The most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it's all that matters.
- Audrey Hepburn

Your favorite character actors

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

Moderators: Sue Sue Applegate, movieman1957, moira finnie, Lzcutter

User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Your favorite character actors

Postby JackFavell » December 2nd, 2012, 1:24 pm

Let me preface this by saying that I couldn't find any thread specifically for our favorites.

I LOVE pretty much ALL character actors, bit players, comic relief, what have you. I was just sitting around this morning thinking of my favorite character actors, after having seen one of them last night in Sullivan's Travels.

What makes a good one? I am not sure. I love the guys like Allen Jenkins and Warren Hymer and Nat Pendleton, who consistently played the same role over and over and over again in movie after movie and still make me laugh or smile to this day when I see them.

I also love the big guns, the Thomas Mitchells and the Frank Morgans and the Harry Davenports, the guys who practically had a monopoly on the best parts Hollywood had to offer outside of the leading man game. But my favorites? hmmm.

Why is it that I love some of these guys better than a few members of my own family?

So here are my top ten character actors, in order, and why:

1. Joseph Calleia - My favorite character actors are the ones who are deceptively versatile. They may fool you into thinking that they can only play one type, but when you look deeper into their canon, you realize that they were able to pull up some very different characters over the long run. Joe Calleia fits this to a T. Whether a gangster from Little Italy or a mysterious, shrewd detective of uncertain origin, he has a gift for making his roles come alive. He's tremendously exciting to me. You are never sure what he's going to do. He can be menacing, dangerous, funny (oh yes, a sense of humor is my most important trait in a character man), heartbreaking, guilty, weak, ineffectual, envious, greedy, aloof..... whatever the role calls for, but then he adds something unknowable. A flicker of an expression of angst in a gangster, or the dawning of self realization in a silly little cop. There is something infinitely mysterious to me about him, and that's what keeps me coming back to watch. He's a master of human nature, so observant of those tiny things we want or try to keep hidden. He also completely blends into his characters. I know literally nothing about the man (and I've done tons of research) except that he loved music and was Maltese. He's the stuff that dreams are made of, at least for me...an enigma, a riddle I want to solve. An actor's actor.

2.Porter Hall - He's relatively new to my list of favorites. It was watching him as quiet, careful, earnest Jacob Q. Boot that made me start to look deeper. I've seen him thousands of times, and yet, there are moments in movies when all I can recognize of him is his voice. For instance, would you ever in a million years think that poor Gaby's hardworking, legionnaire father in The Petrified Forest was the same irritable man with the twitchy eyebrow who administered psychiatric tests to Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street? He can totally sneak up on me in a movie. His looks may only change slightly from film to film, but I swear, he's a completely different man in each. He can be a bureaucrat in one film, and a shady double dealing con man in the next. Again, he's deceptively versatile. And honestly who would you rather hear say "Bolt the door, Mariah!"?

3. John Qualen - "Just an old graveyard ghost."

Honestly, John Qualen was the first character actor to make me cry... I mean, really break down and sob. His performance as Muley in The Grapes of Wrath is still powerful and moving. Of all the great actors in that movie, if you asked me who made me believe in the reality of the Depression the most, it would be him. I literally cannot even look at the man's face without choking up. He's out there, on the edge of madness, the edge of reality. His eyes are haunting. And the way he sinks down into the dirt and just stops, holding a handful of it, well, if that isn't academy award material, nothing is. And I'm only talking about one of his roles! He also played Earle Williams in His Girl Friday that same year, and Olaf Johnson in Out of the Fog a year or so after that. He was too often relegated to playing dumb swedes, but he lent a kind of grace to every one of them. As Miser Stevens in The Devil and Daniel Webster, the greed and starved avarice is marked out on his face, and is in his voice. A brilliant actor.

