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Who was the greatest British character actor?

Just curious who you think was the greatest British character actor? Why?

Feel free to list one I forgot! I only had ten choices LOL.

by Anonymousreply 130November 26, 2021 5:46 AM

Oops. I put George Sanders twice! Replace him with Malcolm McDowell.

by Anonymousreply 1October 19, 2021 6:32 PM

Edward Fox?

James Fox?

John Hurt?

by Anonymousreply 2October 19, 2021 6:34 PM

Julian Glover is in every major franchise-

Harry Potter

Star Wars

Game of Thrones

Indiana Jones

Doctor Who

James Bond

by Anonymousreply 3October 19, 2021 6:36 PM

I don’t know any of these names.

I know Malcolm McDowell

by Anonymousreply 4October 19, 2021 6:36 PM

Laurence Olivier

by Anonymousreply 5October 19, 2021 6:37 PM

I wouldn't call most of these people character actors, given that they mostly played first and second leads. Postlethwaite and Hyde-White, okay. But what a weird selection in any case.

by Anonymousreply 6October 19, 2021 6:38 PM

R6 I always felt they got Wilfrid Hyde-White when they couldn't get George Sanders.

by Anonymousreply 7October 19, 2021 6:41 PM

Where is Tim Curry?

by Anonymousreply 8October 19, 2021 6:49 PM

R8 Good suggestion! I told you I couldn't add everybody!

by Anonymousreply 9October 19, 2021 6:52 PM

Denholm Elliott.

by Anonymousreply 10October 19, 2021 6:59 PM

Alec McCowen

by Anonymousreply 11October 19, 2021 7:00 PM

Ralph Richardson.

by Anonymousreply 12October 19, 2021 7:02 PM

No love for Michael Gough?

by Anonymousreply 13October 20, 2021 2:36 PM

Ralph "God" Richardson.

by Anonymousreply 14October 20, 2021 2:58 PM

R12 and R14 There is a great album of him reciting William Blake! Give it a listen!

by Anonymousreply 15October 20, 2021 3:00 PM

Alec Guinness. He may have played leads, but those were all character roles.

by Anonymousreply 16October 20, 2021 3:04 PM

George Sanders for his velvet tone, filled with whimsy and menace.

by Anonymousreply 17October 20, 2021 3:14 PM

It was Rex Harrison for any flatulence-dependent role.

by Anonymousreply 18October 20, 2021 3:15 PM

r11 Cute and gay! Good choice!

by Anonymousreply 19October 20, 2021 3:21 PM

Charles Laughton

by Anonymousreply 20October 20, 2021 3:28 PM

R19 I wish he was in more films. I've only seen him in a few movies here and there. I did get the chance to see his recitation of the Gospel of Mark live. What a performance!

by Anonymousreply 21October 20, 2021 3:39 PM

Peter Sellers

by Anonymousreply 22October 20, 2021 3:47 PM

Sir Alec Guinness for the win.

Another vote for Laughton, McCowen, Sellars, the Fox Brothers, Hurt

Honourable Mention:

Dickie Attenborough (before he took up directing)

John Williams

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by Anonymousreply 23October 20, 2021 3:59 PM

^^^ SellErs ^^^

by Anonymousreply 24October 20, 2021 4:02 PM

Agree with R22, Peter O'Toole and Robert Shaw.

Love Hopkins too

by Anonymousreply 25October 20, 2021 4:03 PM

Donald Wolfit

Martyn Green

Max Adrian, if Irish counts as British

by Anonymousreply 26October 20, 2021 4:04 PM

Jim Broadbent is in everything.

by Anonymousreply 27October 20, 2021 4:05 PM

Donald Wolfit was Peter O'Toole's mentor.

by Anonymousreply 28October 20, 2021 4:07 PM

My James Mason story. In the late 60s. I went to see 'If' at a movie theatre in Lausanne, Switzerland. In line behind me was James Mason accompanied by a very attractive girl in her 20s, wearing a mini-skirt. I'd never thought about Mason or found him attractive but in person he was very hot for an older man. Very handsome.

I sat down in the theatre and eventually Mason and girlfriend came and sat next to me. He spent the whole movie with his hand under her skirt fingering her while she moaned. Very distracting.

by Anonymousreply 29October 20, 2021 4:08 PM

What about Alan Rickman? He wasn't exactly a leading man type, but he had a knack for stealing the show

by Anonymousreply 30October 20, 2021 4:15 PM

R29 James Mason was attractive in that debonair and class league.

by Anonymousreply 31October 20, 2021 4:21 PM

Alec Guinness is my choice. He could play anything from broad comedy to drama, and could even make a mark in little-remembered science fiction movies.

