Favorite Fictional Characters, #25: Emmett Fitz-Hume
Updated: Jun 18, 2019
In need of comedy today, so we turn to Chevy Chase in his late prime. Chase was one of the heavy hitter graduates of SNL's original legendary lineup, along with Murray, Aykroyd, and Belushi. All cranked out iconic hits in the early to middle 1980s, and we'll visit more of them as this list rolls along. Some prefer Ty Webb, or Fletch, or Clark Griswald, but one of my all-time favorites is Chase's Emmett Fitz-Hume from the underrated Spies Like Us.
Fitz-Hume is a con man. A lazy, sleazy scammer slouching his way through a middle-rung sinecure at the State Department, surviving off his the legacies of his father and grandfather (and the occasional bedding of his busty supervisor), watching old Ronald Reagan movies when he should be studying for departmental exams. Relying on his grifter's bag of tricks, he sucks Dan Akyroyd's straitlaced engineer Austin Milbarge into his mischievous orbit during those exams in a classic scene. The bumbling ineptitude of these two losers leads higher-ups to deem them the perfect expendable decoys for a game of high-stakes nuclear subterfuge with the Soviets. Naturally, they screw that up too. Much of Spies Like Us relies on the slapstick chemistry between Chase and Akyroyd, and it delivers consistent laughs. Whether in abridged special forces training, being held hostage by the KGB, posing as international relief doctors, or patting Donna Dixon's breasts to demonstrate the nerve damage in his hands, Chase is at his underwhelming, sleazeball best throughout.
Akyroyd's character, Milbarge, has some redeemable qualities. He's smart, mechanically gifted, and reluctantly brave. Fitz-Hume is none of these things. He is equal parts libido, incompetence, circumlocution, and cowardice, all of which plays perfectly into Chase's wheelhouse. While perhaps not as well known as the other classics of the age, the film remains totally enjoyable, deeply quotable, and even contains a kernel of thoughtful allegory in a post-Cold War age. As Fitz-Hume himself might say, "Well, of course, their requests for subsidies was not Paraguayan in and of it is as it were the United States government would never have if the president, our president, had not and as far as I know that's the way it will always be. Is that clear?"