The Other Great Performance in the Movie

Almost twenty years ago, my mom, dad and me went to see Philadelphia in the theatre.  It had already won Best Actor for Tom Hanks when we caught up with it and, as a big fan of Jonathan Demme, I was excited to see it.   I thought it was good but nothing like the Demme I’d grown to love with movies like Melvin and Howard.   After Silence of the Lambs, I thought maybe he’d return to the smaller, more personal films that he started with and, to a degree, that’s exactly how it was.  Still, I was disappointed even though I found it a good, solid movie and if nothing else, there was some great acting on display by a lot of great veterans, including Demme vets Mary Steenburgen and Charles Napier.  But when we were leaving, my father said something that stuck with me.  He said, “The other guy should’ve won.”

The “other guy” was Denzel Washington and I fully agreed.  For my money, Washington gave the best performance in the movie but even if it weren’t the best, it would still be an excellent performance overshadowed by the lead performance that took all the glory.  Many times, that lead performance deserves all the glory but sometimes you just need to spread it around and remind everyone of that other performance in the movie.

When a movie has a standout lead performance, every other performance in the film, no matter how good, gets overlooked.  Not completely, of course.  They’ll be mentioned in reviews and discussions but never more than a nod of respect before getting back to the big performance at the center.  This type of occurrence probably happened to Karl Malden more than any other actor in history.  Mention A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront or Patton and you’ll hear a lot more about Marlon Brando and George C. Scott than you’ll ever hear about Malden, and Malden even won for Streetcar, something Brando failed to do.  Well I’m here to tell you (or should I say “confirm” because I’m sure you already know this) that Malden is simply superb in all three.  In all three, Malden plays the voice of reason to Brando and Scott’s loud, brash and violent men (well, Terry’s not loud or brash but you get the picture).  But more than that, there’s an actual progression from gentle (Streetcar) to fair but firm (Waterfront) to wise and level-headed (Patton) that plays off the lead performances perfectly.  I may as well just say it up front:  I think Karl Malden was one of the greatest actors that ever lived and despite his Oscar for Streetcar and nomination for Best Supporting Actor for On the Waterfront, I don’t think the guy got nearly the recognition he deserved.    He only got those two nominations and by the time Patton came along, for which he received no nomination, I’d swear it was because he’d gotten so good at that kind of thing that people stopped noticing.

Malden continued to play interesting characters in movie and movie, from Baby Doll and The Cincinnati Kid to Billion Dollar Brain and The Cat o’ Nine Tails.  He even ventured into television with a very successful series, The Streets of San Francisco, which is, frankly, where I first came to know him.  He was excellent as always.

Speaking of actors not nominated for Best Supporting Actor despite a great supporting performance, John Cazale could give Karl Malden a run for his money for “Actor Most Often Overlooked in Movies with Big Leads.”  Oh hell, he’d probably just win the award outright.  He was mentioned in the comments of this post a couple of weeks ago as one of the actors whose career would have been great had he lived longer.  But while he was alive, he was shamefully overlooked.  Would you like to know what he wasn’t nominated for?  Well, let’s see.  He wasn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather.  Okay, that’s a big movie with Marlon Brando (again!) and a young Al Pacino in a mesmerizing performance (nominated for Supporting, not Lead – covered here) so it’s a little bit understandable, I guess.  But there’s no excuse, none, for overlooking Cazale’s superb turn as Fredo the Arrogant/Fredo the Repentant in The Godfather, Part II.  Now that’s a performance!  He takes Fredo into territory only hinted at in the first film and turns in the best performance in the movie.  And that’s saying a lot because the great performances in that movie are legion.

Next came another film with co-star Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon.  Pacino was nominated for Best Actor in a role that took all the attention (“Attica! Attica!”) but even when others were willing to concede there was more than just Pacino’s performance happening in the movie, it was Chris Sarandon they pointed to.  And don’t misunderstand, that’s another great performance in the movie.  Chris Sarandon was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his brief, touching serio-comic role.   But Cazale.  Cazale.  I can still get a chill just thinking about the end of that movie and it’s Cazale’s skills in building up that character (his insecurities and fears, such as when he thinks people might think he’s gay) that make it so powerful.

But let’s go back a little further now and explore some early work that definitely falls into the category of “Damn, I’m in a Movie with an Actor Playing Such an Over-the-Top Lead There’s No Way I’m Getting Noticed.”  Fear not, I noticed!  I am referring to Fredric March’s career making performance in the title role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, from 1931 and directed by the great Rouben Mamoulian.   And while I have no argument with anyone praising March’s performance, I’d like to note just how amazing Miriam Hopkins is as barmaid/singer Ivy Pearson.  Honestly, most of what March does works so well because Hopkins does such a good job playing terrified, disgusted and utterly defeated.  She does it so well that at a time when many actors were struggling to get their footing in front of camera with a microphone over their head (it was the early sound period and there was an uneasy mix of silent pantomime holdover and overly enunciated stage acting), Hopkins comes off as a completely real, flesh and blood bar singer, stalked and enslaved by a brutal animal of a man.  It’s a great performance that I wish got mentioned a little more.

More than two decades later, another actor, Humphrey Bogart, played the role of a captain in the Navy so insecure, so petty and so paranoid that he immediately created an icon out of the character of Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny.   Queeg with his metal ball bearings, rolling around in his hand while his head processes strawberry thievery and broken tow lines, is the classic “I’m Going to Get Nominated for This Thing, Easy” type of performance that a skilled actor like Bogart can turn into a thing of beauty.   But there are two other excellent performances in that movie, too often overlooked (Van Johnson and Jose Ferrer), and one great performance, sinfully unrecognized (Fred MacMurray).  MacMurray had this happen to him his whole career.  I’m telling you, he, Malden and Cazale could have had a nice time at a bar one night, commiserating.   Like Cazale, MacMurray was never even nominated, not even for the multi-nominated The Apartment which benefits from another great MacMurray supporting performance.  But really, he’s hard to beat in The Caine Mutiny.  Even now, when I think back on that movie, I usually think of him first, Bogart second.

Continuing on, and since this is all about performances in movies where there’s a big, justifiably famous lead role, one could hardly find a better example for an actress than Maggie Smith’s stunning performance in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.  But it’s Pamela Franklin, all of nineteen at the time, that holds the main story together.  It’s a performance easily missed in a movie with a performance as engaging and charismatic as Smith’s but it’s a damn fine one nonetheless.  Franklin didn’t do many more dramatic roles, certainly none like that, but did have a short career in the seventies, making some notable films along the way, including The Legend of Hell House.

As always, I could go on and on and on but I’ll wrap it up there.  There are so many big lead roles that have become immense in popular culture that it’s sometimes hard to look behind the front-man to see the other actors all working at the top of their form.  Jack Hawkins gave plenty of great performances but often in movies like The Bridge on the River Kwai (Alec Guinness, Colonal Nicholson, “What have I done?”) or Lawrence of Arabia (Peter O’Toole, T.E. Lawrence, “The trick is not minding the pain.”).  How many small but great performances are there in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?   Playing support in a movie with a lead role guaranteed to grab all the attention can’t be an easy thing for an actor but a necessary thing to make the whole enterprise work.  The least we can do is make sure they all get the recognition they deserve, from the big lead carrying the show to the amazing supporting actor… carrying the lead.

