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In character with Charles Winninger


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I have a series of 'In character' threads, and I was surprised to see that I hadn't made one yet for the great character actor Charles Winninger.

 

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TCM is airing a daytime tribute in Winninger's honor. Last night I had looked at a disc of 'George Murphy' films I recorded. One of those was LITTLE NELLIE KELLY, where Winninger plays Judy Garland's pop. It is not airing this morning, but watching it was a good warm-up for today's slate of films featuring Winninger:

 

GOD'S GIFT TO WOMEN

NIGHT NURSE

THE GO-GETTER

NOTHING SACRED

BABES IN ARMS

MY LIFE WITH CAROLINE

BELLE OF THE YUKON

 

screen-shot-2015-05-26-at-12-35-18-pm.pn

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I have a series of 'In character' threads, and I was surprised to see that I hadn't made one yet for the great character actor Charles Winninger.

 

images45.jpg

 

TCM is airing a daytime tribute in Winninger's honor. Last night I had looked at a disc of 'George Murphy' films I recorded. One of those was LITTLE NELLIE KELLY, where Winninger plays Judy Garland's pop. It is not airing this morning, but watching it was a good warm-up for today's slate of films featuring Winninger:

 

GOD'S GIFT TO WOMEN

NIGHT NURSE

THE GO-GETTER

NOTHING SACRED

BABES IN ARMS

MY LIFE WITH CAROLINE

BELLE OF THE YUKON

 

screen-shot-2015-05-26-at-12-35-18-pm.pn

Good solid actor.

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Winninger's chief claim to fame is originating the role of Cap'n Andy in Ziegfeld's SHOW BOAT.  Thankfully, Carl Laemmle included him in the 1936 film version, ensuring that Winninger's performance of a lifetime will live forever.  Charlie hosted a radio variety series based on the character (CAPTAIN HENRY'S SHOWBOAT) and continued to play Cap'n Andy on stage for many years.

 

I have never seen another actor come anywhere near Winninger's three-dimensional characterization.  The thought of Ralph Dumke doing it in the 1945 revival gives me shivers.  And John McMartin on Broadway a few years back was just dull as could be.  I would like to have seen Billy House out of curiosity.  Joe E. Brown played the role for years (it seems he alternated with HARVEY every other season) and he probably came closest to giving the role everything it called for.  I'm wondering if there is any film or tape of Donald O'Connor from his 1980's turn.

 

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Winninger's chief claim to fame is originating the role of Cap'n Andy in Ziegfeld's SHOW BOAT.  Thankfully, Carl Laemmle included him in the 1936 film version, ensuring that Winninger's performance of a lifetime will live forever.  Charlie hosted a radio variety series based on the character (CAPTAIN HENRY'S SHOWBOAT) and continued to play Cap'n Andy on stage for many years.

 

I have never seen another actor come anywhere near Winninger's three-dimensional characterization.  The thought of Ralph Dumke doing it in the 1945 revival gives me shivers.  And John McMartin on Broadway a few years back was just dull as could be.  I would like to have seen Billy House out of curiosity.  Joe E. Brown played the role for years (it seems he alternated with HARVEY every other season) and he probably came closest to giving the role everything it called for.  I'm wondering if there is any film or tape of Donald O'Connor from his 1980's turn.

 

winninger.jpg

Here's another guy who could do evil, I betcha, like Gene Lockhart.

 

It's those fade into the background character actors you have to watch. Occasionally they astound you.

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Here's another guy who could do evil, I betcha, like Gene Lockhart.

 

It's those fade into the background character actors you have to watch. Occasionally they astound you.

That's true.

 

Maybe I'm going off the great chemistry Winninger has with Garland in LITTLE NELLIE KELLY, but I feel he would have made a good Wizard of Oz too. Not trying to take away from Frank Morgan's outstanding work, but I can see Winninger doing just as a good a job as Professor Marvel and the Wizard. It's exactly this type of character actor the part calls for-- a man who can work interesting quirks into the role and still play it legitimately (not at all cartoonish).

 

I hope more people come to develop a greater appreciation of Winninger's skill. 

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That's true.

 

Maybe I'm going off the great chemistry Winninger has with Garland in LITTLE NELLIE KELLY, but I feel he would have made a good Wizard of Oz too. Not trying to take away from Frank Morgan's outstanding work, but I can see Winninger doing just as a good a job as Professor Marvel and the Wizard. It's exactly this type of character actor the part calls for-- a man who can work interesting quirks into the role and still play it legitimately (not at all cartoonish).

 

I hope more people come to develop a greater appreciation of Winninger's skill. 

No doubt if Winninger had gotten the part, he would be the iconic Wizard. 

 

Temple, on the other hand, could never be Dorothy.

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No doubt if Winninger had gotten the part, he would be the iconic Wizard. 

 

Temple, on the other hand, could never be Dorothy.

Yes, I think Temple would have been a hit (with audiences of the time) but not someone who would have made it the enduring classic it is with Judy. 

 

Yeah, I think Winninger would have been the iconic Wizard. If you watch his silly, whimsical Granfeathers character in SUNDAY DINNER FOR A SOLDIER, you can see what kind of perfect Wizard of Oz he would have made.

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