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Those Small Performances in Films That You Love


TomJH
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This is a really interesting topic!  Here's a few that come to mind.

Les Miserables (2012):  The role of Fantine played by Anne Hathaway is one of the most tragic, memorable smaller roles I've ever seen.  Her portrayal of Fantine is so important to the impact of the film.

Judgement at Nuremberg (1961):  Montgomery Clift as Rudolph Peterson, a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp who was sterilized by Nazi doctors.  The film "Judgement at Nuremberg" is about the trails held after WWII to prosecute Third Reich officials for war crimes.  When Clift is on the witness stand, he shakes and sweats and his eyes seem hollowed out.  His performance is so moving and the only scene Clift plays in the film.

Key Largo (1948):  Claire Trevor as Gaye Dawn.  In this suspenseful noir, a small hotel in Key Largo is taken over by gangsters during a hurricane.  Claire plays the alcoholic girlfriend of Johnny Rocco played by Edgar G. Robinson.   In one scene, Claire's character is forced to sing.  Her performance in this role is amazing.

Below:  Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Montgomery Clift as Rudolph Peterson and Claire Trevor as Gaye Dawn.

 

image.jpeg.b4c04e737adb638d06f4f801874ae33f.jpeg          image.jpeg.4c56afb5e35027e2ee7ff02ebd1d8ce1.jpeg          image.jpeg.1ef55b8dfd49daa9d7fb8696dd8629fd.jpeg

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16 hours ago, Allhallowsday said:

How about J. CARROL NAISH in CLASH BY NIGHT

Yuk, I can't stand that ham.

If you want to talk about big impact/short screen time in Clash By Night, how could you forget Marilyn?

 

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5 minutes ago, TikiSoo said:

Yuk, I can't stand that ham.

If you want to talk about big impact/short screen time in Clash By Night, how could you forget Marilyn?

 

I couldn't agree more - she is outstanding in this one. I love her pre "stardom" performances. They are little gems, like in "All About Eve" and "The Asphalt Jungle."

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14 minutes ago, Toto said:

This is a really interesting topic!  Here's a few that come to mind.

Les Miserables (2012):  The role of Fantine played by Anne Hathaway is one of the most tragic, memorable smaller roles I've ever seen.  Her portrayal of Fantine is so important to the impact of the film.

Judgement at Nuremberg (1961):  Montgomery Clift as Rudolph Peterson, a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp who was sterilized by Nazi doctors.  The film "Judgement at Nuremberg" is about the trails held after WWII to prosecute Third Reich officials for war crimes.  When Clift is on the witness stand, he shakes and sweats and his eyes seem hollowed out.  His performance is so moving and the only scene Clift plays in the film.

Key Largo (1948):  Claire Trevor as Gaye Dawn.  In this suspenseful noir, a small hotel in Key Largo is taken over by gangsters during a hurricane.  Claire plays the alcoholic girlfriend of Johnny Rocco played by Edgar G. Robinson.   In one scene, Claire's character is forced to sing.  Her performance in this role is amazing.

Below:  Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Montgomery Clift as Rudolph Peterson and Claire Trevor as Gaye Dawn.

 

image.jpeg.b4c04e737adb638d06f4f801874ae33f.jpeg          image.jpeg.4c56afb5e35027e2ee7ff02ebd1d8ce1.jpeg          image.jpeg.1ef55b8dfd49daa9d7fb8696dd8629fd.jpeg

Great calls on "Judgement at Nuremberg" and "Key Largo" (I haven't seen 2012 "Les Miserables"). I'd add Judy Garland's performance in "Judgement..." too - small role, brilliant performance. 

I love when Trevor gives Bogie the gun in "Key Large;" it's so well done and such a FU from her to Robinson (who's been abusing her throughout) moment. 

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1 hour ago, Toto said:

Key Largo (1948):  Claire Trevor as Gaye Dawn.  In this suspenseful noir, a small hotel in Key Largo is taken over by gangsters during a hurricane.  Claire plays the alcoholic girlfriend of Johnny Rocco played by Edgar G. Robinson.   In one scene, Claire's character is forced to sing.  Her performance in this role is amazing.