0 Response The Other Great Performance in the Movie
Posted By swac44 : June 6, 2012 8:56 am

This piece pretty much sums up how I feel about Arthur Kennedy, who did win a Tony and a Golden Globe, and five Oscar nominations, and is great in everything he appeared in, but very few of his films are remembered as “Arthur Kennedy films.” But they would all suffer for his loss.

Posted By swac44 : June 6, 2012 8:56 am

This piece pretty much sums up how I feel about Arthur Kennedy, who did win a Tony and a Golden Globe, and five Oscar nominations, and is great in everything he appeared in, but very few of his films are remembered as “Arthur Kennedy films.” But they would all suffer for his loss.

Posted By Andrew : June 6, 2012 8:57 am

I can’t believe I am typing his name, but Tom Cruise gave his best(maybe his only truly great) performance in Rain Man. But only the excellent driver got noticed.

I would also note Sean Astin in the Lord of the Rings movies. I realize he wasn’t overshadowed by another performance but rather the epic nature of the movies.

Posted By Andrew : June 6, 2012 8:57 am

I can’t believe I am typing his name, but Tom Cruise gave his best(maybe his only truly great) performance in Rain Man. But only the excellent driver got noticed.

I would also note Sean Astin in the Lord of the Rings movies. I realize he wasn’t overshadowed by another performance but rather the epic nature of the movies.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 9:14 am

swac, I love Arthur Kennedy. I wish he were better known. Even the movies he starred in, like Bright Victory, are now largely forgotten but he, and James Edwards, were both great in it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 9:14 am

swac, I love Arthur Kennedy. I wish he were better known. Even the movies he starred in, like Bright Victory, are now largely forgotten but he, and James Edwards, were both great in it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 9:17 am

Andrew, I thought Cruise was very good in Magnolia and despite Robert Downey, Jr’s nomination, I thought he was the best thing in Tropical Thunder. He has a way of delivering his lines that works well with a part that either parodies jerks or is a jerk. I don’t know what that says about Cruise personally, but his best work (Rain Man, Magnolia, Tropical Thunder) is always when he’s playing a complete a-hole.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 9:17 am

Andrew, I thought Cruise was very good in Magnolia and despite Robert Downey, Jr’s nomination, I thought he was the best thing in Tropical Thunder. He has a way of delivering his lines that works well with a part that either parodies jerks or is a jerk. I don’t know what that says about Cruise personally, but his best work (Rain Man, Magnolia, Tropical Thunder) is always when he’s playing a complete a-hole.

Posted By Andrew : June 6, 2012 9:20 am

And another I would like to add, George C. Scott (as the one who is overshadowed this time) in The Hustler.

Posted By Andrew : June 6, 2012 9:20 am

And another I would like to add, George C. Scott (as the one who is overshadowed this time) in The Hustler.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 10:02 am

Scott is so damn good in that and Anatomy of a Murder. And Dr. Strangelove, where Sellers gets all the attention (don’t get me wrong, he deserves it) but Scott, Sterling Hayden, Peter Bull and Slim Pickens are invaluable.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 10:02 am

Scott is so damn good in that and Anatomy of a Murder. And Dr. Strangelove, where Sellers gets all the attention (don’t get me wrong, he deserves it) but Scott, Sterling Hayden, Peter Bull and Slim Pickens are invaluable.

Posted By Pat : June 6, 2012 10:10 am

This is how I felt about THE FIGHTER a couple of years ago. Sure Melissa Leo, Christian Bale and Amy Adams were all great in flamboyant and/or against-type performance. But Mark Wahlberg is the heat and soul of that film, even though his relatively subdued performance is the type that doesn’t attract awards attention. I also think Wahlberg’s performance in BOOGIE NIGHTS was unfairly overlooked at awards time, with the attention mostly going to Burt Reynolds and Julianne Moore, as I recall.

And I heartily concur with the comments above re: Arthur Kennedy and BRIGHT VICTORY, one of my Dad’s favorite movies so I’ve seen it several times. Very moving and Kennedy is great in it.

Posted By Pat : June 6, 2012 10:10 am

This is how I felt about THE FIGHTER a couple of years ago. Sure Melissa Leo, Christian Bale and Amy Adams were all great in flamboyant and/or against-type performance. But Mark Wahlberg is the heat and soul of that film, even though his relatively subdued performance is the type that doesn’t attract awards attention. I also think Wahlberg’s performance in BOOGIE NIGHTS was unfairly overlooked at awards time, with the attention mostly going to Burt Reynolds and Julianne Moore, as I recall.

And I heartily concur with the comments above re: Arthur Kennedy and BRIGHT VICTORY, one of my Dad’s favorite movies so I’ve seen it several times. Very moving and Kennedy is great in it.

Posted By Andrew : June 6, 2012 10:20 am

I forgot about Anatomy of a Murder. I agree completely about George’s performance. I don’t know if he gets overlooked or not but I think Ben Gazzara’s performance is the key to that movie.

(Maybe Karl shouldn’t feel too bad about getting over shadowed in Patton since George kinda overshadowed the rest of his own career too.)

I get and respect both Dr. Strangelove and Magnolia but neither really floats my boat.

Posted By Andrew : June 6, 2012 10:20 am

I forgot about Anatomy of a Murder. I agree completely about George’s performance. I don’t know if he gets overlooked or not but I think Ben Gazzara’s performance is the key to that movie.

(Maybe Karl shouldn’t feel too bad about getting over shadowed in Patton since George kinda overshadowed the rest of his own career too.)

I get and respect both Dr. Strangelove and Magnolia but neither really floats my boat.

Posted By Jenni : June 6, 2012 10:21 am

I too thought of Sean Astin in LOTR. If it weren’t for his Samwise, all evil would’ve triumphed because he kept Frodo protected and constantly had to bring Frodo back to the task at hand. I would nominate Claude Rains as a wonderfully skilled actor, who was nominated 4 times as Best Supporting Actor, but didn’t win!! In Casablanca, the “fun” quotient goes up whenever his Captain Renault is in a scene. Now, Voyager, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Notorious, The Wolf Man, King’s Row, The Adventures of Robin Hood,Mr. Skeffington, I could go on and on! He always gave a top-notch performance, no matter what picture he was in. And yeah, Fred MacMurray’s slimy Navy guy in The Caine Mutiny-Mr. Steve Douglas he wasn’t!!!

Posted By Jenni : June 6, 2012 10:21 am

I too thought of Sean Astin in LOTR. If it weren’t for his Samwise, all evil would’ve triumphed because he kept Frodo protected and constantly had to bring Frodo back to the task at hand. I would nominate Claude Rains as a wonderfully skilled actor, who was nominated 4 times as Best Supporting Actor, but didn’t win!! In Casablanca, the “fun” quotient goes up whenever his Captain Renault is in a scene. Now, Voyager, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Notorious, The Wolf Man, King’s Row, The Adventures of Robin Hood,Mr. Skeffington, I could go on and on! He always gave a top-notch performance, no matter what picture he was in. And yeah, Fred MacMurray’s slimy Navy guy in The Caine Mutiny-Mr. Steve Douglas he wasn’t!!!

