Classic Film : Favorite supporting actors

Favorite supporting actors

One of my favorites is Shirley Knight, who began her career as an ingenue in her Oscar-nominated roles in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960)and Sweet Bird of Youth (196) (and should have been nominated for Petulia (1969).

She was also superb in the tv film, Indictment: The McMartin Trial (1995), for which she won an Emmy. She's gone from a beautiful young ingenue to a matronly older woman, and hasn't missed a step, still acting in films, television, and on stage. She's never given a bad performance; rather, she makes everything she's in better than it would have been without her.

Re: Favorite supporting actors

I've enjoyed her performances in more recent tv fare, her stint on Desperate Housewives was awesome!

There are many supporting actors that I admire but a personal favorite has to be James Gleason, so many wonderful performances but probably best remembered for his Oscar-nominated role in Here Comes Mr. Jordan.

James Gleason

Oh, what a good one he was. For some reason I don't remember him in Here Comes Mr. Jordon. It's been a long time, and I need to see it again.

As for Shirley Knight in Desperate Housewives - I didn't watch that show, but I can only imagine how well she did up against that talented gallery of women.

Re: Favorite supporting actors

Was watching the original 1934 Imitation of Life and Ned Sparks had a supporting role, another of the great supporting character actors of all time!

Ned Sparks

Oh, yes, he's one who's hard to forget. I particularly loved him in The Gold Diggers of 1933 and 42nd Street.

Re: Favorite supporting actors

George Kennedy, who died last year. He was great in everything he did. Even excelled in comedy with The Naked Gun series.

George Kennedy

One of the best, and it was a sad thing to lose him last year at the age of 91. I don't remember his comedic roles, though I don't dispute that he would have excelled in them. But I'll never forget what an impression he made on me in Cool Hand Luke, the first film I saw him in when it was first released. I'll have to check out some of his comedies.

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You've never seen the Naked Gun series? They are based on the cult television show Police Squad!, from the creators of Airplane! and Airplane II: The Sequel. There are three in the series, but I would only suggest watching the first two. Classic screwball comedies. Really really dumb, but really really funny. Except for the third one.

Naked Gun series

No, I missed them. I did love the first Airplane! though (the only one I saw), so if I ever get a chance I'll certainly watch Naked Gun. Thanks for the info.

Re: Favorite supporting actors

Just watched Pillow Talk for the first time and Thelma Ritter really stood out for me from the moment she first stepped out of the elevator (or stumbled out is more accurate). She was great in this role and I can't imagine she did lesser work in other roles.

I will soon rewatch Rear Window which I've seen a long time ago and can't really remember her role in it but I've read reviews that it was good.

Thelma Ritter

Oh, she's a favorite, too, shield. If you haven't, you need to see her in All About Eve and Pickup on South Street.

Good to see you here.

Re: Favorite supporting actors

Oh yes, Thelma Ritter!! Loved her in All About Eve!

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Little embarrassed to say I haven't seen All About Eve but the quest for rectifying that is on the way!

All About Eve + a note to all

Oh, shield, this is one of the absolute essentials. Must-see.

P.S. A note to you and all - I've had trouble signing on for two days, so if it turns out that I disappear, that's why. It's not my computer, it's something to do with this site, I believe. Anyway, just wanted to let you all know. I'm still over at IMDB 2 though.

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Re: Favorite supporting actors

Thanks for the update!!

Re: Favorite supporting actors

Nothing to be embarrassed about! If we watched every single movie that ever came out we wouldn't have time to post on the boards, lol.

If you get a chance, do try to watch it, it's not everyone's cup of tea but thoroughly entertaining!

All About Eve

Hi, shield. I wanted to recommend another Ritter film that you ought to see if you get a chance: The Birdman of Alcatraz, in which she played Burt Lancaster's mother - a small but complicated role.

This woman was amazing. She didn't start acting until she was 45 years old and in her 19 year career was nominated for 6 Oscars! I wonder if that's a record?

Re: Favorite supporting actors

Too many for one response alone, and I'll stick to the studio age for brevity:


Elisha Cook, Jr.

Dwight Frye

Sydney Greenstreet

Edna May Oliver

George Zucco

Lionel Atwill

Leo G. Carroll

Donald MacBride

Charles Halton

Vince Barnett

Murray Kinnell

Isabel Jewell

Alison Skipworth

Jane Darwell

Ward Bond

Esther Howard

William Frawley

J. Carrol Naish

Thomas Jackson

Eugene Pallette

Margaret Dumont




Well, that's enough for the time being, I guess.

Great list.

So many wonderful names there, telegonus. I think I love every one of them, too, although there are a couple of names I don't recognize.

But I wonder if you could maybe pick out just one and give some thoughts about him/her? I didn't make it very clear with my thread title, unfortunately, but that's what I was hoping for. Not a big deal if you prefer not to. I understand. There are so many and it's very hard to pick only one out of a lifetime of viewing. I think the reason I chose Shirley Knight was because of her rather remarkable evolution from an ingenue who had every possibility of becoming a major movie star and ended up instead, I think in part by choice, becoming a "star" supporting actor.

Anyway, thanks for all those wonderful names. They conjure up many fond memories. I'll never forget, for example, the look on Darwell's face listening to Henry Fonda's monologue toward the end of The Grapes of Wrath. Pure gold.

Leo G. Carroll

Just one, Spiderwort? I can do it: Leo G. Carroll. A wonderful British character actor who made all too few films in his long career. On the short side, stocky, plain looking or, to put it more bluntly, homely or borderline, with his beetle brows and cultured voice he could be quietly authoritative in all kinds of films, whether Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise or Tarantula.

