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Typecasting in films, maybe -


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bad for the actor, but good for the viewer.

 

There are so many character actors, who were typed...yet seeing them in a part, means we have a shorthand at knowing what is happening in the film.

 

If we see Allen Jenkins, then we know someone might need a cab or a chauffeur. Even though Jenkins, had more ability than just being cast as a Damon Runyon oaf, and Warners did occasionally use him as a dense detective, he nevertheless was still used as the chauffeur for people like the suave George Sanders as the Falcon.

 

If we see Martin Kosleck, then...we know Mel Brooks better run, because this is the real thing, as Losleck is one sneering, nasty Nazi. Now in real life, no one was more anti-Nazi than Kosleck, who was born in Barketzen, Germany in the early 1900's, but left with the artistic migration of his peers...and was destined with his Teutonic physiognomy to play people like Goebbels in "Confessions of a Nazi Spy" and in "Hitler". One of my favorite of his roles was in the Rondo Hatton flick, "House of Horrors" and in "Pursuit to Algiers". Nevertheless, when one needs a mealy mouthed, martinet type Nazi, to kow tow to a Jean-Louis Heydt commander, no one was as good as Kosleck.

 

If we see Akim Tamiroff, then we know we are in for some foreign intrique in exotic places. Born in Russia in the late 1890's, Tamiroff was a graduate of the Moscow Art Theatre, but later even played in clubs in Chicago, and was known for being a bit multi-ethnic on film, with roles as a Chinese bandit, a Spanish Civil War guerrilla, a Cuban, French Canadian and a Tartar. One most memorable roles was as Grandi, in "Touch of Evil" and who can forget his enjoyable performance in Dassin's colorful, "Topkapi". But though Tamiroff also played normal parts in some Paramount films, like a boss, even if it was Mafioso inclined, one knows when they see him enter a scene...that one is probably not in Kansas anymore.

 

So...which typecasted character performers, do you always enjoy seeing on screen?

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The ones that come to my mind are Chaney jr, Lugosi and Boris Karloff.Many people forget Lons fine acting as Lennie in OF MICE AND MEN. As the retired sheriff in HIGH NOON he is memorable in a small part.But it is the horror roles for which he is best remembered. Of course Bela Lugosi is Dracula, vampires and mad doctors. They forget WHITE ZOMBIE . Lugosi proved he could act in this low budget classic. Karloff stated he didn't mind being typed as the monster and proved it with many fine roles afterwards.

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Talk about a guy who almost exclusively played butlers, Sidney Bracey is the king. Trust me, you have seen this guy's face in tons of movies playing a butler. One of the few times he didn't play one was when he was the boss of the news office in The Cameraman.

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Eric Blore will always be the quintessential funny butler to me in several movies, especially in It's Love I'm After.

 

Other enjoyable typecast actors:

 

Walter Hampden as an old actor or as an old cleric

 

Basil Rathbone as a villain--he made it seem so attractive to be a baddie, (except in David Copperfield, when he was genuinely scary). He looked as though he was having much more fun than when he played Sherlock Holmes.

 

George Sanders as rake/cynic.

 

Edna May Oliver as an old maid. She was a delightful powerhouse.

 

Gene Lockhart as a moral or physical coward and just about any weakling, though his turn as Bob Crachit(spelling?) in "The Christmas Carol" brought to light his kindly side too.

 

Thelma Ritter as a maid. She was always a wonderfully subversive servant.

 

Ann Revere as a salt-of-the-earth mom.

 

Of course, most of these actors had a much broader range than their typecasting allowed them to display, but didn't their presence add so much texture and verisimilitude to a picture?

 

 

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so marvelous!

 

Did you know he was a former opera singer? I think he was born in Naples, but not in Florida.

 

He could play so many different parts, like the guy in "Gunga Din" and gangster types, and even an Indian..but you're right, he's usually best crooked.

 

As for good old Harold, his smarmy, non-law abiding prototypes in films like the Charlie Chan series, and the Thin Man made him quite unlikable, in a fun way. I think he looks like he should be Raymond Burr's cousin, with those poppy eyes.

 

His New York city background served him well in verisimiltude for street behaviour in films.

 

Great choices!

 

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These are wonderful ones, Moira!

 

One thing I noticed the other night about Basil Rathbone, as we finally watched the TCM Errol Flynn documentary, was how graceful he was in the swordfights. Practically dancing.

 

Your mentioning dear Eric Blore made me think of Edward Everett Horton. My favorite Horton role (despite my addiction to Astaire/Rogers) is Holiday. It's so wonderful to see him not blithering!

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I always enjoy seeing Billie Burke as a bubbly-daffy lady, and Joan Blondell as a tough gal with a heart of gold.

 

I also have great fondness for Thelma Ritter as a salty maid or secretary or wife or whatever! And I love Eric Blore's silliness.

 

Sandy K

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Well, what do you think when you see Peter Lorre? Totally typecast- sneaky little weasel/sidekick. I love him, when you see him, you know he and his partner are up to no good, and he has a secret or something. Love it! I love him in Arsenic and Old Lace, drunk surgeon somewhat reluctantly? helping a serial killer. He's a great character actor.