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 10:32 am

Andrew, Ben Gazzara was another great actor who was consistently good. I think he’s very good in Happiness too where most characters who aren’t the two killing or raping get overlooked. His quiet resignation to solitude is played perfectly.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 10:32 am

Andrew, Ben Gazzara was another great actor who was consistently good. I think he’s very good in Happiness too where most characters who aren’t the two killing or raping get overlooked. His quiet resignation to solitude is played perfectly.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 10:34 am

Jenni – Claude Rains just may be my favorite supporting actor of all time. My wife and I never, ever, ever get tired of seeing him in any movie. He owns Casablanca in every scene he’s in. That “shocked, SHOCKED” line wouldn’t be referenced as much as it is today if not for Rains’ brilliant delivery and casual “thank you” after the punchline.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 10:34 am

Jenni – Claude Rains just may be my favorite supporting actor of all time. My wife and I never, ever, ever get tired of seeing him in any movie. He owns Casablanca in every scene he’s in. That “shocked, SHOCKED” line wouldn’t be referenced as much as it is today if not for Rains’ brilliant delivery and casual “thank you” after the punchline.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : June 6, 2012 10:59 am

Karl Malden was great in One Eyed Jack´s too.
Also Slim Pickens is marvelous in nearly everything.
That “Knocking on Heavens Door”Scene in Pat Garret
knocks me out every time.
Also Elisha Cook Jr. and Strother Martin gave always
strong Performances.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : June 6, 2012 10:59 am

Karl Malden was great in One Eyed Jack´s too.
Also Slim Pickens is marvelous in nearly everything.
That “Knocking on Heavens Door”Scene in Pat Garret
knocks me out every time.
Also Elisha Cook Jr. and Strother Martin gave always
strong Performances.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 1:03 pm

All great choices, too. It’s interesting that although George Kennedy won the Oscar for Cool Hand Luke, Strother Martin is the actor always quoted, so at least there’s that.

And the shootout scene in Pat Garrett is a favorite scene of mine, both for Katy Jurado’s pained look as she shares a final moment with Slim and L.Q. Jones great interplay with James Coburn leading up to his death.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 1:03 pm

All great choices, too. It’s interesting that although George Kennedy won the Oscar for Cool Hand Luke, Strother Martin is the actor always quoted, so at least there’s that.

And the shootout scene in Pat Garrett is a favorite scene of mine, both for Katy Jurado’s pained look as she shares a final moment with Slim and L.Q. Jones great interplay with James Coburn leading up to his death.

Posted By Mitch Farish : June 6, 2012 2:03 pm

I agree about Miriam Hopkins, especially in the scene where Hyde plays cat-and-mouse with her, insisting she say “I love you.” It’s one of the most harrowing scenes in the golden age of horror, and no matter how many times I see it I’m always afraid for her.

Posted By Mitch Farish : June 6, 2012 2:03 pm

I agree about Miriam Hopkins, especially in the scene where Hyde plays cat-and-mouse with her, insisting she say “I love you.” It’s one of the most harrowing scenes in the golden age of horror, and no matter how many times I see it I’m always afraid for her.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 2:47 pm

She really seems terrified in the movie, as in “not acting.” March does a great job and maybe it’s a mix of his performance and the makeup that made it easy for Hopkins to really “feel” the scene, as it were because, damn, she plays it well.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 2:47 pm

She really seems terrified in the movie, as in “not acting.” March does a great job and maybe it’s a mix of his performance and the makeup that made it easy for Hopkins to really “feel” the scene, as it were because, damn, she plays it well.

Posted By Tom S : June 6, 2012 2:49 pm

Jack Hawkins got at least one lead in a great movie, Basil Dearden’s The League of Gentlemen- though even then you spend the whole movie saying damn, I’m sure I’ve seen him somewhere before.

David Straithairn’s another actor who’s habitually in things for 10 minutes and immediately steals the show, without ever being a flamboyant Anthony Hopkins type. I think it’s his voice, which is both instantly recognizable (there’s an episode of Miami Vice he’s in where it’s the only thing that lets you know it’s him) and filled with a pathos most actors can’t achieve with their whole bodies.

Posted By Tom S : June 6, 2012 2:49 pm

Jack Hawkins got at least one lead in a great movie, Basil Dearden’s The League of Gentlemen- though even then you spend the whole movie saying damn, I’m sure I’ve seen him somewhere before.

David Straithairn’s another actor who’s habitually in things for 10 minutes and immediately steals the show, without ever being a flamboyant Anthony Hopkins type. I think it’s his voice, which is both instantly recognizable (there’s an episode of Miami Vice he’s in where it’s the only thing that lets you know it’s him) and filled with a pathos most actors can’t achieve with their whole bodies.

Posted By Emgee : June 6, 2012 3:46 pm

Dan Duryea spiced up every movie i’ve ever seen him in, however small the part. Winchester 73, Ministry of Fear, Ball Of Fire, Sahara….the list is long and diverse.

Robert Ryan also always gave the leads memorable bad guy perfomances to play off. To hold your own next to Spencer Tracy In Bad Day at Black Rock is no mean feat.

Posted By Emgee : June 6, 2012 3:46 pm

Dan Duryea spiced up every movie i’ve ever seen him in, however small the part. Winchester 73, Ministry of Fear, Ball Of Fire, Sahara….the list is long and diverse.

Robert Ryan also always gave the leads memorable bad guy perfomances to play off. To hold your own next to Spencer Tracy In Bad Day at Black Rock is no mean feat.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 4:29 pm

David Straithairn was the best Robert Oppenheimer to date in 1989′s Day One. He plays his role so low-key that he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Whether in that or L.A. Confidential or Misery or Eight Men Out, he plays it below the radar while everyone around him over-emotes.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 4:29 pm

David Straithairn was the best Robert Oppenheimer to date in 1989′s Day One. He plays his role so low-key that he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Whether in that or L.A. Confidential or Misery or Eight Men Out, he plays it below the radar while everyone around him over-emotes.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 4:31 pm

Robert Ryan’s scene with Spencer Tracy at the gas station in Bad Day at Black Rock is one of the best five minutes between two actors in the history of cinema. Not because there’s screaming or emoting or anything like that but because Tracy keeps chipping away and Ryan keeps revealing more and more about who he is as a person. Great scene between two great actors.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 4:31 pm

Robert Ryan’s scene with Spencer Tracy at the gas station in Bad Day at Black Rock is one of the best five minutes between two actors in the history of cinema. Not because there’s screaming or emoting or anything like that but because Tracy keeps chipping away and Ryan keeps revealing more and more about who he is as a person. Great scene between two great actors.

