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Character Actors: April Star of the Month


Emily Dean
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Get ready everyone here they come, those actors who add the condiments to our movies, who are your favourites?  I know mine!!

 

Eve Arden

George Sanders

James Gleason

Eddie "Rochester" Anderson

William Demerest

Eric Blore

Edward Everett Horton

Lee Patrick

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Yes, the Astaire/Rogers movies are just loaded with them. Besides Horton, you've got Eric Blore and in one movie Victor Moore.

 

The first character actor I genuinely became aware of in my early years of embracing classic movies had to have been Thomas Mitchell. In the much-vaunted year of 1939 alone, Mitchell had possibly the greatest single year in character actor history: winning Best Supporting Actor for Stagecoach, but also appearing in Gone With the WindOnly Angels Have WingsMr. Smith Goes to Washington and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

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I like 'em ALL, EMILY!  Your list looks prety much like mine but for a few absentees.....

 

ALLAN JENKINS

 

CHARLES LANE

 

NED SPARKS

 

WALTER BRENNAN

 

PERCY HELTON

 

WARD BOND

 

ALAN HALE

 

DUB TAYLOR

 

DABS GREER

 

JOHN QUALEN

 

To name but a few......

 

 

Sepiatone

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While he was the star of a few films, Claude Rains was primarily in character support. He could be sympathetic, he could be villainous, or he could be an engaging rogue, as in his most famous role as Louie Renault in Casablanca.

 

Rains could make you hiss him in one film while shedding a tear for him in another. He was a great actor. Think, too, of all the classics in which he participated. Aside from Casablanca there was, among others, The Invisible Man, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, Kings Row, Notorious and Lawrence of Arabia.

 

Rains is probably my favourite character actor, while there are so many others I could name as well.

 

 

 

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Rains is probably my favourite character actor, while there are so many others I could name as well.

Cannot agree with you more TomJH...just saw him yesterday in "Deception" with his best actress, Bette Davis. 

 

For any of you really interested in getting to know about your "characters" there is a great book: "Also Starring...Forty Biographical Essays on the Greatest Character Actors of Hollywood Golden Years" by Cynthia and Sara Brideson.  Great reference for this month's Character Actors: Star of the Month"

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So Eve Arden was the only woman character actor. . . .

 

Don't forget Helen Broderick adding to the chemistry in the Rogers/Astaire movies.

 

And Aileen McMahon.

 

And May Robson.

 

And Nina Mae McKinney.

 

And Theresa Harris.

 

And Dorothea Kent.

 

And Joyce Compton.

 

And Penny Singleton.

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I would have added Bill, but my list WAS getting kind of lengthy.  Never too fond of Coburn though.  Oh, he's alright sometime, but I tend to think of character actors(and actresses) as usually being seen in a wide variety of different types of peope and personalities.  And Coburn always( to me) seems to be placed as the same kind of guy in almost every role he does.

 

 

Sepiatone

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Oscar Levant. Sardonic actor, also a big time talent on the piano.

I've loved Oscar Levant in everything I've ever seen him in! He basically just played himself most of the time, but I love it! His wit was terrific and his skills on the piano weren't too shabby, either. I think he was great in the Barkley's of Broadway, An American in Paris, Humoresque, Romance on the High Seas-- he was constantly a treat!

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I already mentioned Conrad Veidt as my favorite. Some others are:

 

Ralph Bellamy in his supporting roles

 

Jane Darwell

 

Richard Hayden

 

Beulah Bondi

 

Felix Bressart

 

Thelma Ritter

 

Donald Crisp

 

Agnes Moorehead

 

Lionel Barrymore

 

the entire group of supporting players in Preston Sturges films

 

the entire group of supporting players in Frank Capra films

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Herbert Lom. I made a whole thread about how underrated I think he is. He was always great and fascinating to watch. The Seventh Veil, The Ladykillers, Night and the City, War and Peace, Spartacus, the Pink Panther series... I could go on.

 

As for another character actor, I just love it whenever Harold Huber pops up! And he does, a lot. He was great in The Thin Man (the perfect part for him) and A Slight Case of Murder, with Edward G. Robinson.

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I've loved Oscar Levant in everything I've ever seen him in! He basically just played himself most of the time, but I love it! His wit was terrific and skills on the panio weren't too shabby, either. I think he was great in the Barkley's of Broadway, An American in Paris, Humoresque, Romance on the High Seas-- he was constantly a treat!

 

Agreed.  Levant has always been a favorite of mine too.  He was a nice foil for those big MGM musicals back then, and a sharp minded talent with some absolute serious skills at the piano.  

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GUY KIBBEE

 

He was great.  Those early Warner films were great for support actors.  Kibbee spent most of his on - screen time trying to hook up with Joan Blondell.  Movie after movie, he never gave up.  Other chorus girls came and went, Ginger Rogers to Loretta Young, but it was Blondell that he wanted most.  

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If you love character actors (and I really, really do) check out the bios of some of your favorite character actors who are being saluted in another thread -- The 100+ Club (as in 100 or more performances in feature films.)  So far we've got salutes to:  Regis Toomey, Mary Treen, Frank McHugh, Jane Darwell, Addison Richards, John Litel, Doris Lloyd, Nat Pendleton and Clara Blandick.  Next up:  Edward Brophy!

 

Lydecker

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Oscar Levant.  Sardonic actor, also a big time talent on the piano.

I purchased and read a biography of Oscar Levant and first and foremost he was a truly gifted pianist and a great friend of George and Ira Gershwin.  It is really too bad he never starred in a film with Eve Arden...there wouldn't have been a line left to the main actors. 

 

You can access some of his interviews on You Tube to get a view of him unscripted.  However it is well known, especially in the MGM musicals that he inserted his own lines into the films.  Yesterday he was in "Humouresque" with Joan Crawford and John Garfield and I could have sworn he had a line that he later repeated in "An American In Paris". 

 

The scene he had in "An American in Paris" where he was the orchestra, conductor and audience is most reflective of his ego.  The method they used for filming that sequence is very interesting. 

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The scene he had in "An American in Paris" where he was the orchestra, conductor and audience is most reflective of his ego.  The method they used for filming that sequence is very interesting. 

That is one of my favorite film scenes!

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I purchased and read a biography of Oscar Levant and first and foremost he was a truly gifted pianist and a great friend of George and Ira Gershwin.  It is really too bad he never starred in a film with Eve Arden...there wouldn't have been a line left to the main actors. 

 

 

 

He was an interesting person, so no doubt it's a good read.  He was probably the biggest Gershwin fan...he recorded a really cool version of "Rhapsody In Blue".   I don't think he was the easiest person to get along with.  But musicians are interesting people, and that's what makes them fun.  

 

One of my favorite of the big MGM color musicals is the Band Wagon.  So, that along with An American In Paris is what I think about when I think of Oscar Levant.

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The scene he had in "An American in Paris" where he was the orchestra, conductor and audience is most reflective of his ego.  The method they used for filming that sequence is very interesting. 

 

And an idea they got no doubt, from BUSTER KEATON's "THE PLAYHOUSE" (1921)

 

 

Sepiatone

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