4. Harold Huber - You may not remember him, but he plays in many of the Charlie Chan pictures, and he's the drunken Nunheim in The Thin Man. He's so good that you can actually see him sweating when Nick Charles comes up to his apartment to interrogate him. Afraid that his woman is going to leave him, and partly just using that as a ploy to get rid of the cops, I suspect this guy Nunheim is also a junkie. He would do anything to get out of police clutches adn does.... Huber is so good in these tiny tiny roles, I remembered him for years just on the strength of this one performance. Then I found other little jewels, like his turns in Naughty Marietta and Beau Geste, he always does more than the role calls for. Apparently, he was one of the most well liked of Hollywood's screen actors. Oh yeah, and he has a real duelling scar.

5. Leo Carillo - I don't know why. I simply love him. Warm hearted to the end.

6. Oscar Homolka - He's a thinker, a calculator. Big and gruff, he can play cold or warm, most of my favorites have the same ability. In Sabotage, I feel sorry for him right up until he makes excuses for having killed his stepson. As Uncle Chris, I see his flaws, painted big, but I also see a sweet interior, even a gentle one.

7. Felix Bressart - awwwww. he just gets to me, he's so darling, and he can throw away a line so well. He just kills me in To Be or Not to Be.

8. Ben Johnson - warm or deadly cold, he's another actor who can play opposites. I've never seen a more evil, vile man than his Bob Amory in One Eyed Jacks. He's another actor who can be exciting, you just are not sure what he might do, especially when he plays a villainous snake.

9. Jerome Cowan - I like Cowan's ability to appraisea situation.... he will stand back from the action and take a look. He's very debonair and sophisticated, and yet he can play oily or unreliable too. All I know is, I smile if he shows up in a picture.

10. Charles Lane - because he was my first. Petticoat Junction.

Runner's up awards go to Akim Tamiroff and William Bendix, for playing extremely complex emotions in characters who can't figure out what those emotions are all about.

User avatar
Vienna
Posts: 398
Joined: October 24th, 2012, 8:03 am
Location: Scotland
Contact:

Re: Your favorite character actors

Postby Vienna » December 2nd, 2012, 3:28 pm

You write so well and pay tribute to all those talented performers.
Arent we lucky Hollywood screenwriters wrote such good part for supporting actors.

Iris Adrian. I only have to think of her cheery exuberance in LADY OF BURLESQUE.
Mary Boland. Madcap, so talented. Just watch her in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and THE WOMEN. Actually, hardly supporting.
La publicite.
Donald MacBride, king of the double take.
Eve Arden. She never got to carry a film, sadly, but wonderful wisecracker.
Marc Lawrence walks into a room and you just know he is up to no good.
I would love to have seen Reed Hadley and John Baragrey in the same movie - both tall, dark, brooding.
Paul Kelly and Paul Stewart. I get them mixed up. Paul S. was in 12 O'CLOCK HIGH and HELL ON FRISCO BAY.(he was very moving in the latter,trying to get out of Edward G.Robinson's clutches).
Paul Kelly was in FEAR IN THE NIGHT and CROSSFIRE.

RedRiver
Posts: 4209
Joined: July 28th, 2011, 9:42 am

Re: Your favorite character actors

Postby RedRiver » December 2nd, 2012, 3:58 pm

Great topic and great post, Wendy! Harry Davenport is one of my favorite actors. Like other exceptional players, he has depth and sincerity that are all but mind boggling. Interestingly, I didn't know his name until I began watching TCM! He was just "that guy I like!" I imagine an actor would be OK with that description. Rich and famous? That would be nice. But you like my work? That's why I do it!

Big fan of William Bendix too. Not so much a great actor as a fascinating type. I almost said lovable. But that's not always true. He's sadistic scum in THE GLASS KEY, and it's one of his most impressive efforts. He's adorable in a pair of fine WW2 dramas, chasing Robert Mitchum around in THE BIG STEAL. And what the Hell? Can you NOT like the guy as Babe Ruth? "Heck, I'll probably hit FIFTY home runs!" I'm sure The Babe used exactly those words!

Wimpy Porter Hall is always fun, providing comic relief whether it's needed or not. He's Wild Bill Hickock's assasin in DeMille's THE PLAINSMAN. There's a chubbier, sillier version of the type named Billy Gilbert. Sometimes I think the term character actor simply means "not glamorous." Not the star of the movie. Most of them played the same type over and over, presumably hired for just that purpose. But, as you've illustrated, Wendy, this was not always the case.

