- This thread could easily go to 500
- I loved Beulah in Penny Serenade and Finishing School
- Beulah was on the "Waltons" in 1976 - which means she was 87. When she played Jimmy Stewart's mother in "IAWL" , she would have been 57.
- Aline MacMahon. 1930s comic actress. Also did some serious work when she got the chance. Nominated for an Academy Award. She has a really touching quality to her that's hard to explain.
- R4 Saw her as an old woman, playing Judy's dresser in "I Could Go On Singing". Didnt know she had been around that long.
- S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall. He was in "Casablanca" (which I've never seen), but I know and love him as Mr. Otto Oberkugen, the music store owner who plays vile violin, in "In the Good Old Summertime" with DL favourite Judy Garland. Special mention to Spring Byington as Mr. Oberkugen's sweetheart.
- James Gleason.
- Paul Stewart
- Beulah was a natural beauty.
- Charles Coburn - made about 100 films, but I loved him in "In This Our Life", playing Bette Davis' lecherous, but generous, uncle. After she's had a hit & run, she goes to him for help - meanwhile, he's found out he doesn't have long to live, and is in shock. He quietly tells Bette that. Our girl, drama queen through, and through, stands up and says ' Dying ? Who cares if your dying...you're old uncle. But I'm in trouble !' Reminds me of lots of people I know.
- DL favorite Majorie Main
- I loved Bondi, who despite her career as a loving mother had a mean look under the softness that left her always looking like she hit the whisky straight when no one was looking. This played well in "Caged."
She shared this quality with the two Mothers in "Peter Gunn," Minerva Urecal and Hope Emerson.
Always old looking, yes. But handsome when young.
- Hope Emerson - the huge, dykey prison matron in "Caged". Usually played really vile characters, but known in real life to be the nicest person. 6'2", 230 lbs.
- Lloyd Nolan
- R6 If you don't mind my asking, how or why have you never seen Casablanca? Just curious.
- Gale Sondergaard!!
A great B-movie bitch/witch, and was unforgettable, even Oscar-worthy, in [italic] Anna and the King of Siam [italic/]
- Claude Rains was always exceptional in every film I've ever seen him in - know Bette Davis always spoke really highly of him too.
- Mary Wickes
Anne Revere (the understanding mother in National Velvet)
Gladys Cooper (the cold and hypercritical mother in Now, Voyager)
- this one is too easy
- Gabby Hayes
- Beulah Bondi was also wonderful in "Remember the Night," which should shown during Christmas season along with "It's a Wonderful Life."
Great cast starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and written by the great Preston Sturges.
I was just about to mention Anne Revere. She always brilliantly portrayed mom characters - she could be a sweet and understanding mom (like in National Velvet or The Song of Bernadette) or a crazy religious mom (A Place in the Sun).
- R15, it's due to an inexplicable gap in my otherwise encyclopaedic knowledge of good old b&w movies :) I blame my brother, who probably switched the channel to football just as it was coming on.
Speaking of him, I once walked into the living room just in time to see the hero of the b&w movie currently on our TV put a ring on the finger of the heroine, who was languishing in bed. She then gave a contented sigh and a little smile and perished.
I asked, "What happened? Why did she die???"
My smart-ass brother replied, "The ring was too heavy."
Maybe you had to be there.
Thank you for asking, R15. It brought back that memory and made me smile.
- I love Roland Young, especially as Blore in "And then there were none" and Uncle Willie in the Philadelphia Story.
- Frank Morgan
- All those great old guys who played the 7 professors in Ball of Fire opposite Stanwyck.
That film was character actor heaven.
- FRNKLIN PANGBORN, bitches!
DAMMIT! Beat me to it, r27!
- Ian Wolfe.
- I think the OP means the actors had long careers in which you can never recall them looking any younger. A lot of those '30s players don't really apply for they were dead by 1950.
- Eugene Pallette, the frog-voiced father in My Man Godfrey and the friar in Mark of Zorro (1940).
- Marie Dressler
IMO, the most interesting of the snooty actresses.
- Una Merkel was a lot of fun, from her early days as Ginger Rogers' sidekick in 42ND ST. right through the 60s when she popped up in Disney films like THE PARENT TRAP which also featured the delightful Charles Ruggles in his usual role as an elegant but impish gentleman.
Grady Sutton was hilarious, usually cast as a befuddled but well-meaning oaf.
- Thelma Ritter (unless she's too late for "old time.")
