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It Takes Character


jdb1
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If you read Jeremy Arnold's piece on the main page on "I Wake Up Screaming," you will note that he mentions at the end of the article that character actor Charles Lane is alive and well at age 101. Glad to hear it. I just ran an eye over his credits on IMBD, and they goe on and on and on.

 

I think I remember him best from his many TV appearances, although once I knew who he was I spotted him in the background of many classic movies. He was usually the brusque bureaucrat, haughty teacher, irrascible store keeper, etc. It's no secret to anyone who knows my cinematic preferences that I love the character actors the best, and Lane is one of my especial favorites. He always looked so annoyed, and so rushed, and everything he said sounded so caustic. He was just like the adults I knew, back in the day, who had no patience with children, and couldn't wait to be rid of you, only he was usually funny about it.

 

It's as I told my daughter when she had thoughts of becoming an actor: be a character actor, and you'll always be working.

 

Now - who do we love? And who was especially productive and was "in everything" and perhaps made the transition to TV? We spoke on another thread about the recently deceased Arthur Franz, who was one of the ubiquitous character players. Harry Morgan, Whit Bissel and Lane are obvious. What about DeForest Kelly? He's was in the movies (I've seen him mostly in westerns) long before Star Trek. Among the ladies, Spring Byington comes to mind first. There are so many others, I'd appeciate it if you would kindly refresh my memory.

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Great thread topic. I, too, am very fond of Charles Lane, who seemed like an older guy even when he was young. In honor of his 100th, my husband and I designed him a special birthday card. His family was giving a big celebration, and many fans were sending him their greetings.

 

I also love the grumpy Fred Clark.

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Fred Clark -- good one. Maybe we should categorize them by type (those that always played to type, that is). Grumpy, exasperated, caustic, sweet/kindly, threatening, dumb/dithering, endearing, hotties, he-men, etc. There should be a category for scholarly/academic/serious, ethnic (like John Qualen or J. Carroll Naish, who played any and all enthnicities), and what else, and who else?

 

For example --

 

Ethnic/Dialects:

John Qualen

J. Carroll Naish

 

Dumb/Dithering:

Max Rosenbloom

ZaSu Pitts

 

Scholarly/Academic/Serious

Lewis Stone

 

How about "Battleax" with a substrata of "Grande Dame?"

Helen Westly

Edna May Oliver

Flora Robson

Margaret Dumont

 

And so on.

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Hi Jdb1,

 

Great thread. Thanks for starting it. Character actors and actresses have always been my favourite people - on the screen and in real life.

I've known some of them and have autographs from some. For most, it was the first time they'd signed an autograph.

 

Do any of you remember these characters actors:

 

Lee Van Cleef

Alan Mowbray

Charles La Torre

Mikhail Rasumny

Dan Tobin

Paul Cavanaugh

Clarence Kolb

Eugene Pallette

Walter Kingsford

Carl Esmond

 

How about these actresses:

 

Marie McDonald

Barbara Nichols

Binnie Barnes

Natalie Moorehead

Natalie Schafer

Jessie Royce Landis

Kathryn Givney

Peggy Ryan

 

Larry

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Larry, I don't know so many of them, although I would probably recognize their faces! Here is the list. Put a movie and maybe a character next to them if it is not too much trouble.

 

Lee Van Cleef

Charles La Torre

Mikhail Rasumny

Dan Tobin

Clarence Kolb

Walter Kingsford

Carl Esmond

 

Natalie Moorehead

Kathryn Givney

Peggy Ryan (I think I know her. She was a teen character actress, right?)

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I'm a Charles Lane fan myself and am very pleased to hear he is still with us.

 

I'll add Dub Taylor and Strother Martin. Martin in particular has I think the easiest time with the sometimes awkawrd dailogue in True Grit - and his horsetrading scenes with Kim Darby are gems.

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James Gleason - yeah! I love the quirky, irrascible ones. It's interesting how the character actors became just as iconic to us as were the stars. James Gleason as the prickly ward heeler or cab driver or milk man (he was great in "The Clock"). Preston Sturges played up this angle with his character actor regulars, like Gleason, and the equally prickly William Demarest, and the rest. Those guys were worth the price of admission. And sometimes characters could be in the forefront. I'm having a Senior Moment right now and can't remember the name of the series of film with Gleason and Edna May Oliver. He's the gruff cop and she's the genteel but steely teacher who helps him solve murders. Anyone?