But when I saw the question, I immediately thought of Jim Broadbent. So among modern actors, he'd be my choice.

by Anonymousreply 32October 20, 2021 4:31 PM

Wilfrid Lawson.

by Anonymousreply 33October 20, 2021 4:43 PM

R32 My favorite Guinness performance is in Murder by Death. At the end, they all start accusing him of being different people. He acts like the person and then quickly changes to another. He pulls it off so well.

The room is full of legends- Peter Sellers, David Niven, Elsa Lanchester, Peter Falk, James Coco, Maggie Smith, Eileen Brennan, James Cromwell, yet Guinness steals the show!

by Anonymousreply 34October 20, 2021 4:44 PM

[quote]I sat down in the theatre and eventually Mason and girlfriend came and sat next to me. He spent the whole movie with his hand under her skirt fingering her while she moaned.

Mason was still channelling his inner Humbert Humbert some years after 'Lolita.' Admittedly though the girl was in her 20s.

[quote]Guinness steals the show!

Always recall how in a big scene for the original brilliant TV 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy', Hywel Bennett was so nervous about acting with Guinness he needed not a little brandy to calm his agitation. AG is of course effortlessly flawless in TTSS - a great TV work stuffed with fine character actors of a certain era.

by Anonymousreply 35October 20, 2021 5:05 PM

Alec McCowen was SO good in Hitchcock's "Frenzy."

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by Anonymousreply 36October 20, 2021 6:28 PM

Donald Wolfit is not a character actor. He is a Shakespearean thespian who appeared in very few films. He was a transitionary figure.

He's the George H.W. Bush of the acting.

by Anonymousreply 37October 20, 2021 6:31 PM

John Gielgud

by Anonymousreply 38October 20, 2021 6:33 PM

Alex McCowen was awesome (and openly gay)

by Anonymousreply 39October 20, 2021 6:33 PM

John Gielgud always played John Gielgud.

by Anonymousreply 40October 20, 2021 6:34 PM

James Mason had bone structure to die for.

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by Anonymousreply 41October 20, 2021 6:35 PM

No. It was his eyes.

by Anonymousreply 42October 20, 2021 6:39 PM

R40, no, he didn't

by Anonymousreply 43October 20, 2021 6:39 PM

Ian McKellen

Derek Jacobi

by Anonymousreply 44October 20, 2021 6:39 PM

If this is how he eats an ice cream...

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by Anonymousreply 45October 20, 2021 6:40 PM

Did the British tabloids ever out McCowen? They outed Nigel Hawthorne in their customary disrespectful way.

by Anonymousreply 46October 20, 2021 6:44 PM

Claude Rains

Brilliant in everything.

by Anonymousreply 47October 20, 2021 6:44 PM

R46 And that's why Hawthorne lost the Oscar. Still pisses me off.

by Anonymousreply 48October 20, 2021 6:44 PM

[quote]They outed Nigel Hawthorne in their customary disrespectful way.

Hawthorne's career had a big very deserved Indian Summer, which meant he was a prime scalp for vile homophobic hacks. I recall one sneering piece in The Sunday Times about NH and his partner which defied belief. Delighted he was Knighted.

by Anonymousreply 49October 20, 2021 6:56 PM

R49 the nineties were Nigel's decade- Demolition Man, the Madness of King George, Richard III, Twelfth Night, Amistad, The Object of My Affection, Madeline, The Winslow Boy, and Tarzan.

He is the best British character actor of the 1990's.

by Anonymousreply 50October 20, 2021 7:17 PM

This reminded me to look up Michael Gambon, still alive at 81, but he stopped stage acting at age 74 when he couldn't remember his lines and has done smaller film roles since. He had a very particular style and presence, but I always liked him, and where the more had some dimension he could be exceptionally good.

by Anonymousreply 51October 20, 2021 7:30 PM

Alec Guiness or Olivier.

by Anonymousreply 52October 20, 2021 8:01 PM

Most of these guys primarily played leading man roles.

by Anonymousreply 53October 20, 2021 8:55 PM

Henry Daniell

by Anonymousreply 54October 20, 2021 8:55 PM

Robert Coote

by Anonymousreply 55October 20, 2021 8:56 PM

Mr. Bean

by Anonymousreply 56October 20, 2021 9:25 PM

Denholm Elliot

by Anonymousreply 57October 21, 2021 12:27 AM

OP, you need to clean up your definitions if you want a sensible debate.

First of all, Rex Harrison was a star rather than a 'character actor'.

He may have been balding but some self-oppressed women considered him to be sexy.

He was always on the top of the credits from the 1940s until the end. He always played roles close to his own character. He was limited and couldn't do Shakespeare. He styled himself on Gerald Du Maurier and wanted everything to be relaxed and comfortable.

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by Anonymousreply 58October 21, 2021 1:54 AM

[quote] James Mason accompanied by a very attractive girl in her 20s, wearing a mini-skirt.

That dolly bird was raised in house next door to the local football field and the sound of neanderthal grunting occurred daily. Her father was a publican and some might say she was as rough as guts.

But James married her and that may have been one of the very many bad decisions he made in his career. Poor James was an introspective masochist.

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by Anonymousreply 59October 21, 2021 2:30 AM

[quote] Wilfrid Hyde-White

He was nobody for most of his life put he produced this cutie—

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by Anonymousreply 60October 21, 2021 2:59 AM

Edmund Gwenn

C. Aubrey Smith

by Anonymousreply 61October 21, 2021 3:13 AM

Wilfrid Hyde White never knew what was going on - he only read his own lines in the script.

by Anonymousreply 62October 21, 2021 3:14 AM

Maurice Evans

by Anonymousreply 63October 21, 2021 3:15 AM

If Rex Harrison is not a character actor, than neither is James Mason, Alec Guinness, or Laurence Olivier.

by Anonymousreply 64October 21, 2021 3:59 AM

New poll:

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by Anonymousreply 65October 21, 2021 4:03 AM

R46 We have a Datalounger who conversed with McCowen.

by Anonymousreply 66October 21, 2021 4:24 AM

Denholm Elliot not on the list.

But of all of those on the list, I find Terrence Stamp to be the most intriguing. He had leading man looks but excelled as character actor. He should’ve won an Oscar for his turn in Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

by Anonymousreply 67October 21, 2021 4:28 AM

[quote] But what a weird selection in any case.

Yes indeed, R7.

This weird selection ignores the cultural differences between Britons and Americans. And the difference between genuine actors and movie stars who stand in front of a camera. And the difference between people of integrity and people who will appear in trash for money.

by Anonymousreply 68October 21, 2021 4:32 AM

R36, my favorite parts of Frenzy were when she was feeding him. They were both great.

by Anonymousreply 69October 21, 2021 4:38 AM

Another actor not on the list us the always fantastic Richard E. Grant. He can play any sort of characters but IMO excels in playing character who’s a bot on edge.

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by Anonymousreply 70October 21, 2021 4:42 AM

R26 You must be English.

No American would know Martyn Green apart from audio recordings and Donald Wolfit only appeared in a few known movies. He only got his biggest movie role when the drunkard Robert Newton was hospitalised three weeks before filming.

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by Anonymousreply 71October 21, 2021 5:06 AM

R71 Who got what role?

by Anonymousreply 72October 21, 2021 5:09 AM

[quote]Alec McCowen was SO good in Hitchcock's "Frenzy."

McCowen was brilliant in Personal Services with Julie Walters.

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by Anonymousreply 73October 21, 2021 5:30 AM

[quote] McCowen was brilliant…

He looked very sad and haggard in all his movie appearances. I'm surprised the Americans put him on a contract.

by Anonymousreply 74October 21, 2021 6:06 AM

That's the original Hyacinth's Rose on the left at r73.

by Anonymousreply 75October 21, 2021 6:07 AM

Alec McCowen had those unfortunate lizard-like nostrils which distract us from whatever he was doing.

He should stay on stage.

by Anonymousreply 76October 21, 2021 6:20 AM

R75 Yep, Shirley Stelfox. Who was also excellent in Personal Services.

by Anonymousreply 77October 21, 2021 6:26 AM

Alastair Sim

by Anonymousreply 78October 21, 2021 6:34 AM

[quote] Alec Guiness

R52 Alec Guinness

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by Anonymousreply 79October 21, 2021 6:40 AM

[quote] Claude Rains … Brilliant in everything.

But not very good in keeping a wife. But then Isabel did commit adultery with another man.

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by Anonymousreply 80October 21, 2021 6:48 AM

Albert Finney.

