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ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Discussion of the actors, directors and film-makers who 'made it all happen'

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JackFavell
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ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Postby JackFavell » June 12th, 2013, 2:04 pm

Hey, if you are like me, many times you like the second lead better than the main character. So here's a thread for those girls who never got the guy and those boys who never got the girl.

Of course, this thread MUST start out properly, with the man most likely to die or bow out gracefully:

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So tell me ladies, what's WRONG with this guy?

Right. There's NOTHING wrong with him. Over time, I've come to appreciate so many actors and actresses cast as second leads, and for the life of me, I can't figure out WHY these talented and beautiful folks never win. They're good looking, they have attractive voices and hairstyles, some are nicer or smarter or funnier than the main character! No matter what, they lose out, or they are stuck backpedaling against someone else's charisma. Oh look, there's __________ as the pliable and less interesting best friend! The studios hired them to make the star look better. Ouch! Occasionally they are cast as a chief rival, but come up short somehow. Ahhh Hollywood... this has got to make an actor feel terrible!

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite second leads. The ones I wonder about, wish had bigger careers. I'm starting out with the guys, but please feel free to add anyone at all, women too, to the list. Maven, I know you are itching to add a couple of ladies to this list! These are the folks who rarely got what they wanted in the movies. Those who were deemed too....nice? maybe? to get any action.

These guys are the ones I watch. Let's hear it for THEM for a change:

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Ralph Bellamy couldn't have been all that dull - he ran away from home at age 15 and joined a traveling theatrical troupe. And he was married 4 times! Highly popular in Hollywood, he couldn't catch a break on the big screen. He was a co-founder of the Screen Actors Guild, and also started an athletic club with fellow actor Charles Farrell. Appearing in hundreds of films, he only got the leading role a scant 3 times (I'm including a short series of Ellery Queen pictures as one role or character). His breakout leading role as Franklin D. Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello, came a mere 30 years after his first film. He received an academy award nom for his role as second lead in The Awful Truth, and I think that speaks volumes about this actor and his way with these types of parts. I think if you asked him, he'd probably say his career was great, that he was a lucky man.

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Reginald Denny

I'll admit I don't know too much about Reginald Denny's silent film career, aside from seeing him in a small role in Barrymore's 1922 version of Sherlock Holmes. As sound films became the rage, Denny stepped into some nice juicy roles, most notably as Victor Prynne in the 1931 version of Private Lives (already playing 2nd fiddle). He's also in perennial staple on TCM The Barbarian, playing Myrna's not exotic, not exciting boyfriend. Denny seemed to be poised on the brink of stardom when he played Brown in The Lost Patrol. He's as close as that movie gets to a heartthrob - he's loose and gorgeously buff showing off some amazing muscles. He's one of those devil-may-care foreign legion types who loves women and is always talking about them. He's so relaxed and easy that he drives the repressed preacher Boris Karloff to madness. But as the years went by, no leading man offers came Denny's way. He started a very successful electronic model plane business, selling at first to kids, then getting a mighty gov't contract to sell his small planes to the military during WWII. In Hollywood, he was still relegated to play the pal, the Captain, the guy who takes out someone's sister. To me, he'll always be the bland but loyal Frank Crawley in Rebecca, where he gets to show just a bit of character at the end of the film. I think Denny is one of the underpraised actors who could play the heck out of anything, but rarely got credit for it. I absolutely love him and would drop Larry Olivier in a heartbeat if Reg came a calling.

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Richard Whorf

Richard Whorf will forever be known as Sam Harris, Jimmy Cagney's show biz second in command in Yankee Doodle Dandy. I've always loved him in the movie, wished he had more to do. He did actually get to play a leading role once, and it's a doozy - in Blues in the Night, a wonderfully noirish nightmare of a film about musicians trying to create something new and different, that elusive thing called, 'the blues'. Whorf was a good actor, but wisely went on to direct, properly figuring that the second lead gig was not particularly fruitful.

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Alan Marshal

Alan Marshal was the first actor considered for the role of Rhett Butler. His dashing looks and round tones seemed to have made him destined for stardom in movies. But the films Marshal starred in are few and far between.... In both Lydia and The White Cliffs of Dover, he is only seen in the first third of the film before leaving for war or for a different life, never to be seen again. I like him best in Lydia, for here alone he's allowed to be a little more exciting and devilish and rather sad. His lawyer/love interest for Roz Russell in Night Must Fall is ridiculously dull in comparison to Robert Montgomery's incredibly layered, sexy, and ultimately frightening portrayal of Danny, the psychopath. He knocks poor Marshal off the screen. Marshal would leave Hollywood just as he was getting started, taking stage roles instead during the forties, due to a nervous condition that made movie making intolerable or difficult. I think Marshal just lacks that little spark that would have put him over....but who knows? He might have been all that and more had he ever been given a role that he could sink his teeth into.

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Re: ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Postby movieman1957 » June 12th, 2013, 2:28 pm

Interesting thought.

