Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Characters we like ...

10 character actors? OK - but I am not including the well-known ones (stars in their own right) like Claude Rains, Thelma Ritter, Agnes Moorehead, George Sanders, Eve Arden, Judith Anderson, Jim Backus, Ward Bond, Walter Slezak, Hermoine Gingold, Elsa Lanchester, Mildreds Dunnock or Natwick, Beulah Bondi, Betty Field, Fred Clark, John McGiver, Lee J Cobb, or Hitch favourites Leo G. Carroll or John Williams. Then there's also types like Arthur O’Connell, Howard St John, or Dean Jagger and the very individual Maria Ouspenskaya, Florence Bates, Marjorie Main, Margaret Hamiulton and Mercedes McCambridge. We have already done Alice Pearce – see label. These 10 are always a pleasure to see and have enlivened many a movie ...

Jessie Royce Landis (1896-1972). Jessie always amuses and had a great way of delivering throwaway lines, as Grace Kelly's mother in TO CATCH A THIEF, or in a perfect Hitchcock joke, Cary Grant's mother in NORTH BY NORTHWEST (she was only 7 years older than him); she was also mother to Tab Hunter in THE GIRL HE LEFT BEHIND, and Tony Perkin's doting mum in GOODBYE AGAIN. She mothered Grace again too in THE SWAN (a character-filled delight with Agnes Moorehead and Estelle Winwood); other roles included AIRPORT in 1970 and as a ritzy contessa in BON VOYAGE in 1962. 

Norma Varden (1898-1989), with her comic face and manner Norma was always a treat. She is Lady Beekman with that tiara in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, gets almost strangled by Bruno in Hitch's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, and bumped off by Ty Power in WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, also in many films (159 credits on film and tv), like JUPITER'S DARLING, YOUNG BESS, NATIONAL VELVET

Mary Wickes (1910-1995). "Dora, I suspect you are a treasure" Bette says to nurse Mary in NOW VOYAGER. Indeed, she was - from THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER to SISTER ACT via WHITE CHRISTMAS, and THE MUSIC MAN among her 140+ credits including lots of television. Mary wisecracked through them all and had few peers as a scene-stealer as she told it like it was. 

Martita Hunt (1899-1969). Imperious dowager Martita was born in Argentina but enlivened many a British movie, particularly GREAT EXPECTATIONS, and BECKET, SONG WITHOUT END, DANGEROUS EXILE, ANASTASIA, BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING and was young Dracula's mother in BRIDES OF DRACULA in 1960. She remains the definitive Miss Havisham. It was fun too seeing her joining the dancing in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN in 1964! Alec Guinness who knew her well has a nice chapter on her in his memoir "Count Your Blessings"

Margalo Gillmore (1897-1986). Margalo was a nice middle-aged middle-class lady. She also did duty as another mother to Grace Kelly, in HIGH SOCIETY, and was Clifton Webb's nice sister in WOMAN'S WORLD in 1954, other credits include the British comedy UPSTAIRS AND DOWNSTAIRS in 1959, and THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS in 1966 

Charles Bickford (1891-1967). We like Charles a lot, he anchors the 1954 A STAR IS BORN as the studio head Oliver Niles, a standout in his 140+ credits, as is his Major Terrill in THE BIG COUNTRY in '58. Also dependable as Lee Remick's stern father in DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, young Tony Curtis's protector in MISTER CORY in 1957, and in Huston's THE UNFORGIVEN in 1960. His career goes back to starring with Garbo in ANNA CHRISTIE in 1930, in movies then since the early talkies, and in hits like SONG OF BERNADETTE, DUEL IN THE SUN, and THE VIRGINIAN on tv from 1962-68.
Jack Carson (1910-1963). Jack was deliciously nasty as Libby the vicious press agent in A STAR IS BORN, one of his many facets as a popular character actor. He was also ideal as Gooper, the other son in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, and with Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth in MILDRED PIERCE in 1945. He had a long relationship with Doris Day too. Jack was a popular guy and clocked up over 130 credits. The extras on the STAR IS BORN dvd show him as the compere of the Hollywood premiere welcoming all the stars of the day, including Doris, Joan Crawford and most of Hollywood.  (Above: Bickford and Carson with Garland and Mason).

Henry Daniell (1894-1963). Supercilious Henry is probably best known for his Baron de Varville in Garbo's CAMILLE, or the nasty Mr Brocklehurst in JANE EYRE in '44. As IMDB puts it "a suave, well-bred villain who could kill an enemy or start a war with a certain air of upper-class disdain, as if all of this effort was beneath him". His many other credits include THE PRODIGAL, THE SUN ALSO RISES, THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX, THE SEA HAWK, HOLIDAY, SIREN OF ATLANTIS and the Judge in LES GIRLS. He often featured in Cukor films (even a moment in THE CHAPMAN REPORT) and died on the set of MY FAIR LADY.

Thomas Gomez (1905-1971). Heavyset Gomez was another busy character actor, who died following a car accident. I watched him the other day in THE GAMBLER FROM NATCHEZ and he amused too in THE CONQUEROR. Other roles included KEY LARGO, THE FURIES, MACAO, TRAPEZE, SUMMER AND SMOKE, and lots of television and starring on Broadway.

Jay C. Flippen (1899-1971). Jay C. was instantly recognisable and always pleased, like his gangster caught on television in ITS ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER in 1955, often out west as in WINCHESTER 73, IMDB again says: "one of those distinctive faces you know but whose name escapes you while viewing old 50s and 60s movies and TV. His distinctive bulldog mug, beetle brows, bulky features, and silver-white hair were ideally suited for roles as criminals and rugged adventurers". Other roles included THE KILLING, THE WILD ONE, OKLAHOMA!, THE FAR COUNTRY, WILD RIVER, HOW THE WEST WAS WON, CAT BALLOU

There;'s also those comedy supporting types like Tony Randall, Elliott Reid, Tommy Noonan, Gig Young, and David Wayne (who co-starred with Monroe twice and is in 2 other early MM's at Fox). 
'Heavies' are a separate category, usually supporting in westerns - we like those nasty turns by Lyle Bettger, Jack Elam, Royal Dano, Claude Akins, Neville Brand and sometimes Rory Calhoun. Sometimes heavies crossed over to become stars: Lee Marvin, Bronson, Borgnine ….

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