Posted By Juana Maria : June 6, 2012 5:09 pm

How about Lee Marvin in “Bad Day in Black Rock” or “The Big Heat”? He has the best scenes in those movies! They pretty much are the beginnings of his character of Liberty Valance! Which by the way he is awesome in that movie too! I know John Wayne is always the big star in most of his pictures but a lot the time I’m just fascinated by the background actors! I agree so much with everybody’s comments, I feel the same way! Wow! I really agree a lot with Ghijath Naddaf. I love your name, where are from? I love Middle Eastern and Indian(Hindi) music as well as Flemenco and Gypsy(Roma) music. In addition to European Classical,Scottish & Irish folk music,and a lot of feel good music,because I love to dance! That is when I’m not watching my favorite movies,oh who am I kidding! I dance while watching certain movies! Yay! It’s a great and fun way to stay in shape! I love love love the mention of my favorite actors in these posts! Thanks you have made me so happy!!

Posted By Juana Maria : June 6, 2012 5:09 pm

How about Lee Marvin in “Bad Day in Black Rock” or “The Big Heat”? He has the best scenes in those movies! They pretty much are the beginnings of his character of Liberty Valance! Which by the way he is awesome in that movie too! I know John Wayne is always the big star in most of his pictures but a lot the time I’m just fascinated by the background actors! I agree so much with everybody’s comments, I feel the same way! Wow! I really agree a lot with Ghijath Naddaf. I love your name, where are from? I love Middle Eastern and Indian(Hindi) music as well as Flemenco and Gypsy(Roma) music. In addition to European Classical,Scottish & Irish folk music,and a lot of feel good music,because I love to dance! That is when I’m not watching my favorite movies,oh who am I kidding! I dance while watching certain movies! Yay! It’s a great and fun way to stay in shape! I love love love the mention of my favorite actors in these posts! Thanks you have made me so happy!!

Posted By Carter : June 6, 2012 5:53 pm

I concur about Ben Gazzara, who died recently. I’ve always wondered why an actor of his caliber never attained the stature his dramatic gifts deserved. While he was excellent (and a critical character) in “Anatomy of a Murder,” it was in an obscure film called “The Strange One” that he first became a presence on the screen- and an unforgettable one.

Posted By Carter : June 6, 2012 5:53 pm

I concur about Ben Gazzara, who died recently. I’ve always wondered why an actor of his caliber never attained the stature his dramatic gifts deserved. While he was excellent (and a critical character) in “Anatomy of a Murder,” it was in an obscure film called “The Strange One” that he first became a presence on the screen- and an unforgettable one.

Posted By la peregrina : June 6, 2012 6:56 pm

Rock Hudson is great in Seconds but John Randolph deserved a nomination for his performance as man leading a life of quiet desperation and looking for a way out.

Posted By la peregrina : June 6, 2012 6:56 pm

Rock Hudson is great in Seconds but John Randolph deserved a nomination for his performance as man leading a life of quiet desperation and looking for a way out.

Posted By DBenson : June 6, 2012 7:23 pm

You could argue for an award category titled Best Straightman/Straightwoman for actors who give stars something solid to play off. We usually think of comedies where a third-billed comic parries expertly with the star, or a smooth “serious” actor sells the absurdity with his/her reactions. But no hero can be strong or interesting without other people pushing back — people at least as strong, and at least as real.

I find myself thinking of the secondary and minor characters who don’t even register as actors: The just-smooth-enough liars, the understated but intractable bureaucrats, the unwhimsically impaired, the convincing cops and thugs. They’re often the ones who have to react to the big star moments and make them plausible. As a rule, you don’t notice them unless you recognize the face or they’re conspicuously awful.

Posted By DBenson : June 6, 2012 7:23 pm

You could argue for an award category titled Best Straightman/Straightwoman for actors who give stars something solid to play off. We usually think of comedies where a third-billed comic parries expertly with the star, or a smooth “serious” actor sells the absurdity with his/her reactions. But no hero can be strong or interesting without other people pushing back — people at least as strong, and at least as real.

I find myself thinking of the secondary and minor characters who don’t even register as actors: The just-smooth-enough liars, the understated but intractable bureaucrats, the unwhimsically impaired, the convincing cops and thugs. They’re often the ones who have to react to the big star moments and make them plausible. As a rule, you don’t notice them unless you recognize the face or they’re conspicuously awful.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 8:39 pm

Juana Maria, I think Lee Marvin was so good at playing tough guys on the wrong side of the law. When he eventually took roles as the lead tough guy, there was an edge to his characters, like that in Point Blank, that came from his years of playing the henchman types in movies like Bad Day at Black Rock and The Big Heat, a terrific Lang noir.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 8:39 pm

Juana Maria, I think Lee Marvin was so good at playing tough guys on the wrong side of the law. When he eventually took roles as the lead tough guy, there was an edge to his characters, like that in Point Blank, that came from his years of playing the henchman types in movies like Bad Day at Black Rock and The Big Heat, a terrific Lang noir.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 8:43 pm

Carter, as often happens in the comment threads here, I discover movies I’ve not yet seen. The Strange One is such a case. In fact, until now, I wasn’t even familiar with it. Just looked it up and see it’s available so I’ll give it a look in the future. For now, it goes in the queue behind a healthy amount of others waiting to make their way to my home.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 8:43 pm

Carter, as often happens in the comment threads here, I discover movies I’ve not yet seen. The Strange One is such a case. In fact, until now, I wasn’t even familiar with it. Just looked it up and see it’s available so I’ll give it a look in the future. For now, it goes in the queue behind a healthy amount of others waiting to make their way to my home.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 8:47 pm

la peregrina, I don’t really like Rock Hudson’s performance that much in Seconds (he loses me at the party where I think his limitations as an actor make the drunk scene feel forced. Seeing as it goes on for a good fifteen to twenty minutes, this is unfortunate) so I’m totally with you on John Randolph. He’s excellent as the pre-Rock Hudson, and I wish, somehow, through makeup or something, he could’ve play the whole part. I also think Will Geer is splendidly creepy as the kindly old man running the operation.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 8:47 pm

la peregrina, I don’t really like Rock Hudson’s performance that much in Seconds (he loses me at the party where I think his limitations as an actor make the drunk scene feel forced. Seeing as it goes on for a good fifteen to twenty minutes, this is unfortunate) so I’m totally with you on John Randolph. He’s excellent as the pre-Rock Hudson, and I wish, somehow, through makeup or something, he could’ve play the whole part. I also think Will Geer is splendidly creepy as the kindly old man running the operation.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 8:50 pm

Dbenson, there are so many great actors eking out livings just playing bit parts in movie after movie, tv shows and commercials. I advocate for acting a lot in my posts (theatre major, actor) because I’ve known many good ones who will spend their entire career unknown doing local theatre. There’s a lot of great actors all around and it’s good to notice and give respect to the ones doing the grunt work.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 8:50 pm

Dbenson, there are so many great actors eking out livings just playing bit parts in movie after movie, tv shows and commercials. I advocate for acting a lot in my posts (theatre major, actor) because I’ve known many good ones who will spend their entire career unknown doing local theatre. There’s a lot of great actors all around and it’s good to notice and give respect to the ones doing the grunt work.