I’m ignoring this character actor thing though because most aren’t

by Anonymousreply 81October 21, 2021 6:50 AM

Harry Andrews

by Anonymousreply 82October 21, 2021 4:25 PM

Recently watched Harry Andrews as the gay brother in 'Entertaining Mr Sloane.' He stole most scenes, even those with Peter McEnery wearing tight white underpants.

by Anonymousreply 83October 21, 2021 5:11 PM

Sir Cedric Hardwicke

by Anonymousreply 84October 22, 2021 1:05 AM

[quote] Sir Cedric Hardwicke

Yes, I think I like him too.

I read his memoir and I think we need to differentiate his career pre-1940 and post-1940. His early career was bound up with the London stage and the 'public-intellectual' known as George Bernard Shaw. He got his knighthood for premiering those Shavian plays.

He made two major films demonstrating his abilities to convey strength. One is the prophetic 'Things To Come' with its brilliant musical score. The other was as Claude Frollo, where he was chillingly masterful barking out orders while wearing a wig, a rather fetching hat with some drapery hanging over his shoulders.

His career was downhill from 1940.

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by Anonymousreply 85October 22, 2021 4:17 AM

Alan Rickman

by Anonymousreply 86November 8, 2021 4:31 AM

Rex Harrison would hit you if you called him a character actor when he was pre-70 or so, but he was nasty anyway.

by Anonymousreply 87November 8, 2021 4:33 AM

Alec Guinness and Charles Laughton were leading character men usually. John Mills went between leading and character man roles. Sydney Greenstreet is another great character actor.

by Anonymousreply 88November 8, 2021 4:40 AM

[quote] Rex Harrison …was nasty anyway.

If you seek for nastiness and if it excites you so to especially mention it here so very, very long after his demise then I guarantee you will find it wherever you look..

Others enjoyed his easy charm.

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by Anonymousreply 89November 8, 2021 4:48 AM

[quote] Who was the greatest British character actor?

Sydney Greenstreet, R88, appeared in NO British films.

by Anonymousreply 90November 8, 2021 4:56 AM

But he was British.

by Anonymousreply 91November 8, 2021 6:27 PM

Some rather good entries here, but how about David Niven? I should think he fits the bill as both a strong character actor, as well as a male lead. I thought Americans adored Niven. Perhaps I was wrong?

by Anonymousreply 92November 8, 2021 7:11 PM

Yes, you are wrong, R92.

He was a 'lounge lizard' in the style of the late Gerald du Maurier. He had NO vocal ability nor any sense of characterisation.

He was on Samual Goldwyn's payroll and so English producers put him in English films hoping to get Goldwyn to distribute their product in the US market.

He was epicene. He was passive and knew how to support real stars and genuine actors.

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by Anonymousreply 93November 8, 2021 10:22 PM

OP Are you blind?!

Sexy Rexy a CHARACTER ACTOR???!!!

He was one of the great romantic leading men of his generation.

Trevor Howard of BRIEF ENCOUNTER??!!

Terence Stamp of FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD???!!!

Get some specs and watch some films made before 1980.

You can start with THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR.

by Anonymousreply 94November 8, 2021 10:27 PM

^*Oh, and James Mason doesn't belong on that list, either.

by Anonymousreply 95November 8, 2021 10:28 PM

Alastair Sim

John Mills

And the alphas and omegas . . .

Ralph Richardson and Alec Guiness

by Anonymousreply 96November 8, 2021 10:30 PM

[quote] Wilfrid Hyde-White

I guarantee you would have never heard of W H-W if that drunkard Peter O'Toole played in MY Fair Lady as he was asked.

You cannot even name a film in which Wilfrid Hyde-White appeared prior to 1964!

by Anonymousreply 97November 8, 2021 10:54 PM

He used to be skinny before he bloated up in the Lotus Land of sun, sex and sleaze.

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by Anonymousreply 98November 8, 2021 10:58 PM

Charles Laughton

by Anonymousreply 99November 8, 2021 10:59 PM

Donald Crisp - the eternal father, uncle, family solicitor . . .

Best performance, the head of the struggling family of miners in How Green Was My Valley.

by Anonymousreply 100November 9, 2021 11:06 AM

[quote] Donald Crisp

What was said about R90 applies here as well.

by Anonymousreply 101November 9, 2021 10:59 PM

Claude Rains

by Anonymousreply 102November 9, 2021 11:11 PM

Claude Rains had five wives.

by Anonymousreply 103November 9, 2021 11:13 PM

R101 - British character actors appeared in American films. The question OP posed was not who was the greatest British character actor in British films, but was the greatest British character actor?