 

                    image.jpeg.1ef55b8dfd49daa9d7fb8696dd8629fd.jpeg

I wouldn't really call this a small role but maybe I'm nitpicking since Trevor is excellent in a supporting part. As for the memorably awkward scene in which everyone is embarrassed by her poor singing of "Moanin' Low" John Huston shocked the actress by simply telling her they were going to shoot the scene one day without giving her any preparation, which Trevor fully expected. I suspect that Huston's act helped capture the reality of a singer who could no longer sing by using an actress who couldn't sing at all, and getting her to do it when she was unprepared.

By the way, is 1948 the only year in which a director directed two actors to best supporting Oscar wins in two different films in the same year, Trevor in this film and, of course, his father in Treasure of the Sierra Madre?

 

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Not yey the big name he'd soon become, RICHARD DREYFUSS' performance in "73's DILLINGER  superbly displayed the "small man acting big" role.  One scene, when Diliger's gang is having a shootout, Dreyfuss(as "Baby face" Nelson) sprays Tommy gun fire at the opposite side of a street, killing about a dozen innocent bystanders.  Then he gleefully turns around and happily announces, "I GOT 'im!"  ;) 

Sepiatone

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28 minutes ago, TomJH said:

I wouldn't really call this a small role but maybe I'm nitpicking since Trevor is excellent in a supporting part. As for the memorably awkward scene in which everyone is embarrassed by her poor singing of "Moanin' Low" John Huston shocked the actress by simply telling her they were going to shoot the scene one day without giving her any preparation, which Trevor fully expected. I suspect that Huston's act helped capture the reality of a singer who could no longer sing by using an actress who couldn't sing at all, and getting her to do it when she was unprepared.

By the way, is 1948 the only year in which a director directed two actors to best supporting Oscar wins in two different films in the same year, Trevor in this film and, of course, his father in Treasure of the Sierra Madre?

 

Sorry for misinterpreting and posting more of a supporting role.  Really interesting story about how Huston filmed the scene with Claire Trevor singing.  Thanks!

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Two short, but good performances I can think of off the top of my head are:

Marjorie Main as Miss Dolly, the landlady of the apartment Linda Mills rented in "Another Thin Man".  Her banter with William Powell is top-notch.

Also, I like the natural, conversational style displayed by Mary Field who played the waitress/owner of Marney's Cafe near the beginning of "Out of the Past".

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30 minutes ago, Toto said:

Sorry for misinterpreting and posting more of a supporting role.  Really interesting story about how Huston filmed the scene with Claire Trevor singing.  Thanks!

No apology necessary, Toto. Trevor delivered a wonderful performance, whether her role fits my definition of "small" (an ambiguous term, I admit) or not.

By the way, I thought this little guy (real nameTerry) was pretty impressive in another famous small role, as well.

From Carpet-Wetter To Film Icon: How Terry The Terrier Became Toto | KTEP

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20 minutes ago, Sepiatone said:

Not yey the big name he'd soon become, RICHARD DREYFUSS' performance in "73's DILLINGER  superbly displayed the "small man acting big" role.  One scene, when Diliger's gang is having a shootout, Dreyfuss(as "Baby face" Nelson) sprays Tommy gun fire at the opposite side of a street, killing about a dozen innocent bystanders.  Then he gleefully turns around and happily announces, "I GOT 'im!"  ;) 

Sepiatone

That reminds me, what about Gene Wilder, before he became a star, in his small role when he encountered bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde? It's a marvelous small scene.

It Was Gene Wilder's First Movie | 'We Rob Banks': The Making of 'Bonnie  and Clyde' | Purple Clover

Here he's threatening to tear them apart. His attitude will change a bit when they turn their car around and start chasing him.

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Elisha Cook Jr. and Bob Steele in The Big Sleep

Both actors shine in small roles in this Howard Hawks production. Cook is "Jonesy," in contrast to his usual low life characters, an honest (or relatively honest) straight shooter who has been around and one of the few characters in the film to have Marlowe's respect. Then there's Bob Steele as Canino, the cold blooded killer. A friend of mine, who used to hang out in the streets, once referred to some drug gang members as having "shark eyes," cold, no expression, people capable of doing anything. Steele has those same expressionless shark eyes in this film.

