Did someone say *Ben?*
Oh, you KNOW this is my kind o' thread.
You all know I love Ben best. He could play anything, once he got his sea legs, and I especially love his more dark supporting characters, like Bob Amory in *One Eyed Jacks.* Couldn't trust him any further you could throw him, the snake.
I would put dear *Wardy* wayyyy up high at the top of the list. I just saw him in *Joan of Arc* the other night, and he was just great, you wouldn't think he would fit in in that kind of movie, but he did, exceptionally well. Another performance of his that gives me the heebee jeebees is his turn in *The Mortal Storm.* A more evil, representative Nazi factotum you will never see. But the west fits him like a second skin. Speaking of *Wagon Master*, watching Ward on the big screen gave me a new appreciation of his depth, and ability to convey subtle things with his eyes and face. One thing people usually don't accuse Ward of is subtlety, but as in *On Dangerous Ground*, he is able to present more than meets the eye, when he's given the chance to stop blustering.
Here are some of my other favorites:
*Will Wright* is another of those actors, like Brennan, who had a rich life before turning to acting in films. He started out as a newspaper reporter (can't you picture it?) and actually became a producer on Boradway before he became the quintessential crusty old codger for the movies. He always gives the hint of something a little bit darker in his serious roles. I just love him, When he turns up it's always good.
*Burl Ives* and I have had a love-hate relationship since I was a little kid - loved Jimmy Crack Corn and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but he scared me as Big Daddy and in his TV appearances in the 1960's, usually as a big, blustery bad guy. I just finished watching him in *The Big Country* and he broke my heart as a good bad man forced to realize his own corruption and wasted life. He was brilliant and arguably gave the best performance in the movie. Another of my favorite characterizations has Burl walking that fine line again between sweetness and corruption....he's exceptionally fine as the German Dr. Hasselbacker in *Our Man in Havana*, a very disconcerting role because we like him so much. As much as i love him in this one, Burl seems at his best in those western landscapes.
Here are a few men of the west, supporting actors, a couple of whom were leading men long before they were known as supporting players, but whose faces tell their story better than any words about them could: