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Obfuscating Disability / Live-Action Films

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  • 8 Women: Mamy is seemingly confined to a wheelchair, but it turns out to be a ruse as she gets up to go to Augustine, her younger daughter, to calm her down. She was faking it so Gaby, the older one, who's also wealthy, would take her in out of pity, so that Mamy and Augustine can live comfortably off her money.
  • Christopher Reeve starred in a TV movie called Above Suspicion. His character faked having his legs disabled so he could murder his wife while standing so he would be... well, above suspicion. (Ironically, Reeve was paralyzed for real mere days after the film's release.)
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  • The eponymous villain in The Alphabet Killer fakes being wheelchair-bound to remove any suspicion that he might be the killer.
  • In Andhadhun, Akash pretends to be blind. This gets him into trouble when he stumbles upon a crime scene and has to decide whether to keep pretending not to see to stay safe or to report the crime and expose his deception.
  • Backstreet Dreams: After Angelo is badly beaten, he pretends to be so brain-damaged that the only word he can utter is "Florida." He's hoping that his son and daughter-in-law will take pity on him and move him to their home in Florida, where he will make a miraculous recovery.
  • The villain in the Batman serial Batman and Robin is an old man in a wheelchair who can secretly walk. He can't walk very well or very fast, though, at least not without regular electric treatments. His servant who wheels him from place to place doesn't seem to be in on it.
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  • Subverted in The Big Lebowski. After the Dude and Walter find out the "Big" Lebowski stole the money, Walter assumes he's also faking his disability. He's not.
  • The brother of one of the main characters of Bitter Lake gets mentioned twice: Once in the movie and once on the movie's website. Both times he's alluded to as being mentally disabled. Then he actually appears at the end, and it turns out he's actually not handicapped in the slightest; his brother just always said he was on account of everyone in this movie is a giant, gaping asshole, and everyone else ever just automatically believed it.
  • Jean-François in Brotherhood of the Wolf, pretends to have only one arm, but has actually bound his fully-functional arm to his torso, because it was disfigured due to events related to his evil plot that would have been awkward to explain.
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  • In Dick Tracy's Dilemma, Sightless is a street peddler who pretends to be blind to generate sympathy and make more sales. He uses his fake blindness to spy on local criminals and inform to Tracy.
  • In Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Freddy poses as a psychosomatically crippled U.S. Navy veteran who needs $50,000 for treatment by the celebrated (fictional) Liechtenstein psychiatrist Dr. Emil Schaffhausen.
  • In Django Unchained, Stephen had been hunched over and hobbling on a cane the entire movie, but in the finale, he lets it drop to the floor, straightens his back, and walks just fine (till Django kneecaps him, at least). Turns out it was just another part of his ruse at Candyland.
  • Dr. No: The three blind mice, assassins working for Dr. No who pretend to be blind.
  • Jason Bateman's character in The Ex. The character needed to use a wheelchair temporarily, and continued to use it years later to gain sympathy from others. The wheelchair allowed him to be a huge Jerkass without people calling him out on it, guaranteed his job security, and made it easier for him to pick up girls.
  • In Fannys Journey, Diane pretends to be mute to hide her German accent (which would reveal her to be a Jew in Nazi controlled France).
  • In Faster, Old Guy pretends to be far more decrepit than he actually is: feigning frailty to trick a teenage girl into helping carry his shopping to his apartment. After he drugs her, he drops his cane and starts moving a lot more spryly.
  • Billy Wilder's The Fortune Cookie has Jack Lemmon as a TV cameraman who's accidentally tackled during a football game. His Ambulance Chaser brother-in-law, played by Walter Matthau, convinces him to feign paralysis of the legs in order to collect a huge insurance indemnity.
  • Good Neighbors: Spencer is apparently wheelchair-bound. Halfway through the film, it's revealed that he can walk just fine, and enjoys escaping the apartment to enjoy the night-life. He might also be the film's serial killer, although it's never made clear.
  • In The Good Shepherd, one woman is pretending to be deaf since she needed some way to use a recording device without being obvious, so she masks it as a hearing aid. She gets found out when the main character calls to her from behind, and she reacts.
  • Played with in the Kirk Douglas/Michael J. Fox film Greedy. Douglas' character feigns feebleness to see which of his Jerkass family really cares for him. In the final scene, after being wheelchair bound for the whole movie, he gets up and walks away.
    • Notably, he was faking two disabilities: he was pretending to suffer from dementia and he was pretending to be wheelchair bound.