The scene below, the only one in the film in which the two characters meet, is riveting.

The Big Sleep (1946)

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2 hours ago, TomJH said:

No apology necessary, Toto. Trevor delivered a wonderful performance, whether her role fits my definition of "small" (an ambiguous term, I admit) or not.

By the way, I thought this little guy (real nameTerry) was pretty impressive in another famous small role, as well.

From Carpet-Wetter To Film Icon: How Terry The Terrier Became Toto | KTEP

Love this picture of Toto!  In Wizard of Oz, Toto's character is fearless, loyal and a true friend.  However, I hate to admit this since I use the name "Toto", but Toto doesn't always perform on command in the film.  They tied the curtain to him when he pulled it back to reveal "that man behind the curtain" who is The Wizard.   Toto was no Rin Tin Tin but he's very cute.

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And then there's the sterling performance that actor Ian Keith gives as the down and out alcoholic Pete in the original 1947 Nightmare Alley...

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(...I've been wondering if David Strathairn's performance as the same character in the recent remake would/could be as good?...and which would be one of the key reasons I would be interested in seeing the new version)

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3 hours ago, TomJH said:

Mary Wickes as the Nurse in The Man Who Came To Dinner

The Man Who Came to Dinner - Alchetron, the free social encyclopedia

 

Mary Wickes was also quite good in Now Voyager, where she also played a nurse, with Bette Davis and Gladys Cooper, who is wonderful to watch in any movie she’s ever been in. 

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Can't say enough about Dorothy Malone's performance in the famous "Bookshop" scene in "The Big Sleep:" possible the best pickup (she picks him up) and casual-sex scene in a movie ever. It is all her scene with Bogie just along for the ride (tee-hee). Kidding aside, Malone owns the scene from beginning to end. 

 

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One performance that sticks in my head is that of Patrick Ardiate, who played Prince Chulalongkorn in the King and I. The way he walks out when the children are summoned to meet their school teacher keeps me focused on his movements. He shows that he knows who he is, he knows that his father has his back, he knows what is expected of him. He' s poised, confident and  unfailing. If all our sons could be that confident in their lives, our world would be amazing. Next time your watch the King and I, check out Prince Chulalongkorn's presence.

Another pick for me are the other dancers in the 1961 version of West Side Story. The Sharks and the Jets did some major dancing in this film and it never gets old. The dancing by the Jets in the parking garage will always get applause from me. It was just on  December 30th and I was looking at the women who were in the garage with the guys dancing, they are amazing. High marks for those dancers.

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4 hours ago, Sepiatone said:

Not yey the big name he'd soon become, RICHARD DREYFUSS' performance in "73's DILLINGER  superbly displayed the "small man acting big" role.  One scene, when Diliger's gang is having a shootout, Dreyfuss(as "Baby face" Nelson) sprays Tommy gun fire at the opposite side of a street, killing about a dozen innocent bystanders.  Then he gleefully turns around and happily announces, "I GOT 'im!"  ;) 

Sepiatone

Still remember when Dreyfuss & company rolled into town to shoot scenes for Dillinger.  Some classmates were extras.

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1 hour ago, mkahn22 said:

maxresdefault-5.thumb.jpg.355072bf393ae12c222f643c6118f7af.jpg

Can't say enough about Dorothy Malone's performance in the famous "Bookshop" scene in "The Big Sleep:" possible the best pickup (she picks him up) and casual-sex scene in a movie ever. It is all her scene with Bogie just along for the ride (tee-hee). Kidding aside, Malone owns the scene from beginning to end. 

 

LOVE that scene.  Good choice for this thread!