- That old broad who played Kate Hepburn's auntie in Bringing Up Baby....was it May Robson? She's also fabulous in Dinner at Eight Billie Burke's drunk cook.
- Billie Burke.
Don't take her for granted.
- Charlotte Greenwood
- How old is old-time? Thelma Ritter and Jessie Royce Landis.
- Frank Nelson - he could hold his own with the Fab Four
- Mary Boland
R27, yes Franklin Pangborn!
R35, yes May Robson!
- The phrase "still old" is brilliant.
- Claude Rains was a big star; you can't put him in this category.
- There was a great book on the subject: Who was that?
- Guy Kibbee, Eric Blore, Ward Bond, Edward Everett Horton etc.
- Una O'Connor. You may not recognize her name, but you'll know her face, She played old ladies from 1930's through 1950's. (Robin Hood; Witness for the Prosecution)
- Bill Quinn.
He was Bob Newhart's father-in-law.
- There has always been a rumor in hollywood that Zasu Pitts was Nancy Reagan's mother.
- r47, Nancy's mom and Pitts were friends. Pitts gave Nancy her first acting role on Broadway that Pitts was in.
- I think we'd all like to say Margaret Hamilton but would be hard pressed to name a second film.
Why didn't get any god roles after WoO?
- Will someone at DL turn off the italics please?
- Judging from OP's OP, "Old time" means classic Hollywood - 1930s/40s. Thelma Ritter is probably borderline-too-late and an actor from the Bob Newhart Show would almost certainly not belong. Please correct me OP if I'm wrong.
- Clarence Kolb. Usually the stuffy, old rich guy, but inside was sometimes a softie(especially for a pretty girl) And all those actors who played the crime reporters at the prison, in "His Girl Friday." Richard Lamparski's books are a goldmine for this topic, as well as the two "Character People" and "More Character People" books by Ken D.Jones, Arthur F. McClure and Alfred E.Twomey.
- Edward Everett Horton
film debut 1922, more than 120 films, worked nearly up until his death in 1970.
From silent films, thru the talkies to TV. He always looked the same to me and I always enjoy seeing him.
His nickname: MARY
Bill Quinn was Bob Newhart's father-in-law in real life, not on the show.
He had 198 acting credits, but his career was in television, not movies.
- R53, you read my mind. I love Edward Everett Horton.
Also Thelma Ritter.
- Herbert Mundin, probably best known as the peasant who falls for Maid Marian's servant in Adventures of Robin Hood.
- Elizabeth Patterson -- adorable as Mrs. Trumbull on "I Love Lucy" and equally adorable as Aunt Emma in "Remember the Night."
- Adeline De Walt Reynolds.
She was born in 1862 and died in 1960. She didn't start acting until 1940, but MGM would trot her out to play really old women, and once you know who she is you'll see her a lot and you swear she might drop dead before the scene is over.
Probably best known as the old Irish mother of Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way.
- You're welcome!
- I thought E E Horton was known for doing voiceover work on Rocky & Bullwinkle?
- Yes Rocky and B and Fractured Fairytales. The guy did everything.
- Ernest Thesiger
Marie Dressler (actually a huge box-office star at the beginning of her film career)
- Until recently, I had no idea that Joan Blondell of "Here Come the Brides" had been a genuine actress years earlier.
- The one who played the lady who killed that horrible woman who knitted while the guillotine was in operation, in "A Tale of Two Cities". Sorry, I don't know her name. I think she acted with another favorite of mine, James Gleason, in a whodunnit.
- Glenda Farrell & Joan Blondell made every film better.
- Elisha Cook, Jr.
John Qualen; esp. in "Out of the Fog".
Thomas Mitchell; in the same film, and as the father in "The Fighting Sullivans".
- Bill Quinn played MTM's father in an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Their most famous scene:
Mary Richards' mother: Don't forget to take your pill.
Mary and her father at the same time: I won't.
- Ditto for Eve Arden.
(Eve in Technicolor in drop-dead clothes & hats from COVER GIRL)
- Edna May Oliver was a terrific hatchet-faced crone, usually prickly but also lovable when a role permitted. DL might know her best as Lady Catherine from the Greer Garson PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. She is perfect as the stern Aunt March in the Katherine Hepburn LITTLE WOMEN and sublime as Aunt Betsey Trotwood in the 1935 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
A previous poster thought Margaret Hamilton disappeared after OZ but she didn't. She plays a moral crusader in MY LITTLE CHICKADEE whose Temperance and Puritanism menace W.C. Fields and Mae West. She is the spooky maid in the camp classic THIRTEEN GHOSTS. She made nearly two dozen films before OZ and many dozens more afterwards. She had something of a renaissance on TV in the 70s, acting in programs and commercials and making many personal appearances.