The movie I thought Ralph Bellamy played the definition of what you mention (or seemed to start it) was "Hands Across The Table." A wheelchair bound wealthy man falls for manicurist Carole Lombard. She is fond of him but he doesn't stand a chance when Fred MacMurray stumbles into her life.

Ralph plays the part beautifully and is never plays the sad part or just for sympathy. It's a comedy and pretty good.
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Re: ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Postby Vecchiolarry » June 12th, 2013, 2:38 pm

Hi Wendy,

What a great idea for a thread!! As you know, I've always considered the supporting players as stars too; as has our own Joe {Mongo}....

Favourite guys:
Brian Aherne and Patric Knowles, whom could have been twins with Errol Flynn.....

Favourite girls:
Eve Arden and Una Merkel, both of whom should have received Oscars...

Larry

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Re: ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Postby Rita Hayworth » June 12th, 2013, 3:33 pm

Alan Marshall is always a favorite of mine ... I know he was considered the role of Brett Butler in Gone with the Wind ... but, seriously Alan is way better (and more handsomer) than Clark Gable. But the studio wanted Star Power ... not second stringers like Alan. If I were a lady, I would rather have Alan over Clark anyday ... I maybe a bit prejudiced here and there.

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Alan Marshall to me is a winner in my book. When, I do watch his movies ... his voice comes out crystal clear, great mannerisms, and has a charm of his own.

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Re: ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Postby kingrat » June 12th, 2013, 4:18 pm

I'm already enjoying this thread! We must add Don ("I lose all those girls, especially Alice Faye, to Tyrone Power") Ameche. At least he gets Claudette Colbert in Midnight, and gets an Oscar and Gwen Verdon in Cocoon.

Ralph Bellamy does win Ann Sheridan in Brother Orchid, once Humphrey Bogart joins that monastery for real. Loved hearing more about Bellamy's life. Many a gal would be better off picking Ralph over Cary Grant.

feaito

Re: ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Postby feaito » June 12th, 2013, 4:28 pm

Excellent idea for a thread Wendy. As for ladies I'd mention Ruth Hussey, Rita Johnson and Virginia Grey.

As for actors, Robert Young and Neil Hamilton (carrying a torch for Jane in the first two MGM Tarzan films) come to my mind.

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Re: ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Postby ChiO » June 12th, 2013, 5:16 pm

He looks like that fellow in the movies - Ralph Bellamy.
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Re: ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Postby knitwit45 » June 12th, 2013, 5:36 pm

kingrat wrote:I'm already enjoying this thread! We must add Don ("I lose all those girls, especially Alice Faye, to Tyrone Power") Ameche. At least he gets Claudette Colbert in Midnight, and gets an Oscar and Gwen Verdon in Cocoon.

Ralph Bellamy does win Ann Sheridan in Brother Orchid, once Humphrey Bogart joins that monastery for real. Loved hearing more about Bellamy's life. Many a gal would be better off picking Ralph over Cary Grant.



Was that a remake of the one with Edward G. Robinson?
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The way we cope with it, is what makes the difference." ~ Virginia Satir
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Re: ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Postby CineMaven » June 12th, 2013, 5:54 pm

Oh my gosh! I haven't read your original post Wendy, but let me just say KUDOES!!! Kudoes on a great idea! I'm going to settle down and read every morsel.
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Re: ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Postby CineMaven » June 12th, 2013, 6:20 pm

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I wanted to lock my choices in place before I forget. I can explain a little more about them a little later.
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Re: ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Postby kingrat » June 12th, 2013, 6:56 pm

Knitty, I'm mixing up Bogart and Robinson about BROTHER ORCHID. I think Bogart just plays a second-string gangster while Robinson has a change of career. Ann picks Ralph over Bogey, if I remember correctly--which I obviously don't!

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Re: ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » June 12th, 2013, 7:11 pm

Oh, Wendy! This is a wonderful idea for a new thread!

feaito wrote:Excellent idea for a thread Wendy. As for ladies I'd mention Ruth Hussey, Rita Johnson and Virginia Grey.

As for actors, Robert Young and Neil Hamilton (carrying a torch for Jane in the first two MGM Tarzan films) come to my mind.

Good ones, feaito!

I also want to second Larry's choice of Eve Arden.
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Re: ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Postby JackFavell » June 12th, 2013, 7:56 pm

movieman1957 wrote:Interesting thought.

The movie I thought Ralph Bellamy played the definition of what you mention (or seemed to start it) was "Hands Across The Table." A wheelchair bound wealthy man falls for manicurist Carole Lombard. She is fond of him but he doesn't stand a chance when Fred MacMurray stumbles into her life.

Ralph plays the part beautifully and is never plays the sad part or just for sympathy. It's a comedy and pretty good.


Hey, Chris! I love Hands Across the Table, and YES that's the exact type that Bellamy personifies! He did that role SO well. There are a couple of precodes where Bellamy is the lead, his persona hasn't been set yet...but they feel almost wrong to watch... :D
Hi Wendy,

What a great idea for a thread!! As you know, I've always considered the supporting players as stars too; as has our own Joe {Mongo}....