 

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4 hours ago, TomJH said:

Elisha Cook Jr. and Bob Steele in The Big Sleep

Both actors shine in small roles in this Howard Hawks production. Cook is "Jonesy," in contrast to his usual low life characters, an honest (or relatively honest) straight shooter who has been around and one of the few characters in the film to have Marlowe's respect. Then there's Bob Steele as Canino, the cold blooded killer. A friend of mine, who used to hang out in the streets, once referred to some drug gang members as having "shark eyes," cold, no expression, people capable of doing anything. Steele has those same expressionless shark eyes in this film.

The scene below, the only one in the film in which the two characters meet, is riveting.

The Big Sleep (1946)

I also enjoyed Elisha Cook, Jr's performance as the hotel desk clerk in the film noir I Wake Up Screaming (1941).

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This is one of my favorite things in a movie — memorable side characters. They add so much texture to the film! I agree with SHOP AROUND THE CORNER 100% and have always loved the snarky delivery boy— such a memorable performance.

 

I’ve already mentioned in another thread that MIRACLE ON 34th STREET is loaded with these. They show up once or twice or not til the end but you remember them — Thelma Ritter saying “Macy’s Ain’t Got Any”, Jack Albertson in the mail room, the drunk Mrs Shelhammer, the drunk Santa in the parade, etc. But at the end the whole movie is stolen by Gene Lockhart. What a hilarious judge he makes, always looking to campaign manager William Frawley, adding so much subtext to every line and moment.

793full-miracle-on-34th-street-screensho

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This is a wonderful and probably inexhaustible topic! A few examples that leap to mind (listed chronologically):

• Wilfred Lawson as Alfred Doolitle (Eliza's father) in Pygmalion (1938)--he manages to make the character seem somehow delightful, horrible, and irresistible all at the same time.

• Granville Bates as the judge in My Favorite Wife (1940)--he seems almost not to be acting here, but instead comes across as a very specific, believable person, as if he were making up the dialogue on the spot. This is especially impressive considering how staggeringly prolific an actor he was (e.g., 73 films from 1936-1940).

• Gale Sondergaard in The Letter (1940)--she has hardly any dialogue, but makes an unforgettable impression as the defiant Eurasian widow.

• Paul Stewart and Fortunio Bonanova in Citizen Kane (1940)--they both make the most of their two minutes of screen time, as Kane's butler and Susan Alexander Kane's music teacher, respectively. (Years later, they appeared together memorably in Kiss Me Deadly.)

• The Big Sleep (1946) seems to be a fertile source of well-loved small roles, and my nominee is Charles Waldron as General Sternwood, who has a single extended scene near the beginning of the film.  His drily ironic, self-deprecating tone mirrors Bogart's own, and provides an appealingly languid prelude to what will soon become a notoriously convoluted plot. (Perhaps fittingly, this proved to be his final film role.)

• Henry Jones as the coroner in Vertigo (1958), outlining with sardonic understatement (and barely disguised contempt) Jimmy Stewart's indirect responsibility for not one but two deaths. As in The Bad Seed, his character serves a memorable I-know-what-you-did function, but could hardly be more different otherwise.

• Michael Jeter in The Fisher King (1991)--his outrageous, hilarious singing-telegram scene, performed with the total commitment of a Broadway trouper, appears completely out of nowhere, and leaves one with an exhilarated feeling of ****-just-happened.

• Enrico Colantoni as Mathesar in Galaxy Quest (1999)--his performance raises this already loveable movie beyond the level of the merely clever and offers something unexpectedly heartfelt and moving.

• Gene Jones as the Gas Station Proprietor in No Country for Old Men (2007)--Javier Bardem is rightly praised for this unforgettable coin-flipping scene, but the completely believable reactions of the little-known actor opposite him (who, unlike the audience, only gradually realizes the existential threat he faces), are a crucial part of what makes the scene work.

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Preston Sturges films also offer a large variety of these. Christmas is on my mind still so I’ll mention REMEMBER THE NIGHT — tons of hilarious side characters like Sterling Holloway as the dumb farmhand Willy, the hick that arrests them for trespassing, the judge at the rummage sale looking for his hat,  and Fat Mike the bondsman. My favorite is Barbara Stanwyck’s lawyer at the beginning, referred to as “that windbag!”

04-willard-robertson.jpg

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