Leave it to Thomas Pynchon to send fans down a futile rabbit hole of perceived significance, only for it to be one big joke played on the audience. Paul Thomas Anderson and especially Josh Brolin had strongly hinted ahead of the release of Anderson’s adaptation of Pynchon’s Inherent Vice that the reclusive author had a secret cameo in the movie. Sharp-eyed obsessives have been trawling the film ever since trying to figure out which extra might actually be Pynchon—who hasn’t definitively been photographed since 1955—jumping on anyone whose face was barely visible in a few frames of Inherent Vice, even those looking five decades too young to be the 78-year-old author.
For a while, the Internet’s favorite candidate was a doctor who pops up for a few seconds while Joaquin Phoenix’s Doc Sportello is walking through a clinic, because sure, the guy looks like he could maybe be the septuagenarian version of the young Pynchon. However, he looks even more like a character actor named Charley Morgan, son of Harry Morgan of M*A*S*H fame and bit player in Anderson’s The Master. Following up on a previous week’s discussion of the elusive Pynchon cameo, Morgan himself called up The Best Show this week to talk to host Tom Scharpling about the mystery. Morgan not only confirmed that he is indeed the doctor, but added that, according to Anderson, who Morgan described as a friend, Pynchon actually didn’t appear at any point in Inherent Vice.
“There’s no Thomas Pynchon cameo,” Morgan said. “Not at all…I talked to Paul Anderson about it.”
Unless, of course, Charley Morgan has really been Thomas Pynchon all along! His IMDb page is suspiciously short for a second-generation actor his age, starting in 2007 with a guest spot on The Sopranos. His voice may not match Pynchon’s Simpsons cameos, and “Charley Morgan” has a decidedly un-Pynchonian ring to it—we’d expect something like, say, Duane Simulex or Zep Mundegreen—but maybe that’s all part of Pynchon’s plan. Get to it, internet detectives!