Mr. Carroll does not, alas, have one defining film role, the one that people point to and remember, something that even many small parts player have (such as Charles Halton's bank examiner from Ir's A Wonderfu Life). Mr. Carroll is probably best remember as Cosmo Topper on the Fities TV comedy Topper and The Man From UNCLE's boss, Mr. Waverly.

What I like best about Leo G. Carroll maybe is his introversion. As an introvert myself I can dig it. Carroll tended to play "private" men, not politicians or gladhanders, and certainly not jokey or backslapping sorts. He was nearly always cast as men who had something else to do than,–whatever–talk to Cary Grant or Ronald Colman, answer questions from a newspaper reporter–it was always "please, go away" with him, or so it seemed.

Yet for all that air of a private man there nothing rude or misanthropic about Mr. Carroll. His was gentlemanly, even courteous, at times could show caring, even love, after a fashion, though for the life of me I can't think of a single film in which he did so…[insert laugh emoticon]

Leo G. Carroll

Oh, Carroll is a superb choice! One of my favorites, too, and I think for precisely the reasons you mention. I love your analysis. And you're right, even when he played the villain, as he did in SPELLBOUND, he was still a gentleman. That made him even more interesting.

Btw, my apologies for not responding sooner. I'd been having trouble signing in here and more or less forgot about the site. I've been keeping pretty busy over at the other site, and this one doesn't seem to have a lot of activity, so I may just stay over there. But I'll check in here every day to see if I have more posts to respond to.

So sorry, everyone.

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Re: Favorite supporting actors

I've got many. Will just list a few here that happen to come to mind at the moment.

Some of them are great in lots of performances, others were outstanding in just one or a handful of performances. Some of them are probably remembered today mostly as leading stars, but they also were memorable in certain supporting roles, often from before they became big stars.

Donald Pleasence
Max von Sydow
Veronica Cartwright
Margaret Hamilton
Robert Helpmann (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)
SZ "Cuddles" Sakall
Kate Reid (The Andromeda Strain, Equus)
George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke, Airport)
Ralph Richardson
Murray Melvin (The Devils)
Charles Gray (007 films, The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
Sterling Holloway (Disney films)

Re: Favorite supporting actors

Great choices radix (see my post to Telegonus about the long delay my response). Anyway, so many of these are giants in my view, and each one is hard not to love. I'm glad to see you gave a mention to Veronica Cartwright; I've known her work and admired her since she was a child actress. And I also have a special fondness for SZ Sakall. Thanks.

Walter Brennan

Any discussion of character actors would be incomplete without mentioning Brennan, an actor of great range who garnered three Supporting Actor Oscars over the years.

Of his many memorable roles, my personal favorite is "Eddie" in To Have and Have Not.

Re: Favorite supporting actors

Three cheers for Walter Brennan!!

Re: Favorite supporting actors

Walter Brennan was great. Loved him in many films, maybe my favorite being Bad Day At Black Rock, especially his perfect delivery of such dialogue as, when asked why he doesn't do anything about the town's corruption and its bullies, "I'm consumed by apathy", a feeling I've had more times than I'd care to admit.

Re: Favorite supporting actors

Great film; Great actor; Great quote!

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Yup. Thanks. Brennan was terrific in so many films. Another favorite of mine: Red River. He had some choice lines in this one, too, with one line a plot turner, "You was wrong, Mr. Dunston"

Red River

Oh, I forgot about that one. Loved him in that, too.

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Walter Brennan

Yes, indeed, one of the all time great character actors. Playing old when he was young and playing old when he was old. I loved him in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, too. But another favorite of mine is MEET JOHN DOE. I love it when he says "The helots have got you! The helots have got you!"

Re: Favorite supporting actors

Walter Brennan was wonderful. His old man Clanton in My Darling Clementine is a favorite.

For all his eccentricities in his "vocalizing" Brennan had a sharp way with dialogue, had a flair for making his lines memorable, as in Red River, with his "You was wrong, Mr. Dunston". Just like that. It's when the tide turns…

Walter Brennan

Oddly, though he usually spoke with a southern or "country" accent, he was actually from Massachusetts.

Anyway, I think the fact that he won three Oscars (and got a fourth nomination) is an indication of his genuine talent. And I love your notion of his flair for making lines memorable. My favorite is the one that's a little more over the top from Meet John Doe: "The helots have got you! The helots have got you!"

Small Town Yankee

Thanks, Spiderwort.

As a Bay Stater myself I can hear Brennan's Yankee accent. When he speaks more slowly, playing an educated man or simply talking straight to someone, without the high kickin' country and western schtick, it's noticeable. More small town than city, it's vanishing now…

Re: Favorite supporting actors

Supporting actors as good guys or bad guys?

Just to in random chose a good guy: Tom Bosley, nice guy , befudled, don't always know what's happening, though he later nearly always was married

And a bad guy: Vic Morrow, from his start in The Blackboard Jungle, never trust his persona (offcourse he turned out to be a nice guy in real life)

Tom Bosley & Vic Morrow

Bosley was a very funny man. I remember him in his feature debut in Love with the Proper Stranger. He was very good in that. Enjoyed him decades later in the series, The Father Dowling Mysteries.

As for Morrow, I loved him in The Blackboard Jungle, but will always remember him in the series, Combat! He was an excellent actor. What a sad end he came to - so unnecessary, caused by the stupidity of the director, John Landis, who should have been arraigned on manslaughter for that terrible accident during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). He'll get his due one of these days.

At least Morrow's talent lives on in his daughter, Jennifer Jason Leigh. He would be proud of her, I think.
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