"Donald William Crisp (27 July 1882 – 25 May 1974) was an English film actor as well as an early producer, director and screenwriter. His career lasted from the early silent film era into the 1960s. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1942 for his performance in How Green Was My Valley."

Crisp was a British character actor.

by Anonymousreply 104November 10, 2021 12:51 AM

[quote] Donald Wolfit is not a character actor … He was a transitionary figure.

What do you mean, OP? What do you mean by "transitionary"?

by Anonymousreply 105November 10, 2021 9:39 PM

R94, someone who doesn't watch films made before 1980 wouldn't even know who any of those guys are

by Anonymousreply 106November 10, 2021 9:43 PM

Someone who doesn't watch films made before 1980 are being wilfully ignorant and deserve their stupidity.

by Anonymousreply 107November 10, 2021 9:45 PM

R52 and R96 have both misspelled the name of the greatest British character actor.

This (not-especially-good) filmmaker makes some perceptive remarks about Guinness' appearances on screen.

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by Anonymousreply 108November 10, 2021 10:05 PM

[quote]Claude Rains had five wives.[quote]

What has that got to do with his acting?

by Anonymousreply 109November 12, 2021 9:05 PM

[quote] What has that got to do with his acting?

Adulterers practice the art of deception. Acting is deception.

by Anonymousreply 110November 13, 2021 9:32 PM

[quote] the alphas and omegas

What do you mean, R96? Are you suggesting that these two actors can perform any role they choose?

by Anonymousreply 111November 13, 2021 9:45 PM

R105 Unanswered question.

R111 Unanswered question.

by Anonymousreply 112November 19, 2021 6:25 PM

[quote] I find Terrence Stamp to be the most intriguing. He had leading man looks

I can't agree about his looks. Even when he was mildly pretty in the 60s his wide cheekbones and small jaw made him resemble the Extra-Terrestrial.

He had a good run in the 60s for Wyler, Ustinov, Schlesinger, Fellini, and Pasolini but very little of quality in the subsequent half-century.

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by Anonymousreply 113November 19, 2021 6:30 PM

Charles Laughton wins every list like this. But let's not forget Ralph Richardson, the greatest Iago there ever was.

by Anonymousreply 114November 19, 2021 10:59 PM

[quote] the greatest Iago there ever was.

Oh, R114, you talk as through you were there at the Old Vic in 1937.

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by Anonymousreply 115November 21, 2021 8:00 AM

Claude Rains on a water bed.

by Anonymousreply 116November 21, 2021 9:40 AM

Claude Rains standing on a hidden foot stool.

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by Anonymousreply 117November 21, 2021 10:16 AM

Richard Madden.

by Anonymousreply 118November 21, 2021 11:30 AM

[quote] Richard Madden.

He and his streak of white hair sometimes remind me of John Justin.

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by Anonymousreply 119November 21, 2021 11:41 AM

Leo McKern.

George Cole.

Sid James.

(These are honest-to-God CHARACTER actors.)

by Anonymousreply 120November 21, 2021 11:48 AM

[quote] Harry Andrews

I could never take him seriously in dramatic roles because of his gargantuan jaw.

(it was bigger than Vanessa Redgrave's jaw)

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by Anonymousreply 121November 26, 2021 1:01 AM

The guy who used to say, "I, say." He's a character actor, most of the people in your OP are not, OP.

by Anonymousreply 122November 26, 2021 1:16 AM

[quote] The guy who used to say, "I, say."

The late Roger Livesey

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by Anonymousreply 123November 26, 2021 1:19 AM

Charles Hawtrey?

by Anonymousreply 124November 26, 2021 2:32 AM

That's not him, R123.

by Anonymousreply 125November 26, 2021 3:05 AM

Are you American, R122?

Are you thinking of Nigel Bruce?

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by Anonymousreply 126November 26, 2021 3:19 AM

No, R122, and no, not Nigel Bruce. The guy had a gap between his front teeth. He was (from what I remember) kind of a comedic character actor.

by Anonymousreply 127November 26, 2021 3:22 AM

R127 are you talking Terry-Thomas?

by Anonymousreply 128November 26, 2021 3:24 AM

Yes, R128! Thanks.

by Anonymousreply 129November 26, 2021 4:26 AM

Terry-Thomas outwits the Union Rep

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by Anonymousreply 130November 26, 2021 5:46 AM
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