Posted By David : June 6, 2012 10:18 pm

Great post, and good comments. So many actors in supporting roles deserving of greater recognition. One of these, in my opinion, is Stanley Tucci. I’m thinking of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, SHALL WE DANCE?, THE TERMINAL. He frequently elevates what could be a forgettable character with a minor gem of a performance, often equalling or taking scenes off the lead actor. His presence enriches what would otherwise pass for homogenous mainstream product.

Posted By David : June 6, 2012 10:18 pm

Great post, and good comments. So many actors in supporting roles deserving of greater recognition. One of these, in my opinion, is Stanley Tucci. I’m thinking of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, SHALL WE DANCE?, THE TERMINAL. He frequently elevates what could be a forgettable character with a minor gem of a performance, often equalling or taking scenes off the lead actor. His presence enriches what would otherwise pass for homogenous mainstream product.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 10:20 pm

David, I’ve seen none of those Tucci films, believe it or not, though I know Tucci is an excellent actor so I don’t doubt it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 10:20 pm

David, I’ve seen none of those Tucci films, believe it or not, though I know Tucci is an excellent actor so I don’t doubt it.

Posted By Jenni : June 6, 2012 10:48 pm

Hear Hear for Stanley Tucci. I saw The Hunger Games, and I did read the first book in that trilogy. Tucci shines in a minor part, and he encapsulated that character so well, you could just see the joy coming out of him as he played his role. I asked my kids if Tucci’s character is in the other two books, and they reassured me it is, so I imagine Tucci will also be in the next two Hunger Games Films: Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

Posted By Jenni : June 6, 2012 10:48 pm

Hear Hear for Stanley Tucci. I saw The Hunger Games, and I did read the first book in that trilogy. Tucci shines in a minor part, and he encapsulated that character so well, you could just see the joy coming out of him as he played his role. I asked my kids if Tucci’s character is in the other two books, and they reassured me it is, so I imagine Tucci will also be in the next two Hunger Games Films: Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 10:50 pm

And I haven’t seen The Hunger Games either. Boy, I’m missing a lot of Tucci’s performances here but I probably won’t be seeing that one for a long time. Eventually, just far down the road.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 10:50 pm

And I haven’t seen The Hunger Games either. Boy, I’m missing a lot of Tucci’s performances here but I probably won’t be seeing that one for a long time. Eventually, just far down the road.

Posted By dukeroberts : June 6, 2012 11:51 pm

There are so many underappreciated actors named here. I submit the name of Ward Bond. He was great in everything. As far as I know he was never even nominated for anything. His role in The Searchers is blustery and funny, but that scene in the Edwards home, where he is drinking his coffee, pretending to not notice the warmth of Ethan and Martha’s exchange in the bedroom is fantastic. That’s one of two scenes I mostly remember him for. The other is him singing in the rain outside 320 Sycamore with Frank Faylen.

Also, Don Cheadle as Mouse in Devil In a Blue Dress steals every single scene he’s in. He is hilarious, nasty, violent, over-the-top and fantastic in it.

And, I might get some flack for this one: Tim Roth in Planet of the Apes, directed by Tim Burton. He is so scary good as the chimp general. His mannerisms, his posture, the way he walks, his guttural noises…everything he does in that movie is amazing to watch, especially under Rick Baker’s incredible, and incredibly not nominated, make-up.

Benicio del Toro in The Usual Suspects? Yup.

Thelma Ritter in everything. Charles Coburn in everything.

Fred MacMurray as that slimy weasel in The Caine Mutiny is fantastic. He is also such a bastard in The Apartment. He’s great to watch in that. And as the man losing his soul to Barbara Stanwyck’s sexy femme fatale in Double Indemnity he is thriling to watch as he becomes shiftier and shiftier, sinking into a morass of self loathing and obsession.

Paul Douglas in A Letter to Three Wives. Ethel Barrymore in everything. Jack Carson and James Gleason in everything. I ramble on so.

Posted By dukeroberts : June 6, 2012 11:51 pm

There are so many underappreciated actors named here. I submit the name of Ward Bond. He was great in everything. As far as I know he was never even nominated for anything. His role in The Searchers is blustery and funny, but that scene in the Edwards home, where he is drinking his coffee, pretending to not notice the warmth of Ethan and Martha’s exchange in the bedroom is fantastic. That’s one of two scenes I mostly remember him for. The other is him singing in the rain outside 320 Sycamore with Frank Faylen.

Also, Don Cheadle as Mouse in Devil In a Blue Dress steals every single scene he’s in. He is hilarious, nasty, violent, over-the-top and fantastic in it.

And, I might get some flack for this one: Tim Roth in Planet of the Apes, directed by Tim Burton. He is so scary good as the chimp general. His mannerisms, his posture, the way he walks, his guttural noises…everything he does in that movie is amazing to watch, especially under Rick Baker’s incredible, and incredibly not nominated, make-up.

Benicio del Toro in The Usual Suspects? Yup.

Thelma Ritter in everything. Charles Coburn in everything.

Fred MacMurray as that slimy weasel in The Caine Mutiny is fantastic. He is also such a bastard in The Apartment. He’s great to watch in that. And as the man losing his soul to Barbara Stanwyck’s sexy femme fatale in Double Indemnity he is thriling to watch as he becomes shiftier and shiftier, sinking into a morass of self loathing and obsession.

Paul Douglas in A Letter to Three Wives. Ethel Barrymore in everything. Jack Carson and James Gleason in everything. I ramble on so.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 11:52 pm

Duke, my friend Kay mentioned Ward Bond on twitter as her choice, too. But I can’t believe I left Jack Carson, one of my favorite actors ever, out of my post. I definitely could’ve put him on here. Dang, he’s good. Even in a movie like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Burl Ives playing Big Daddy to the hilt, Carson stands out.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 6, 2012 11:52 pm

Duke, my friend Kay mentioned Ward Bond on twitter as her choice, too. But I can’t believe I left Jack Carson, one of my favorite actors ever, out of my post. I definitely could’ve put him on here. Dang, he’s good. Even in a movie like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Burl Ives playing Big Daddy to the hilt, Carson stands out.

Posted By Rachel : June 7, 2012 12:51 am

Greg, you win major points with me for bringing up Malden, whom I love so much. In the Malden/Cazale category, I would also submit Joseph Cotten. Even in The Third Man, where he’s superb, Orson Welles is still the one who gets all the attention.

And, Will Geer is so fantastically creepy in Secondsthat he immediately took a place in my favorite cinematic villains list, despite his limited screen time. I can’t help thinking that Hudson’s weakest scenes in Seconds are partly the result of Frankenheimer just letting things run way too long. In the party scene and especially the interminable grape-stomping scene, you can almost feel Hudson getting confused at what he’s being asked to do. But in other moments, he’s perfect, like the scene with his former wife.

I always feel like MacMurray presents a bit of a challenge to critics, like they’re trying to figure out how to reconcile The Absent-Minded Professor with the many brilliant performances he gave. I’d also submit There’s Always Tomorrow for his ballot.