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  • 1 month later...

Just cuz I like stirring things up once in awhile - and I know I'm gonna get blasted for this - but - - - :-) - - it's all about opinions, right?

 

I think Liz Taylor was totally type cast in Butterfield 8. Award? Playing herself? NOT! So she married a lot of them - big deal!

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I don't know about everyone else but Taylor only got that Oscar because she almost died that year from pneumonia. I wouldn't say she was "typecast." So she was married a lot. So was Mickey Rooney (I think he's got 8 marriages under his belt too.) But not a slam. I don't particularly think Butterfield 8 was her greatest performance either. She went on to win another a few years later for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

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I always thought that Taylor should have won for Suddenly Last Summer, the year before Butterfield.

 

Of course, it takes more than a single film (by definition) to pigeonhole any actor into the "typecast." category. I agree that Elizabeth was never typecast.

 

Another beauty, Marilyn M, however, did not escape the distinction, though she tried desperately to do so. She may have finally succeeded with The Misfits ... a little too late, of course.

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How 'bout FRANKLIN PANGBORN -- the fussy floorwalker and other roles he portrayed.

 

Or CHARLES LANE who played countless roles in his long career - but I best know as the crotchety IRS/Tax collector guy.

 

And Cecelia Parker - didn't she usually play the best friend of the lead character?

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way back in the recesses of my film trivia mind, I remember reading that supposedly Monroe wanted to change her image and was dead set on playing Grushenka, from the Dostoevsky book, "The Brothers Karamazov".

 

Now this would be a far cry from Lorelei Lee, or Sugar in "Some Like It Hot" and though I find the thought of it a bit odd, I would have liked to see what she would have done with the role.

 

During my sordid Russian literature days in GED class, I read a lot of Dostoevsky and his very dour nature does not seem that which would attract Monroe, but I can see why she might find the part appealing, as it is in diametric opposition to most roles she was chosen for onscreen.

 

In the film, which was not the best translation of the book, the part was played by Maria Schell who lent her very tranquil and serene presence to the part.

 

I agree with you about "Suddenly Last Summer" in which Liz is electrifying!

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Therealfuster,

Marilyn was enamored with things intellectual---literature, philosophy, poetry, etc---which explains, in part at least, her attraction for Arthur Miller, and surely had something to do with her interest in Grushenka. She also wanted a particular role in The Egyptian---I forget which---and wanted even more desperately the role of Cleopatra. Picture her with the classical Cleo hairdo. It's a little difficult to think of her pulling that role off, especially with her child-like and whispery manner of speaking. Yet she is a better actress than she is sometime given credit for. Though very unprofessional on the set, difficult to work with etc, the final Marilyn that you see on the screen is very good, IMO, especially her post-Actor's Studio films beginning with Bus Stop. Her earlier successes---Millionaire and Gentlemen---were more attributable to her looks, yes, but not without a certain natural flair for comedy.

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Something was said the other day about George Raft in Robert Osborne's intro to Nocturne (1946) that relates to this thread and that I find very interesting. Namely, that though already a star in the late 30s, Raft wanted so to change his image from tough guy to nice guy that he turned down offers for High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon (gasp!), and Casablanca (ditto!), roles that, as we know, went to Bogart and went a long way to making him a star.

 

As far as I know, Raft never made this transition and it's curious to think what he might have thought of all this in retrospect. Interesting also to reflect to what lengths one might go to change one's image and at what price when one fails.

 

Viewing Nocturne, I could almost see Raft trying to be the "nice guy" and though it's hard to form an opinion on the basis of just one film, I had trouble accepting him as such in Nocturne. There were scenes in with his mother, for example, that were meant to show this nice-guy side and although his acting was not bad, he was, to my mind, not in his element in these scenes.

 

Here is an excellent example where an interesting on-the-mark introduction to a movie really adds to the enjoyment. I have always thought (as well as many of us here, I imagine) that the intros on TCM are excellent. Whoever writes them deserves credit.

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that was extremely short sighted of Raft, but we are the luckier for it.

 

I don't think the rather one-dimensional Raft could have wrung as much out of the roles as Bogart, plus Raft never seemed to have too much humor and would have played Sam Spade much less humorously, or laid it on thick with a trowel if he was forced too. But that's just my opinion, and tell Bugsy Siegel I said...no offense. I don't want to get ventilated!

 

I can enjoy Raft in films, but never get a real sense of depth seeing him in a role. Interesting comments from you though, that definitely do add to this thread concept.

 

Thank you!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I know I'm off topic but had to mention this. I'm currently reading Edward G. Robinson's autobiography, in which he was quite nice when speaking about most people - but he sure didn't like working with George Raft. He says he was "touchy, difficult, and thoroughly impossible to play with". I was sad to read that because I always thought that Raft was an 'overlooked' actor. It appears that he made many bad choices, as already noted, and if he was hard to work with, many people might have made bad choices "for" him. Sad because I always thought he was so good.

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  • 9 months later...

Kosleck is amazing. And his companion, Twardowski, who was also in Caligari, had a small career in Hollywood - occasionaly playing Heydrich, as in Hangmen Also Die which played today.

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