretary during the Raymond Burr run from the beginning of the TV series in 1957 all the way through the last TV movie in 1993. (I make the distinction because: while I personally don’t remember this and it didn’t last very long, there was an attempt to revive Mason in the 1970s, with Monte Markham in the titular role. Ms. Hale was not involved with that. She was, however, involved with “The Perry Mason Mysteries” which were made after Burr’s death and didn’t involve Perry Mason at all.)
Noted: she was also the wife of Dean Martin’s character in “Airport”.