- Butterfly McQueen
You are thinking of Edna May Oliver, who played Miss Pross in "A Tale of Two Cities".
Edna actually made three comedy-mysteries with James Gleason: "Penguin Pool Murder", "Murder on the Blackboard", and "Murder on a Honeymoon".
- (R72) Thanks, and I'll get to know more as I go. Anyway, an acquaintance told me that if there were supporting actress nominations in those days, the actress whose character was killed would be nominated. I think he said her name was Blanche Yurka. Will google that name.
- Blanche Yurka was involved in one if the great murder scandals, the death of tobacco heir Smith Reynolds.
- Jane Darwell sitting in front of the little fire that is burning up some of her memories in "The Grapes Of Wrath" is one of the most heartbreaking scenes ever.
Nice page of pics of a lot of character actors on Pinterest.
- Which character actor of yore possessed the manliest bulge?
- Harry Davenport played Dr. Meade in Gone With The Wind, the grandfather in Meet Me in St. Louis and was in almost every other movie at several studios from the 1930s till his death in 1949 at 83.
Samuel S. Hinds also pops up a a lot.
- Aline McMahon was terrific in I COULD GO ON SINGING, she made a lot out of a role that barely existed on the page.
Beulah was hilarious in MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW a terrible 1937 Leo McCarey schmaltzfest - where she was in her 40s and playing an old woman in her 70s, its hilarious seeing how they saw old then, as she shuffles around being very annoying!
- Maria Ouspenskaya - from Garbo films in the 30s.
Jessie Royce Landis
Thelma Ritter & Agnes Moorehead were big names so dont belong on here.
- Blanche Yurka ! - what a name, great in THE FURIES and out west with Susan and Jeff in THUNDER IN THE SUN.
- r70: Hamilton and Garland both went directly into BABES IN ARMS after finishing OZ.
Hamilton plays another Elmira Gultch who wants to send the parentless kids to go into a work farm, but Judy & Mickey want to put on a show! It's wonderfully strange seeing her and Judy together again!
- Constance Collier, who plays the aged annoying drama coach in Stage Door.
Norma Varden, who plays Charles Coburn's wife "Mrs. Piggy" in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Frau Schmidt in The Sound of Music.
Dennie Moore, who plays Olga the Mancurist in The Women.
Dame May Whitty, who plays Miss Froy in The Lady Vanishes.
Sara Haden, who played Andy Hardy's maiden aunt.
- MARY BOLAND (in everything)!!!!!!!!
You bitches are slipping.
- Not a favorite, but Ellen Corby always played old and was in zillions of things before The Waltons.
- Mary Young ...
- Ellen Corby's birth name was Hansen, the family in "I Remember Mama" in which she played Trina.
- On NBC radio's "The Big Show" when asked where Libby Holman was Tallulah replied "between murders."
- Nedra Voltz
Here is a scene of her, as Loretta, in 1985's "Moving Violations" . . .
- Billie Burke, most famous as Glinda, but one of my favorite scenes ever is her aspic monologue. It's not funny viewed on its own but in the context of the movie it's hilarious.
- Actually, it is pretty funny out of context. "Crab meat. CRAB MEAT!"
Billie Burke from Dinner at Eight.
- But May Robson steals every scene she's in with Billie right out under her nose.
- Edward Arnold - always felt he was underrated.
- I guess my question is why don't movies have character actors today? If they need one, it's usually some big star putting on a putty nose and making a cameo. Why did Hollywood quit using character actors? The last one I can think of was Don Knotts.
- R93 I think Hollywood stopped using character actors around the time it stopped using actors.
- R92 I was going to mention Edward Arnold; he was a great one.
- Charles Lane owns this thread!
- Eric Blore and Melville Cooper--both in "The Lady Eve."
Selena Royle, so good in "The Damned Don't Cry."
Fortunio Bonanova, the voice teacher in "Citizen Kane."
- Marion Lorne
- Mary Nash,that bitch who tries to sell Shirley Temple to the gypsies, in "Heidi." Connie Gilchrist, everybody's favorite Irish apartment house neighbor, and played Nora in "Auntie Mame."
- R83, Mary Boland was already mentioned here. See, R40.