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Hi GM,

 

I will answer this query tomorrow when I'm a little fresher in the noggin....

Some of these people are very unfamiliar and I wish I knew how to transfer pictures of them on here but I'm too stupid to accomplish that.

 

Larry

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Found some info on the Gleason and Oliver series. Never seen them, but they sound fun. Gleason played Inspector Oscar Piper and Oliver played Hildegard Withers.

 

Forty Naughty Girls (1937)

 

The Plot Thickens (1936)

... aka The Swinging Pearl Mystery (UK)

 

 

Murder on a Bridle Path (1936)

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No problem, Larry. Take your time. This is all for fun. I wish I could transfer pics on here, too. daddysprimadonna sent TOOMANYNOTES that great pic of Hedy on Hedy's thread. Man, that would make things a lot easier!

 

Now, on to James Gleason! Wow, he is just great! One of my all time favs, along with Edna May. I was fortunate enough years ago to get two of the Gleason/Oliver films: Murder on a Honeymoon and Murder on the Blackboard. They are two of my cherished finds. I had no idea there were more. I would love to see them.

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Those Miss Withers films are great, aren't they? It was an inspired pairing, those two!

 

There was a movie on TCM a few months ago, a real antique comedy with early Joan Crawford (of course I've forgotten the name). Edna May played her aunt, and she was not the rigid, spinster school marm, but a wise-cracking, cigarette smoking, tough old bird type, and actually rather attractive. I had never seen her play anything like that before. She was really good. I wonder if there are any more like that where she played against type.

 

James Gleason played characters who are like thousands of men in New York - I've known many of them in my lifetime. I think that's part of the allure of the character parts for us in the audience. They often (depending on the role) bring a sense of familiarity and grounding to a film that may have some dazzling big names in it.

 

Would you like to talk about, say, Keenan Wynn? His little bit as a drunk in "The Clock" was so funny, and rang so true. Loved him in "Without Love." I never found him a particularly handsome man, but I thought he was an attractive one. And I found him absolutely shattering in '"Nashville." That performance was really terrific.

 

Feel free to name your faves, and why.

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Hello,

 

Donald MacBride.

 

From Donald MacBride's IMDB biography:

"Best known for his work in slapstick comedy and detective whodunits, character actor Donald MacBride lent his serious, craggy mug and determined professionalism to scores of 30s and 40s crimers."

 

I have wondered the name of the bug-eyed, "craggy" faced detective/ concierge guy for a long time. Yesterday, watched a bit of "Beat The Band" (1947) on TCM. Mr. MacBride was one of the cast members. Finally, I was able to connect the "always ready to explode" guy with a name. A great character actor.

 

Rusty

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Yes, they were Miss Withers. I would have loved to have seen that Crawford movie. If you think of the name let us know. Anything James Gleason is in I like and watch, sometimes just for him! I liked Keenan Wynn, too. When you were talking about him, Jesse Ralph popped into my head!

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That was it, jdb1...thanks!

 

Glad there's youts among us... ;)

 

LuckyDan, on the Hildegard Withers movies, they were wonderful movies, just wonderful. Well, my kind of wonderful, like the venetian blind shadows on the wall and the overstuffed flowered chintz chairs and the long dresses and men with hats at a certain angle wonderful of the 1930s and 1940s movies.

 

*sigh*

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Anything James Gleason is in I

> like and watch, sometimes just for him!

 

 

I'd like to add my voice to you and all the others who have mentioned the great James Gleason. I've loved him in everything I've seen him in; he could be very funny and even turn in a terrific dramatic performance as well. I think his three best roles are: as Robert Montgomery's manager in the great Here Comes Mr. Jordan; as the newspaper editor in Meet John Doe; and as James Cagney's recovering alcoholic friend in Come Fill the Cup. One other great character actor to add to the list: Paul Douglas. Terrific in comedy or drama, he could even carry a movie as a lead/featured actor, as in Letter to Three Wives and Clash by Night. A wonderful actor in any role he played.