  • Gunless: A minor example, but Sean pretends that the injury to his knee is much worse than it actually is and prevents him from dancing, to give the smitten Kent the opportunity of dancing with Jane during the dance at the fort.
  • Sampson Simpson in Half Baked.
  • The Hands of Orlac: While posing as Vasseur, Nera wears fake metal prostheses over his hands and forearms to make it look like his hands have been amputated.
  • Mei in House of Flying Daggers.
  • Played with in House of Wax (1953). Jarrod (Vincent Price's character) is caught in a fire and appears to come out of it wheelchair bound and with his sculptor's hands disfigured, but with his face unscathed. Later on, its revealed that he's the perfectly mobile but horribly facially scarred man that has been causing mayhem throughout the film.
  • In Judas Kiss, Detective Grimes fakes having a broken foot to avoid having to investigate the murder of Becky Hornbeck. Friedman exposes him by subjecting him to some Bullet Dancing.
  • In The Killing, Nikki pretends to be crippled and to need crutches to walk in order to persuade the parking lot attendant to allow him to park in the position he needs to shoot the horse.
  • Lucky Number Slevin:
    • In the opening, Mr. Goodkat pretends to be confined to a wheelchair to enact a Kansas City Shuffle on a passenger in an airport, distracting him so he won't anticipate Goodkat getting out of his chair and break his neck.
    • Slevin's ataraxia (inability to experience worry in appropriate situations). It's unclear if Slevin actually has ataraxia or if he's just not worried because everything is actually going according to plan. Or both.
  • The villain in the grade-Z James Bond knock-off A Man Called Dagger is another one who spends most the flick in a wheelchair because.. he feels like it, evidently.
  • The film version of The Man with the Golden Arm has the protagonist's emotionally-needy wife pretending to be wheelchair-bound from a car accident some years before. (In Nelson Algren's original novel, by contrast, her disability is implied to be psychosomatic rather than deliberately faked.)
  • In Morning Departure, Snipe pretends to have injured his arm during his struggle with Armstrong, and allows Marks to take his breathing set as he won't be able to swim properly. This is one of the few decent acts Snipe performs.
  • In Mystery of the Wax Museum, Ivan Igor appears to need either a wheelchair or crutches to get around due to the injuries he sustained in the fire. However, it turns out that while his hands are crippled, his legs work just fine.
  • Dr. Meinheimer's double in The Naked Gun.
  • Ron Perlman's version of the deformed, mentally disabled hunchback Salvatore in The Name of the Rose is smarter than he seems.
  • This occurs in one of the plots to New York I Love You. It was an actress practicing her disabled character around the outside all along.
  • Huey in Nick of Time pretends to be a deaf shoeshiner (complete with a sign identifying him as handicapped), allowing him to listen to Smith and Watson talk about the assassination plot. While Huey really is disabled, his disability is that he's an amputee.
  • In Night Must Fall, Mrs. Bramson. It’s revealed that she can walk perfectly and its not for nefarious reasons that she pretends to be unable to walk, but she likes being able to boss people around when she’s in her chair.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: Randle, who pretends to be insane, but just does this to avoid serving a long prison sentence. And Chief who supposedly never spoke a word in years, but turns out to have been faking his muteness all this time too.
  • Sodnom from A Pearl in the Forest, a film set in 1937 Mongolia during Stalin's tyranny, is the village idiot, constantly grinning and acting stupidly. The Reveal is that he's faking it, as a surival tactic to survive the murderous purges and oppression.
  • In Pete's Dragon (1977), Doc Terminus, a quack doctor, comes to the town of Passamaquoddy. Unfortunately for him, the townspeople are well aware of his previous quackery and are getting ready to run him out of town. He gets them to believe him by performing fake miracle healings. They are performed on his assistant, Hoagy, in different disguises; he pretends to need a pair of crutches, Doc Terminus gives him a tonic and Hoagy immediately throws off the crutches and dances in front of the onlookers. He also pretends to be a deaf old woman.
  • An elderly Chinese stage magician in The Prestige is shown doing this. Borden deduces that the magician is pretending to have frail and stiff legs even off stage for the sole purpose of a trick where he makes a fish bowl appear: he carries the bowl between his legs but since the audience thinks he's a cripple, they don't consider the obvious.note  This inspires one of the main characters to do something similar. Not that "being only a single person and not twins" is a disability per se. Also inverted in that the secret twin brothers need to be identical in every way. When one loses a few fingers in a sabotaged stage trick, his brother has to amputate his own fingers as well, so the actual disability is not obfuscating.