- Mischa Auer, Guy Kibbee and Laurel and Hardy's best foil, Jimmy Finlayson
- Janet jackson
- Jack Elam always makes me laugh.
He's even funnier when you know he was a cost accountant by training, and he had a glass eye because it was poked out with a pencil. He was working as an accountant for Hopalong Cassidy and they were short of extras one day.
- Margaret Dumont
- Edna May Oliver
- No love for Walter Brennan?
He was possibly the most respected character actor of the 1930s, winning 3 Supporting Oscars in less than 6 years.
- R107. He was also a rabid conservative who allegedly cheered wih happiness when he heard that Martin Luther King had been assassinated. And he didn't deserve an of those Oscars--he started out as an extra and, back then, extras could vote, so he had a very large voting base who wanted to support one of thir own.
- There are so many. Charlie Ruggles--loved his interactions with Maureen O'Hara in THE PARENT TRAP. Cecil Kellaway, Ruth McDevitt, Elsa Lanchester, Monty Woolley, Thomas Mitchell....
THE BISHOP'S WIFE, in addition to being my favorite Christmas movie, is a gold mine of great character actors.
Margaret Hamilton also played Hester Frump, Morticia's mother, on "The Addams Family."
- Ida Moore, elderly, twinkle-eyed character actress in films from the mid-40s who specialized in playing eccentric old ladies.
- William Demarest - Uncle Charlie from MY THREE SONS - played many a great character part earlier in his career. He is at his best as Betty Hutton's irascible father in THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK, directed by Hollywood's "Gayest Wizard," according to this trailer, Preston Sturges.
- R107, the love for him and his Oscars all came from the trades, who exercised their votes as a bloc to show their strength against the studio preferences.
While I enjoyed some of his performances, he was a nasty conservative who would fit well in today's hate-filled political world. He had every right to actively support Goldwater in 1964 and call for school prayer and say things against the civil rights movement, claiming that Communists were behind agitating otherwise complacent blacks. But this anecdote tells the story behind the man I do not love:
"Those on the set of his last series, "The Guns of Will Sonnett" (1967) - in which he played the surprisingly complex role of an ex-army scout trying to undo the damage caused by his being a mostly absentee father - said that he cackled with delight upon learning of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, and several crew members recalled how he actually danced a spontaneous jig when he heard of King's murder."
In other words, a rotten-souled asshole.
- Another vote for Marie Dressler.
I recently read her autobiography--interesting
She died right after she won an academy award when she was 60 I think.
- The elders are coming out of their nursing homes for this thread.
- Special mention to BILLY GILBERT who was in scores of films throughout the 30s to the 60s but might be most remembered for playing Joe Pettibone who comes in as a sort of deus ex machine to save he day at the end of His Girl Friday.
- Whoever said Janet Jackson ... hahaha good one!
My fav older actor is Jerry Stiller. He basically plays the same damn character all the time but he's funny as hell.
- The Wizard of Oz himself, Frank Morgan.
- R113, I loved Marie Dressler. Her range between "Min and Bill" and "Tugboat Annie" on one side and "Dinner at Eight" on the other was wonderful, especially since she used a lot of the same schtick for both character types.
"Oh, my dear, that's something YOU need never worry about," was so perfectly delivered.
- Wallace Beery
J. Carroll Nash
C.Z. "Cuddles" Zakal
Sir Cedric Hardwick
- Gladys Cooper and Cathleen Nesbitt, who were virtually interchangeable.
- Cathleen Nesbitt was great as the mother of Congressman Morley on "The Farmer's Daughter" TV series with Inger Stevens. And then there was Mildred Natwick who, along with Helen Hayes, starred in "The Snoop Sisters."
- Margaret Rutherford
- (R87) LOL! You probably already know this Tallulah anecdote: Seems she was being interviewed on radio, by the powerful New York columnist, Earl Wilson.
Wilson: "Has anyone ever mistaken you for a man?"
Tallulah: "No, darling; how 'bout you?"
- As a child, I had a crush on Henry Hull.
fan of old movies.
- R112 never knew any of this about Walter Brennan - watched "The Real McCoys" as a kid, and now have a totally different take on this guy. If true, good riddance. No RIP for him.
- I used to watch repeats of Guns of Will Sonnet, largely for eye candy Dack Rambo and his tight kakhis. For someone whose son became a gun slinger, Brennan's character was holier than thou, often judgmental, spouting moral platitudes and often citing scripture. I think every episode ended with him thanking the Lord as the rode off. If he had any input into that character, I can definitely see him being ultra conservative
- Mary Wicks
- I'm with R127: Mary Wickes. From her first appearances in "Now Voyager" and "Man Who Came to Dinner" until her last ones in Sister Act and Postcards from the Edge, a great character actress.