May I add to this Christmas list:

Ray Teal, sheriff of...everything.
Paul Fix, marshall of...everything.
The wonderful John McIntyre.
Beulah Bondi. As fine an actress as any leading lady.
Old Charley Grapewin. Was he ever young Charley Grapewin?
Edgy Eileen Heckart.
Mildred Natwick.

I could go on all day!

User avatar
knitwit45
Posts: 4720
Joined: May 4th, 2007, 9:33 pm
Location: Gardner, KS

Re: Your favorite character actors

Postby knitwit45 » December 2nd, 2012, 6:59 pm

Sara Allgood
Isobel Elsom
Nella Walker
Mildred Natwick
John Qualen
Henry Travers
frank Faylen
Thomas Mitchell
H.B. Warner
Samuel hinds
Victor McLaglen
Harry Davenport
Thelma Ritter
Mary Treen
Mary Wickes
"Life is not the way it's supposed to be.. It's the way it is..
The way we cope with it, is what makes the difference." ~ Virginia Satir
""Most people pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it." ~ Soren Kierkegaard

User avatar
mongoII
Posts: 12345
Joined: April 14th, 2007, 7:37 pm
Location: Florida

Re: Your favorite character actors

Postby mongoII » December 2nd, 2012, 7:32 pm

I'll add a few...

Hope Emerson
S.Z. Sakall
Margaret Wycherly
Ward Bond
Lucile Watson
Walter Brennan
Una O'Connor
Edward Everett Horton
Jessie Ralph
Roman Bohnen
Joseph Goodheart

User avatar
Rita Hayworth
Posts: 10098
Joined: February 6th, 2011, 4:01 pm

Re: Your favorite character actors

Postby Rita Hayworth » December 2nd, 2012, 7:46 pm

In no particular order:

William H. Macy
Ving Rhames
Ben Kinsley
Una O'Connor
Edward Everett Horton
Victor Jory
Robert Shaw
Lionel Barrymore
Claude Raines
Charles Laughton
Walter Brennan
George Kennedy

I can think some more and add it here.

User avatar
movieman1957
Administrator
Posts: 5501
Joined: April 15th, 2007, 3:50 pm
Location: MD

Re: Your favorite character actors

Postby movieman1957 » December 2nd, 2012, 9:44 pm

I'll add

James Gleason
Edna Mae Oliver
Fay Bainter
Spring Byington
Chris

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."

User avatar
ChiO
Posts: 3924
Joined: January 2nd, 2008, 1:26 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: Your favorite character actors

Postby ChiO » December 3rd, 2012, 6:28 am

Ten Favorites (at this moment):

Timothy Carey - merely the Greatest

Steve Buscemi & John Turturro - the heirs of Timothy Carey

Percy Helton - seems so cute and lovable...until he portrays a Bad Guy and suddenly that cherubic countenance and wispy voice converts to an oozing slime-meister who sounds like a cross between a snake and a rat (or, maybe, a rat being swallowed by a snake)

Whit Bissell - ever-reliable

Joe Sawyer - Good Guy, Bad Guy, Dramatic Guy, Funny Guy, and forever Sgt. Biff O'Hara

Roy Roberts - just listen to that voice...you just know he's trying to teach you something

J.C. Flippen - to know him is to love him

Thomas Browne Henry - see him and you know there will be casualties, but the country will survive

Charles McGraw - square-jawed Tough Guy, at your service
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles

Vecchiolarry
Posts: 1395
Joined: May 6th, 2007, 10:15 pm
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Re: Your favorite character actors

Postby Vecchiolarry » December 3rd, 2012, 10:14 am

Hi,

Wonderful names - all; and great performers, indded.... I agree with every one of all your choices...
STARS - each and everyone of them!!!!!!