Surely Thomas Mitchell is also one of the kings of this trope. Stagecoach, Make Way for Tomorrow, Gone With the Wind, It’s a Wonderful Life, Only Angels Have Wings, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Lost Horizon, Alias Nick Beal, The Devil and Daniel Webster, etc. That’s gotta be one of the best filmographies an actor ever had.

Posted By Rachel : June 7, 2012 12:51 am

Greg, you win major points with me for bringing up Malden, whom I love so much. In the Malden/Cazale category, I would also submit Joseph Cotten. Even in The Third Man, where he’s superb, Orson Welles is still the one who gets all the attention.

And, Will Geer is so fantastically creepy in Secondsthat he immediately took a place in my favorite cinematic villains list, despite his limited screen time. I can’t help thinking that Hudson’s weakest scenes in Seconds are partly the result of Frankenheimer just letting things run way too long. In the party scene and especially the interminable grape-stomping scene, you can almost feel Hudson getting confused at what he’s being asked to do. But in other moments, he’s perfect, like the scene with his former wife.

I always feel like MacMurray presents a bit of a challenge to critics, like they’re trying to figure out how to reconcile The Absent-Minded Professor with the many brilliant performances he gave. I’d also submit There’s Always Tomorrow for his ballot.

Surely Thomas Mitchell is also one of the kings of this trope. Stagecoach, Make Way for Tomorrow, Gone With the Wind, It’s a Wonderful Life, Only Angels Have Wings, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Lost Horizon, Alias Nick Beal, The Devil and Daniel Webster, etc. That’s gotta be one of the best filmographies an actor ever had.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 7, 2012 1:00 am

Rachel, you’re right, Hudson was very good in the former wife scene. I just want him to say, “It’s me,” somehow prove it to her and start over.

Another movie Will Geer has a small part in but an instrumental one is Executive Action as the financier of the Kennedy assassination. Again, he comes off as a salt of the earth guy who just happens to be soulless and sinister.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 7, 2012 1:00 am

Rachel, you’re right, Hudson was very good in the former wife scene. I just want him to say, “It’s me,” somehow prove it to her and start over.

Another movie Will Geer has a small part in but an instrumental one is Executive Action as the financier of the Kennedy assassination. Again, he comes off as a salt of the earth guy who just happens to be soulless and sinister.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : June 7, 2012 3:48 am

I want to add Lee van Cleef before his Italo Western Fame.
He was a great Heavy Sidekick in High Noon,Kansas City Confidential,Libert Valance and Ride Lonesome.
A few days ago i rewatch Rolling Thunder,which was one of
William Devanes rare lead roles.What a great Actor.
Realy Creepy in the Marathon Man.

@ Juana Maria
My Father is a syrian Christian.Thats where the Name comes from.
My Mother is German.No india,spanish or irish roots.
But when i was young i use to travel a lot.
So maybe there is some Gypsy Blood.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : June 7, 2012 3:48 am

I want to add Lee van Cleef before his Italo Western Fame.
He was a great Heavy Sidekick in High Noon,Kansas City Confidential,Libert Valance and Ride Lonesome.
A few days ago i rewatch Rolling Thunder,which was one of
William Devanes rare lead roles.What a great Actor.
Realy Creepy in the Marathon Man.

@ Juana Maria
My Father is a syrian Christian.Thats where the Name comes from.
My Mother is German.No india,spanish or irish roots.
But when i was young i use to travel a lot.
So maybe there is some Gypsy Blood.

Posted By missrhea : June 7, 2012 10:41 am

I so agree about Fred MacMurray and “The Caine Mutiny”, in particular. I was just watching it again the other night and he really is a piece of work. I’m always telling my husband that it’s a good thing “Steve Douglas” was so firmly imprinted on my mind as a kid because I would have hated MacMurray after seeing “The Apartment”, “Double Indemnity” and “The Caine Mutiny”.

I think Robert Young gets over-looked because his *two* iconic TV characters (Jim Anderson in “Father Knows Best” and Marc Welby in “Marcus Welby, M.D.”) seem to obliterate his movie career. He made around 90 movies and is mostly written off as the happy-go-lucky rich “other” guy. But, take a look at “H.M.Pulham, Esq.” (made when he was only 32); “Crossfire” (with Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan) where he’s the laid-back detective; or “They Won’t Believe Me” in which he is a real cad.

Claude Rains has to be the best, though!

Posted By missrhea : June 7, 2012 10:41 am

I so agree about Fred MacMurray and “The Caine Mutiny”, in particular. I was just watching it again the other night and he really is a piece of work. I’m always telling my husband that it’s a good thing “Steve Douglas” was so firmly imprinted on my mind as a kid because I would have hated MacMurray after seeing “The Apartment”, “Double Indemnity” and “The Caine Mutiny”.

I think Robert Young gets over-looked because his *two* iconic TV characters (Jim Anderson in “Father Knows Best” and Marc Welby in “Marcus Welby, M.D.”) seem to obliterate his movie career. He made around 90 movies and is mostly written off as the happy-go-lucky rich “other” guy. But, take a look at “H.M.Pulham, Esq.” (made when he was only 32); “Crossfire” (with Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan) where he’s the laid-back detective; or “They Won’t Believe Me” in which he is a real cad.

Claude Rains has to be the best, though!

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 7, 2012 12:03 pm

Ghijath, good call on William Devane in Marathon Man. It’s got its star turns by Olivier and Hoffman (and newly hot-off-of-JAWS Roy Scheider) but Devane is the one who fools the audience. You think he’s there for Hoffman only to find out he’s with the Nazi. And then the way he tries to smooth talk Hoffman in the house near the climax. Great work by Devane.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 7, 2012 12:03 pm

Ghijath, good call on William Devane in Marathon Man. It’s got its star turns by Olivier and Hoffman (and newly hot-off-of-JAWS Roy Scheider) but Devane is the one who fools the audience. You think he’s there for Hoffman only to find out he’s with the Nazi. And then the way he tries to smooth talk Hoffman in the house near the climax. Great work by Devane.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 7, 2012 12:06 pm

Robert Young is great in Crossfire and, even now, I associate him with tv first like so many others. When I watch Northwest Passage, a favorite, I always think, “There’s a young Marcus Welby.”

And so many of the ones mentioned by all of us here, from Joseph Cotten to Robert Young to Fred MacMurray were never nominated for an Oscar. Think of how many things Cotten alone could have been nominated for. It’s a crime, I tell ya.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 7, 2012 12:06 pm

Robert Young is great in Crossfire and, even now, I associate him with tv first like so many others. When I watch Northwest Passage, a favorite, I always think, “There’s a young Marcus Welby.”

And so many of the ones mentioned by all of us here, from Joseph Cotten to Robert Young to Fred MacMurray were never nominated for an Oscar. Think of how many things Cotten alone could have been nominated for. It’s a crime, I tell ya.

Posted By Anonymous : June 7, 2012 12:36 pm

Folks like Joseph Cotten and Walter Pidgeon were always solid in leading and support roles. It is a crime they were never recognized.