  • In Quest of the Delta Knights, Tee pretends to be a mute while a slave.
  • The Return of the Pink Panther: The old blind beggar whom the Clueless Detective Clouseau questions for unlicensed busking — and/or unlicensed begging, and/or an unlicensed monkey — turns out to be the lookout for the gang who rob the bank behind Clouseau. Clouseau misses the point when Da Chief dresses him down:
    Clouseau: That is impossible... He was blind; how can a blind man be a lookout?
    Dreyfus: How can an idiot be a policeman? Answer me that!
  • Played for Laughs in The Ringer. The Johnny Knoxville character, hoping to win big, fakes being mentally handicapped to compete in the Special Olympics. The other athletes see through him immediately, but help him keep up the facade, because they're hoping he can defeat Jerk Jock frontrunner Jimmy.
  • A rare mental disability example with Doofy, the killer in the first Scary Movie.
  • Jack Teller (Edward Norton) in The Score pretends to be mentally disabled, although the viewer is in on the scam from the start.
  • In Shut In, Stephen is revealed to have been faking his paralysis the whole time.
  • The heroine of Sleeping with the Enemy is supposedly hydrophobic, due to almost drowning when she was a child. So her abusive husband has no reason to doubt that she drowned after falling overboard during a late night sailing trip. It turns out she'd secretly been taking swimming lessons and seized the opportunity to escape from him.
  • Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball: A wheelchair-bound FBI desk agent who's due to retire is informed that he's become the target of a death contract. He's then quickly moved to a secure location that the agency can use to lure in and dispatch possible assassins. After the deaths of a whole bunch of people it's revealed at the end that the guy in the wheelchair was a dirty cop who masterminded terrorist attacks during his career, and loses the wheelchair to escape on foot.
  • In Son of a Gun, JR pretends to be confined to a wheelchair while travelling from Melbourne to Perth.
  • Haghi, the leader of the spy ring in Fritz Lang's Spies.
  • Yoda in Star Wars. Don't piss him off. He will PWN you.
    • According to the Expanded Universe, Palpatine uses a cane in Return of the Jedi for this very reason.
    • One should never underestimate any old or crippled Jedi. One common power is the ability to reinforce and empower the body, which means even the most battleworn Jedi can fight like they were young... for a short time at least.
  • Also turned up in There's Something About Mary.
  • "Four-Leaf" Tayback in Tropic Thunder.
  • Turkey Hollow: Eldridge pretends to need a cane to walk whenever he's around anybody other than his employees. When Sheriff Grover arrests him, he immediately runs away.
  • In The Unknown, Alonzo the Armless is a fugitive who masquerades as an armless knife thrower in a circus by strapping his arms to his torso.
  • This basically applies to Kevin Spacey's character in The Usual Suspects. He doesn't just pretend to be a spineless loser, but even his limp is fake.
  • In A Very Long Engagement, Mathilde, who has a lame foot due to polio, pretends to be wheelchair-bound in order to play on her uncle's heartstrings and get him to help her investigating her boyfriend's disappearance.
  • Virgin Territory: Lorenzo pretends he's deaf and mute so he can stay in a convent. He uses it as an opportunity to have sex with a number of the nuns until Pampinea exposes his ruse to the abbess.
  • In Waking Ned Devine, it turns out Lizzie can walk just fine without the scooter.
  • The TV movie What The Deaf Man Heard had a young boy arrive in a small town and pretend to be a deaf-mute in order to protect himself. The story being set in mid-20th century smalltown America, where there were no suspicious checks or means to enable them, he is able to easily succeed and is taken as disabled for twenty years. But when a scam takes place that threatens his town, he blows his front and reveals he can hear and speak.
  • Willy Wonka's introduction in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. As Wonka walks out limping with a cane, he suddenly stops...tumbles forward...and does a somersault. Gene Wilder wanted to do this so that neither the audience nor the characters could completely trust Wonka.
  • In The Woman in Green, Watson is tailed by a seemingly one-armed street hawker. With his concealed arm, he produces a flick knife and is about to stab Watson when Moriarty reappears and indicates for him not to.
  • The Woman in Red: The guys have a regular "blind man" prank where one who pretends that he's blind goes into a restaurant or shop and acts helpless. It's more than a bit cringe-worthy watching this now. and likely wouldn't be put in a film three decades on.


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