Favourite guys:
Brian Aherne and Patric Knowles, whom could have been twins with Errol Flynn.....

Favourite girls:
Eve Arden and Una Merkel, both of whom should have received Oscars...


Larry, I almost included Brian Aherne in my first post, but it was getting too long already. Besides, I know a few people here who really like him, and I figured they would hopefully jump in and mention him. Patric Knowles is his twin I swear!

I agree about the supporting players, they are the reason I watch a film, or at least the reason I stay watching. Eve Arden was the first actress that I thought of...but I was sure Maven was going to be the one to bring her up!

Una Merkel is a joy, she's incredible with a throwaway. Both she and Eve Arden are really pretty, but because of their roles, we never really notice. I thought the same thing about Dinah Shore the other day, I thought she had it all, great singing voice, natural relaxed presence, and a gorgeous smile, but she was never the movie star she could have been. Again, I don't think she minded, she had other things to do.

Alan Marshall is always a favorite of mine ... I know he was considered the role of Brett Butler in Gone with the Wind ... but, seriously Alan is way better (and more handsomer) than Clark Gable. But the studio wanted Star Power ... not second stringers like Alan. If I were a lady, I would rather have Alan over Clark anyday ... I maybe a bit prejudiced here and there.


Well, Erik, I think you are crazy, but that's OK, to each his own! I think Clark Gable is a very underrated actor. Marshal is handsome, but he just doesn't have the oomph that Gable had. I just always wonder about him, he definitely had the looks to become a big star but apparently he hated Hollywood.

I'm already enjoying this thread! We must add Don ("I lose all those girls, especially Alice Faye, to Tyrone Power") Ameche. At least he gets Claudette Colbert in Midnight, and gets an Oscar and Gwen Verdon in Cocoon.


I'm a huge Don Ameche fan, kingrat. It's great to see Bellamy and him together late in their careers, getting the gals and winning the day. He was one of my first choices for this thread, but we have to pare things down, even when we want to include everyone. And although I like him much better than Marshal, I thought Marshal was more representative of what I was going for...someone who really seems like they had everything that Hollywood might want, but still didn't ever really catch on.

Ralph Bellamy does win Ann Sheridan in Brother Orchid, once Humphrey Bogart joins that monastery for real. Loved hearing more about Bellamy's life. Many a gal would be better off picking Ralph over Cary Grant.


I haven't seen Brother Orchid in years, I keep waiting for it to come on, then miss it every time. I hate to say it... I forgot Ralph Bellamy was in it! :oops: As for picking Ralph over Cary, the brain says pick Ralph but what does the brain know about love or sex appeal? :D

Excellent idea for a thread Wendy. As for ladies I'd mention Ruth Hussey, Rita Johnson and Virginia Grey.

As for actors, Robert Young and Neil Hamilton (carrying a torch for Jane in the first two MGM Tarzan films) come to my mind.


Oh, you really hit the jackpot with those actresses, fer! I love ALL of them, they are each favorites of mine...they are quite different, but each is classy, sharp and has a way with a line. You couldn't have pleased me more than to mention any one of them.

I like Robert Young tremendously, he's a deceptive actor, seemingly warm and simple, but boiling with contradictions underneath. Neil Hamilton is a great choice - precode ladies were leaving him left and right! And when he does get a lead role, even a mention in the title (Since YOU Went Away), he's only a photograph! Haha!

He looks like that fellow in the movies - Ralph Bellamy.
- Walter Burns about Bruce Baldwin (HIS GIRL FRIDAY)


Poor Bruce, the ultimate dumped boyfriend. My favorite scene in the movie (welll..... except for maybe Mr. Pettibone) is the first meeting of Bruce and Walter - the umbrella handshake, Walter mistaking the old man for Bruce, the rubbers....

Maven - take your time, take your time! I can't wait to see your writeups on Gail and Melvyn... absolutely great choices...I thought for sure you'd include Eve!

my favorite Douglas role is as "best friend" Bill in Mr. Blandings. I can still see him sitting there, dropping that barrel in the closet. hahahaha! And Gail may be the ultimate dumped girlfriend. I ALMOST feel sorry for her, if she weren't so... can't say it here. :D


Sue Sue - thanks! Eve is miles above all other gal pals. I look forward to more of your choices if and when you get a chance. Do you have a favorite second lead guy? You seem like a leading man lady to me. :D

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Re: ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Postby knitwit45 » June 13th, 2013, 7:31 am

After the week I've just had, it's nice to know at least ONE thing I was right about....Anne Sheridan isn't in Brother Orchid! It's Ann Southern. I could see her in my mind, when she and Eddie G are in the back seat of a car, and she tells him she loves him, and he wants her to rub his feet, or some such nonsense.

whew...not all of my memory is gone....yet.... :lol: :lol:
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The way we cope with it, is what makes the difference." ~ Virginia Satir
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Re: ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID... in praise of second leads

Postby JackFavell » June 13th, 2013, 8:33 am

Knitty, I hope your week goes better from here on.


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