Posted By Anonymous : June 7, 2012 12:36 pm

Folks like Joseph Cotten and Walter Pidgeon were always solid in leading and support roles. It is a crime they were never recognized.

Posted By Jenni : June 7, 2012 1:25 pm

I need to re-
see Marathon Man, as I only remember Hoffman and Olivier in the cast! Sheesh, I am not that old!! Cotton not nominated as for Uncle Charlie in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt? That is a crime!
Robert Young was also great in The Enchanted Cottage with Dorothy McGuire. A chance for him to play the romantic lead, of a sort.

Posted By Jenni : June 7, 2012 1:25 pm

I need to re-
see Marathon Man, as I only remember Hoffman and Olivier in the cast! Sheesh, I am not that old!! Cotton not nominated as for Uncle Charlie in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt? That is a crime!
Robert Young was also great in The Enchanted Cottage with Dorothy McGuire. A chance for him to play the romantic lead, of a sort.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 7, 2012 3:07 pm

Or for Best Supporting Actor in Citizen Kane. If anyone should have gotten a supporting nod for Kane it was Joseph Cotten.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 7, 2012 3:07 pm

Or for Best Supporting Actor in Citizen Kane. If anyone should have gotten a supporting nod for Kane it was Joseph Cotten.

Posted By Juana Maria : June 7, 2012 4:26 pm

Duke Roberts: It’s alright if you ramble on so,because I do too. I love your choices! Ward Bond is one of those actors that I would need just about forever to tell why he is so wonderful on screen and how many movies of his I have seen! He is in “It Happened One Night” and “The Fugitive”(1947)as the Gringo. He is just wonderful in those films,and he is in anothe Henry Fonda film as well,”Young Mr. Lincoln”.

Posted By Juana Maria : June 7, 2012 4:26 pm

Duke Roberts: It’s alright if you ramble on so,because I do too. I love your choices! Ward Bond is one of those actors that I would need just about forever to tell why he is so wonderful on screen and how many movies of his I have seen! He is in “It Happened One Night” and “The Fugitive”(1947)as the Gringo. He is just wonderful in those films,and he is in anothe Henry Fonda film as well,”Young Mr. Lincoln”.

Posted By Juana Maria : June 7, 2012 6:38 pm

Ghijath Naddaf:I certainly didn’t want to imply you had to be of any certain background for me to like you,because that is never how I am! I like and good friendships with people from around the world. Your background sounds very interesting.Do you speak several languages? I’m mixeed race too! I’m of mostly Native American or American Indian background either way it’s said doesn’t offend me. Yes,I’m Cherokee,and Scottish and Irish,but I really look more Cherokee than Scottish or Irish. As for choice of Lee Van Cleef,good choice and your list of his films are my favorites! I know I wouldn’t have been interested in his Italo-Westerns if it wasn’t for his early work in “High Noon” and “Kansas City Confidential”. Thanks for writing me back! I hope we can be friends.

Posted By Juana Maria : June 7, 2012 6:38 pm

Ghijath Naddaf:I certainly didn’t want to imply you had to be of any certain background for me to like you,because that is never how I am! I like and good friendships with people from around the world. Your background sounds very interesting.Do you speak several languages? I’m mixeed race too! I’m of mostly Native American or American Indian background either way it’s said doesn’t offend me. Yes,I’m Cherokee,and Scottish and Irish,but I really look more Cherokee than Scottish or Irish. As for choice of Lee Van Cleef,good choice and your list of his films are my favorites! I know I wouldn’t have been interested in his Italo-Westerns if it wasn’t for his early work in “High Noon” and “Kansas City Confidential”. Thanks for writing me back! I hope we can be friends.

Posted By Cristiane : June 7, 2012 9:02 pm

I’d like to second the homination of Jack Carson – not always great,but given a chance (as in The Hard Way and Mildred Pierce) strikingly good. (Especially in The Hard Way – he’s absolutely heartbreaking.)

Posted By Cristiane : June 7, 2012 9:02 pm

I’d like to second the homination of Jack Carson – not always great,but given a chance (as in The Hard Way and Mildred Pierce) strikingly good. (Especially in The Hard Way – he’s absolutely heartbreaking.)

Posted By muriel : June 7, 2012 10:32 pm

Ah! Greg thanks for remembering Jack Carson. He could sing, dance, do comedy, drama. He was a sexy jerk in “Mildred Pierce” and touching and tragic in “The Hard Way”. He was one of the most versatile actors around and no one noticed because he seemed to do it so effortlessly. Now, “The Hard Way” also reminds me of Gladys George’s brilliant but small performance. She was always the second string and ALWAYS good.

Posted By muriel : June 7, 2012 10:32 pm

Ah! Greg thanks for remembering Jack Carson. He could sing, dance, do comedy, drama. He was a sexy jerk in “Mildred Pierce” and touching and tragic in “The Hard Way”. He was one of the most versatile actors around and no one noticed because he seemed to do it so effortlessly. Now, “The Hard Way” also reminds me of Gladys George’s brilliant but small performance. She was always the second string and ALWAYS good.

Posted By dukeroberts : June 7, 2012 10:45 pm

Why was my Cotten/Pidgeon comment Anonymized? Bummer.

Posted By dukeroberts : June 7, 2012 10:45 pm

Why was my Cotten/Pidgeon comment Anonymized? Bummer.

Posted By Tom S : June 7, 2012 11:00 pm

How can anyone possibly pick the best supporting performance out of Kane? Every single supporting performance in it is amazing- I particularly like Everett Sloane’s character, who’s somehow a weak toadying little man who never stood up to Kane in any way and yet is immensely likable, and Ray Collins’ oddly dignified corrupt politician. It’s strange, Kane is a movie where nearly everyone’s intensely morally compromised yet quite easy to like.

Posted By Tom S : June 7, 2012 11:00 pm

How can anyone possibly pick the best supporting performance out of Kane? Every single supporting performance in it is amazing- I particularly like Everett Sloane’s character, who’s somehow a weak toadying little man who never stood up to Kane in any way and yet is immensely likable, and Ray Collins’ oddly dignified corrupt politician. It’s strange, Kane is a movie where nearly everyone’s intensely morally compromised yet quite easy to like.

Posted By vp19 : June 8, 2012 3:33 pm

“I always feel like MacMurray presents a bit of a challenge to critics, like they’re trying to figure out how to reconcile ‘The Absent-Minded Professor’ with the many brilliant performances he gave.”
___________________

At the time of “Double Indemnity” or “The Caine Mutiny,” contemporary critics still thought of MacMurray as a romantic comedy leading man for the likes of Claudette Colbert or (earlier) Carole Lombard; perhaps he retained that veneer even as late as “The Apartment,” which was made as he began making Disney movies and before “My Three Sons” debuted. Agreed, however, MacMurray was a terrific, versatile actor who, like Stanwyck, went relatively unappreciated for many years, albeit for different reasons.