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About Paul Douglas:

 

When I was a girl and his movies were new, I didn't like him. I thought he was so plain, and he wasn't funny like William Bendix, and he seemed hardly to be acting at all. Fortunately, I'm now old enough and an experienced enough movie lover to appreciate his excellent work. What really turned me around was seeing him in "Clash By Night" a few years ago. He was terrific - so true, so moving. Then I reassessed him in "Letter to Three Wives" and "We're Not Married." How could I have been so blind? He's great.

 

On Donald MacBride:

 

Can't put the face to the name - I'll have to research him.

 

James Gleason - I forgot about "Come Fill the Cup." Yes - the man had range.

 

We need to deal with more of the ladies now - let's not slight them. How about the great Eve Arden; Fay Bainter; Agnes Moorehead; Brooklyn's own Thelma Ritter ........ keep 'em coming, posters.

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Hi Garbo Maniac,

 

Well, here we are ? I will do the best I can to shed light on these character people. I wish I could send out my autographed pictures of these people. My cousin?s nerdy son is out of town, otherwise I?d have him bring his scanner over here and plant photos on this thread. But, some people don?t like photos on here so --- I don?t know. I may do it anyway.

 

Some of them were fini with their careers by the time I knew them, so here goes:

 

Natalie Moorehead ?

She was a marcelled blonde clothes horse (perfect figure ? Adrian loved her), who was usually sophisticated and bitchy. She was in ?The Thin Man? and I think she was the killer? She was in ?Lady of the Tropics? and ?I Take This Woman?.

By the time I knew her, she was long gone from pictures but was a social staple of Edie Goetz and her set.

 

Peggy Ryan ?

Red headed pigtailed, freckle faced teen. Was in ?The Merry Monahans? and ?Hawaii F-O? on TV. Lived in Hawaii in the 60?s.

 

Kathryn Givney ?

Attractive but haughty type; sort of a Gladys Cooper only younger. She did a lot of TV in the 50?s and 60?s. Was one of Liz?s relatives in ?A Place in the Sun? and played the bitchy matron of the German family in ?4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse?, her best role.

 

Carl Esmond ?

Good looking Austrian actor, who played a German officer in ?Sgt. York? and in ?Her Highness and the Bellboy? he was a baron. Very handsome distinguished gentleman.

 

Charles La Torre ?

Brylcream haired and mustached handsome man.

Played a French officer in ?Casablanca? and was in ?My Sister Eileen? with Roz.

 

Dan Tobin ?

Young, good looking, moustachioed man. In ?I Married Joan? on TV and ?Who?s Got the Action? with Dean and Lana.

 

Mikhail Rasumny ?

Distinguished Russian character actor. Had thick eyebrows and a mustache. Was in ?Comrade X? with Hedy. Good friend of my grandmother; they spoke Russian constantly and I never knew what they were plotting.

 

Clarence Kolb ?

Grey haired & mustached older man. Was in ?His Girl Friday? and ?My Little Margie? on TV.

 

Walter Kingsford ?

Gentlemanly and fatherly type in ?Naughty Marietta? and ?The Story of Louis Pasteur? (he was Napoleon III).

 

Lee Van Cleef ?

After Jack Palance, he was the most famous ?menacing villain? in the movies and without saying very much. He always looked evil but was a pussycat really. Was in ?High Noon? (his most famous movie and his best ? and he never uttered a line). Also, did a lot of spaghetti westerns later.

My grandmother and the Countess Dorothy di Frasso both adored him. He was a great dancer and they both pursued him but he was a gentleman and escaped their clutches. He told me he was scared shitless of both of them. He got married finally in 1954.

 

This is all very sketchy, I know, but my little pea brain can?t remember a lot of things from 50 years ago. So this is it, for what it?s worth.

 

Perhaps some of the others on here can expand on these characters.

 

Larry

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This is great, Larry, and sure, why not - we'd love to see photos so we can put the name to the face. I have seen listings in the credits for most of those you've named, but except for Dan Tobin, who did a lot of TV when I was younger, and Van Cleef, who was quite well known when I was a teen, I can't identify the others. Did Peggy Ryan dance?

 

Daddysprimadonna, thanks for the photos. This is very helpful for a thread like this, where we generally know the face, but not the name.

 

Keep 'em coming, friends. There are plenty more 'characters' - and you know you love 'em.

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