- For those of you interested, please watch the documentary That guy who was in that thing. It tells a lot about the life of character actors.
- Walter Brennan was great the first time he was the mystery guest on "What's my Line." The panelists that episode were Dorothy Kilgallen, Adolph Menjou, Greer Garson and Bennett Cerf.
- They were each inimitable in their own way but I wonder if Mary Wickes and Thelma Ritter were up for any of the same roles?
I'm thinking Thelma had the slight edge of being able to effortlessly project a certain pathos into comedy that would have eluded Mary.
- Kathleen Freeman
- Rosemary deCamp played idealized and endearing mothers in Yankee Doodle Dandy and those 2 early Doris Days musicals By the Light of the Silvery Moon and On Moonlight Bay. I just loved her!
Leon Ames played the father in the last two, as well as in Meet Me in Saint Louis. He was also great.
- IRIS ADRIAN
And then the usuals from Warners: Peter Lorre (who sometimes starred), Sydney Greenstreet, Conrad Veidt, etc.
- Raymond Massey!
- No one has any love for Florence Bates?
First female lawyer in Texas, her first role in Rebecca is amazing, and then she goes on to work for her friend Joe Mankiewicz and others playing these amazing dowagers.
- Burt Mustin was in every 60s & 70s sitcom multiple times; according to Wikipedia, he didn't even start acting until he was 67.
- OH, and I found him by googling, "old man on All in the Family."
- R126, love Florence Bates. In Rebecca's it's the image of her putting her cigarette out in the cold cream, plus her speech before she leaves, "You haven't deluded yourself into thinking he loves you?.....Mrs. DeWinter? Hmmf. Goodbye dear and good luck."
Also Florence Bates in Heaven Can Wait.
- What a great thread. Every single one of my favorites has been mentioned.
- Has Iris Adrian been mentioned?
- [quote]Has Iris Adrian been mentioned?
- Another vote for Iris Adrian. I'll throw in Patsy Kelly and Reta Shaw for good measure.
- Mildred Natwick was the best.
Also, Judith Lowry, who played Mother Dexter on the "Phyllis" spinoff, as well as many other character roles.
- Reta Shaw!! Yes!!
- Elsa Lanchester
- Everyone who cares enough about this topic to have read this far in the thread should definitely check out the new biography MARY WICKES: I KNOW I'VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE. I saw it in Barnes and Noble and picked it up to glance at it, and hours later I was still there reading. The author clearly did years of research of archives, letters, and interviews with whoever that knew her would talk to him, so - however interested you may or may not be in Mary Wickes specifically - it just becomes engrossing to see the level of detail usually reserved only for stars instead lavished on somebody who lived the life of a character actor.
It's sort of a sad book, too - she seems to have been sort of a bitter and unhappy person. She was extremely close to Lucille Ball, so there's a lot in there from Lucie Arnaz about their relationship. The author also basically asked everybody whether or not they thought Mary was a lesbian, which there are differing guesses on - but either way, there doesn't seem to be any evidence she ever had an intimate relationship. There are conflicting accounts about whether she once had sex with a man in her twenties.
- Barry Fitzgerald
Hugely popular Oscar-winning character actor in his day but, I'm guessing, not very fondly remembered today.
- Don't forget me!
- I vote for Aline McMahan too. Just the best
- Barry Fitzgerald's twinkly Irish codger shtick hasn't worn well.
Allan Jenkins and Glenda Farrell: Two more smart-talking Warner's wiseasses.
Does Jack Carson count? One of the most versatile and underrated actors of The Golden Age. The man could do anything: Drama, comedy, musical, Westerm, Noir.
- The horse-faced Edna May Oliver, one of the greats. My favorite is the 1939 uber-patriotic "Drums along the Mohawk" as World War II was looming on the horizon.
Marjorie Main was wonderful in Tugboat Annie and Ma Kettle, roles that were perfect for her unique charms..
- r120 Two of my faves, but Cooper always had that "edge" that Nesbitt never seemed to. They must've been the beauties of their day. A shout out for Beah Richards, she played Sidney Poitier's mother in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." She spent many a movie providing loving and tearful maternal affection.
- Judi Dench - she is so stupendous!
- Any Preston Sturges film is loaded with great character actors.