My add-to's are all ladies:
Judith Anderson
Marjorie Main
Minerva Urecal
Verna Felton
Jesse Royce Landis
Connie Gilcrest
Mary Nash
Florence Bates
Lee Patrick
Isabel Jewel
Mildred Dunnock
Betty Field
Una Merkel
Gale Sondergaard


Larry

User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: Your favorite character actors

Postby JackFavell » December 3rd, 2012, 11:16 am

Vienna wrote:You write so well and pay tribute to all those talented performers.
Arent we lucky Hollywood screenwriters wrote such good part for supporting actors.

Iris Adrian. I only have to think of her cheery exuberance in LADY OF BURLESQUE.
Mary Boland. Madcap, so talented. Just watch her in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and THE WOMEN. Actually, hardly supporting.
La publicite.
Donald MacBride, king of the double take.
Eve Arden. She never got to carry a film, sadly, but wonderful wisecracker.
Marc Lawrence walks into a room and you just know he is up to no good.
I would love to have seen Reed Hadley and John Baragrey in the same movie - both tall, dark, brooding.
Paul Kelly and Paul Stewart. I get them mixed up. Paul S. was in 12 O'CLOCK HIGH and HELL ON FRISCO BAY.(he was very moving in the latter,trying to get out of Edward G.Robinson's clutches).
Paul Kelly was in FEAR IN THE NIGHT and CROSSFIRE.



Mary Boland and Iris Adrian are just great!This is my problem, when I think of one character actor who could go on my list, I think of ten more equally talented actors who also should go on. I haven't listed my favorite actresses yet.

Paul Stewart is super, especially as weaselly lowlifes. He's so ambiguous, it makes you uneasy.

I really wish Marc Lawrence had had one whole movie where he was the only character. I'd pay money to see that. Just to watch his reactions for a couple of hours uninterrupted.

Of course, Eve Arden!

User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: Your favorite character actors

Postby JackFavell » December 3rd, 2012, 11:17 am

Red, I'm gonna have to kill you for mentioning Billy Gilbert. OY! Why did I leave him off my list?????

User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: Your favorite character actors

Postby JackFavell » December 3rd, 2012, 11:20 am

knitwit45 wrote:Sara Allgood
Isobel Elsom
Nella Walker
Mildred Natwick
John Qualen
Henry Travers
frank Faylen
Thomas Mitchell
H.B. Warner
Samuel hinds
Victor McLaglen
Harry Davenport
Thelma Ritter
Mary Treen
Mary Wickes



Knitty, you KNOW I love Sara and Vic and Frank Faylen, in fact, everyone on your list, and I couldn't agree more that they each deserve a spot in the top ten. Maybe I should have made this "Your favorite 199 character actors". :D

User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: Your favorite character actors

Postby JackFavell » December 3rd, 2012, 11:23 am

mongoII wrote:I'll add a few...

Hope Emerson
S.Z. Sakall
Margaret Wycherly
Ward Bond
Lucile Watson
Walter Brennan
Una O'Connor
Edward Everett Horton
Jessie Ralph
Roman Bohnen



Joe, Hope Emerson is definitely going on my top ten character actresses list. I just love her. S.Z. was this close to bumping someone off of my list above. And Roman Bohnen, what a fine actor. It makes me choke up, just thinking about him in The Best Years of Our Lives.

User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: Your favorite character actors

Postby JackFavell » December 3rd, 2012, 11:24 am

kingme wrote:In no particular order:

William H. Macy
Ving Rhames
Ben Kinsley
Una O'Connor
Edward Everett Horton
Victor Jory
Robert Shaw
Lionel Barrymore
Claude Raines
Charles Laughton
Walter Brennan
George Kennedy


I am fascinated that you added William H. Macy and Ving Rhames to your list. Yes! Both are really fine actors.

User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: Your favorite character actors

Postby JackFavell » December 3rd, 2012, 11:27 am

movieman1957 wrote:I'll add

James Gleason
Edna Mae Oliver
Fay Bainter
Spring Byington



James Gleason was another actor who was battling to get onto my top ten. I dearly love that man. He can be funny, but there is something almost heartbreaking about him too, as seen to best advantage in Night of the Hunter.

Two of your picks are going to be on my favorite character actresses list. :D


Return to “The People of Film”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests