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Classic Character Actors

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This had been done here before. You must not have been paying attention, as I recall your name in other threads around the same time.

 

 

I wouldn't know what a "classic" character actor is. If you're referring to character actors from "classic" movies, several come to mind. GUY KIBBEE, JAMES FINLAYSON, CHARLES MIDDLETON, HARRY CAREY and a host of familiar faces whose names I've never learned. Later on there was CHARLES LANE, RALPH GLEASON, WALTER BRENNAN, DUB TAYLOR, ANDY DEVINE, BILLY GILBERT, NEVILLE BRAND, HARRY CAREY JR. to name but just a few. Others here can no doubt fill in the huge gap.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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The list is endless

 

Louis Calhern

Edward Arnold

Glenda Farrell

Nat Pendleton

Aline MacMahon

Guy Kibbee

Charles Coburn

Marjorie Main

Eugene Pallette

Franklin Pangborn

Sig Ruman

Margaret Dumont

Grady Sutton

George C. Stone

Allen Jenkins

Eve Arden

Mike Mazurki

Walter Connolly

James Gleason

Edward Everett Horton

Elisha Cook Jr

Sam Levene

Robert Barrett

Ed Brophy

Edward Ellis

Ben Weldon

Paul Valentine

Jack Lambert

Albert Dekker

Sam Jaffee

C. Aubrey Smith

Dan Duryea

May Robson

Alison Skipworth

Margaret Hamilton

Barton MacLane

 

And so many more. These actors are the glue that holds movies together and can make a B-movie a pleasure all by themselves.

 

 

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The list does seem endless. I like your inclusion of Eve Arden.

 

Some character actors were leading men and women during the silent era, and their careers evolved considerably with the advent of talkies.

 

I was watching TCM's recent broadcast of THE FALCON TAKES OVER, and it has Anne Revere in an early film role. She's excellent as always. She is definitely not intended to be George Sanders' love interest. It's strictly a character role for her.

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I'd like to add a few names to the list:

 

Beulah Bondi

Edna May Oliver

Fay Bainter

Helen Broderick

Hattie McDaniel

Una O'Connor

Flora Robson

Agnes Moorehead

Lewis Stone

Jean Hersholt

Robert Morley

George Sanders

Henry Daniell

Eric Blore

Alan Hale

Gene Lockhart

Chill Wills

 

Edited by: Midge on Apr 30, 2012 3:49 AM

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I guess what I meant, instead of listing them, was which one are viewers' personal favorites and why.

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TCM aired DON'T TELL THE WIFE today. This is a great RKO film with a ton of character actors: Guy Kibbee, Una Merkel, William Demarest, Guinn Williams & Lynne Overman. Wonderful entertainment!

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I DID catch that, and it was fun. I'd also like to correct myself. I listed the name RALPH GLEASON as a character actor. It should have been JAMES GLEASON. Sorry. Ralph was a music critic.

 

 

 

Many of the charactor actors I mentioned in my reply are some of my favorites, but I cannot really explain why. Maybe because I'm familiar with them from stuff I used to watch as a kid, like Brennan. Used to LOVE *The Real McCoys* on TV as a kid, and from being familiar with him from that, just loved him in the movie *Rio Bravo* . And now anything else he's been in. FINLAYSON from all the old LAUREL & HARDY I watched. CHARLES LANE from his recurring role as Homer Bedloe on *Petticoat Junction* . NEVILLE BRAND from *Laredo* . And on and on. Could be that many of them show ranges in their craft that many of the "stars" they worked under didn't have, but became character actors because many don't have that "Movie Star" look the studio heads were after, and I ALWAYS root for the underdog! Which reminds me...add WALLY COX to my list.

 

 

 

Sepiatone

 

Edited by: Sepiatone on May 1, 2012 10:35 AM

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I guess what I meant, instead of listing them, was which one are viewers' personal favorites and why.

 

That's a much harder question, though if I had to pick three I'd probably take Edward Arnold, Nat Pendleton and Glenda Farrell, with Aline MacMahon close behind.

 

The only problem with character actors is that many of them also played leading or co-starring roles in more than a few movies. I see Marie Dressler listed among them, but while she seems like a character actor (or actress) on the surface, in fact she won two Oscars for leading roles. George Sanders was definitely a character *type* , but he also was the lead actor or co-star quite often. It's often a fine line that's hard to define. If nearly always playing to type were the sole criterion, you'd have to include many stars in your list (hello, Gary Cooper, hello Joan Crawford), and if you excluded actors who had leading roles, you'd have to eliminate many of our favorites like Arnold, Kibbee or Coburn. The "purest" sort of character actor is always in the background, vividly portrayed but never winning the girl (or the boy) in the end.

 

 

 

 

 

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Right...there are types of character actors...sub-categories, if you will.

 

I would list Barbra Streisand as a character actress, and I am sure many would object to that classification. But after she wound up eighth-billed in a Ben Stiller franchise, that is exactly the kind of role she was doing. She may be a great singer, but she is no longer selling movie tickets based on sex appeal. I think even in something like YENTL, she is doing a character-driven part.

 

As for the purest form of a character actor or actress, I think that even if we look at the ones from the studio era that never got the guy or never got the girl, we could probably look at their resume, and we would see they likely did play leading roles when they were younger on stage, if not in movies.

 

In James Robert Parish's book on character actors, he lists Gordon Westcott. I don't exactly consider him a character actor. He was leading man material, but he was working his way up the ladder in supporting roles like many of his fellow Warners-First National costars. Except unlike the others, he died very young and his promising career was tragically cut short. He would've made it to the A-list.

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Maybe I just have a soft spot for dialect work, but I've always loved John Qualen and Karl Swenson. In the latter case, Swenson did a lot more of his work on old time radio and classic TV than on film.

 

Qualen just makes me smile anytime he shows up on film. To me, he and Thomas Mitchell make THE LONG VOYAGE HOME work.

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John Qualen has a very memorable face. I always thought he and Dick Powell sort of resembled each other.

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anyone mention S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall yet? definitely one of my faves! :) plus several others already listed, E. E. Horton, Eric Blore, Franklin Pangborn, Jack Carson, & Elisha Cook Jr.

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TCM once AGAIN showed *Man's Favorite Sport* last night. So now I'll have to ask you all to consider adding JOHN McGIVER to my list of favorites. Even though his voice and coutenance limited him to certain types of characters, he did them so well ya just gotta love him!

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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I view Jack Carson as more as a second tier star than a character actors (after say 1946).

 

He was the lead male role in a few WB movies in the late 40s, but regardless of how we classify him he was a joy to watch.

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Burt Mustin, Ellen Corby, Reta Shaw, Frank Ferguson, John Anderson, Robert Emhardt, Virginia Gregg, Malcolm Atterbury, Olan Soule, Jesse White, Herb Vigran are some. Dragnet used many great character actors.

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I'm watching GRANNY GET YOUR GUN which TCM aired this morning. It has a bonanza of character actors. Among them: May Robson, Harry Davenport & Granville Bates. In fact, Robson and Davenport are top-billed. It's a B-film, but it dawned on me how this type of casting would not occur today. In youth-conscious Hollywood, no major studio and certainly not Warners (which produced this picture) would bankroll anything with two older veteran actors in the lead roles. It continues to be our loss.

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Floyd, the guy who plays your namesake has been spotted in several old films. Never learned HIS real name. And KATHLENE FREEMAN. And another favorite of mine, FRED CLARK.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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I also like Fred Clark. He could play a funny guy or a hard guy like he did in Ride The Pink Horse (where he was the heal).

 

 

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Everyone at Warner Brothers up to the War years. Many well known actors have just bit parts on the way to stardom. Also the faces. You don't have that interesting blend of looks anymore.

All I have to see is the cast list,and I will watch it. To heck with the films rating.

I also think all of the people that bounced back and forth from leads to co-stars. I won't start a name list. Some are already listed in previous posts.

We won't ever see this amount of talent and faces again. The studios were factories then.

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