Posted By vp19 : June 8, 2012 3:33 pm

“I always feel like MacMurray presents a bit of a challenge to critics, like they’re trying to figure out how to reconcile ‘The Absent-Minded Professor’ with the many brilliant performances he gave.”
___________________

At the time of “Double Indemnity” or “The Caine Mutiny,” contemporary critics still thought of MacMurray as a romantic comedy leading man for the likes of Claudette Colbert or (earlier) Carole Lombard; perhaps he retained that veneer even as late as “The Apartment,” which was made as he began making Disney movies and before “My Three Sons” debuted. Agreed, however, MacMurray was a terrific, versatile actor who, like Stanwyck, went relatively unappreciated for many years, albeit for different reasons.

Posted By missrhea : June 8, 2012 5:51 pm

There’s a 1980 book by James Robert Parish entitled “The Hollywood Reliables” and it’s a study of a six actors, a couple of which have been mentioned above. The whole list is: Dana Andrews, Wallace Beery, Walter Pidgeon, Pat O’Brien, Spencer Tracy and Robert Young. I think it’s out of print now but it’s a good look at some actors who rarely got nominated for the big awards but almost always turned in great performances.

Personally, I find I don’t care much for Wallace Berry but the others are fine and I’ve admired Robert Young and Walter Pidgeon since I was a kid. I would add Lew Ayres.

Posted By missrhea : June 8, 2012 5:51 pm

There’s a 1980 book by James Robert Parish entitled “The Hollywood Reliables” and it’s a study of a six actors, a couple of which have been mentioned above. The whole list is: Dana Andrews, Wallace Beery, Walter Pidgeon, Pat O’Brien, Spencer Tracy and Robert Young. I think it’s out of print now but it’s a good look at some actors who rarely got nominated for the big awards but almost always turned in great performances.

Personally, I find I don’t care much for Wallace Berry but the others are fine and I’ve admired Robert Young and Walter Pidgeon since I was a kid. I would add Lew Ayres.

Posted By Emgee : June 9, 2012 5:41 am

missrhea: I must say i find Parish’ list fairly arbitrary, since all those actors were hugely popular in their day. Also they all won their fair share of awards; certainly Tracy wasn’t exactly overlooked by the movie juries. You could almost say he had a subscription to Oscar nominations. The one actor that was constantly overlooked was Andrews, probably because of his understated acting style. You couldn’t see him “Acting”, so why hand him an award?

But i agree they usually turned in great performances. Beery’s popularity seems the most puzzling now. It seems he was even more obnoxious offscreen as he was onscreen.

Posted By Emgee : June 9, 2012 5:41 am

missrhea: I must say i find Parish’ list fairly arbitrary, since all those actors were hugely popular in their day. Also they all won their fair share of awards; certainly Tracy wasn’t exactly overlooked by the movie juries. You could almost say he had a subscription to Oscar nominations. The one actor that was constantly overlooked was Andrews, probably because of his understated acting style. You couldn’t see him “Acting”, so why hand him an award?

But i agree they usually turned in great performances. Beery’s popularity seems the most puzzling now. It seems he was even more obnoxious offscreen as he was onscreen.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 9, 2012 7:18 pm

Geez, I hate when things take me out of the comment loop for three days! Sorry about that. I won’t bother trying to catch up at this point. I’m glad so many like Jack Carson, he really was a great one. I don’t know if it got mentioned here or not but he’s extremely entertaining in Arsenic and Old Lace.

Duke, I had no idea that was you. Don’t know why it came through as “anonymous.”

Missrhea: I agree with Emgee that the inclusion of Spencer Tracy in that book seems a bit odd. He was a star of the top order and multiple Oscar nominee as well as multiple Oscar winner.

I like Dana Andrews a lot, especially his later work in movies like Night of the Demon. He’s also in The Crowded Sky which, if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend. It’s one of the most hilariously bad dramas you’ll ever see. That and Zero Hour (also with Andrews) were the basis for Airplane but The Crowded Sky literally plays like Airplane only their not actually going for jokes but it seems like they are. Either way, Andrews is good in both, despite what he has to work with.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 9, 2012 7:18 pm

Geez, I hate when things take me out of the comment loop for three days! Sorry about that. I won’t bother trying to catch up at this point. I’m glad so many like Jack Carson, he really was a great one. I don’t know if it got mentioned here or not but he’s extremely entertaining in Arsenic and Old Lace.

Duke, I had no idea that was you. Don’t know why it came through as “anonymous.”

Missrhea: I agree with Emgee that the inclusion of Spencer Tracy in that book seems a bit odd. He was a star of the top order and multiple Oscar nominee as well as multiple Oscar winner.

I like Dana Andrews a lot, especially his later work in movies like Night of the Demon. He’s also in The Crowded Sky which, if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend. It’s one of the most hilariously bad dramas you’ll ever see. That and Zero Hour (also with Andrews) were the basis for Airplane but The Crowded Sky literally plays like Airplane only their not actually going for jokes but it seems like they are. Either way, Andrews is good in both, despite what he has to work with.

Posted By dukeroberts : June 9, 2012 7:46 pm

Jack Carson was extremely entertaining as the aspiring playwright cop. Everyone in Arsenic and Old Lace was great. That is my favorite Cary Grant movie. It is madcap and zany.

Posted By dukeroberts : June 9, 2012 7:46 pm

Jack Carson was extremely entertaining as the aspiring playwright cop. Everyone in Arsenic and Old Lace was great. That is my favorite Cary Grant movie. It is madcap and zany.

Posted By Anonymous : June 9, 2012 9:22 pm

TCM aired Zero Hour this Spring, and since I knew the Airplane! creators had used it for their movie, I tivoed Zero Hour and watched it. The film was unintentionally funny! The creators of the Airplane! movie took whole sections of dialogue from ZH and put them in Airplane!. The part when Dana Andrew’s son is taken to the cockpit to meet the pilots, the dialogue was almost word for word, except the part about ever visiting a Turkish prison. Instead of an NBA star in ZH, they actually had a former football star in the cast, Crazy Legs something or other, playing one of the pilots. The plot was also very similar, as the passengers who ate the fish were getting sick, and the doctor was so deadpan with his lines-Airplane! fans need to see ZH, and hopefully TCM will re show it.

Posted By Anonymous : June 9, 2012 9:22 pm

TCM aired Zero Hour this Spring, and since I knew the Airplane! creators had used it for their movie, I tivoed Zero Hour and watched it. The film was unintentionally funny! The creators of the Airplane! movie took whole sections of dialogue from ZH and put them in Airplane!. The part when Dana Andrew’s son is taken to the cockpit to meet the pilots, the dialogue was almost word for word, except the part about ever visiting a Turkish prison. Instead of an NBA star in ZH, they actually had a former football star in the cast, Crazy Legs something or other, playing one of the pilots. The plot was also very similar, as the passengers who ate the fish were getting sick, and the doctor was so deadpan with his lines-Airplane! fans need to see ZH, and hopefully TCM will re show it.

Posted By missrhea : June 9, 2012 9:34 pm

emgee & greg: I admit I wondered why Tracy was included but I did try to cut the author a little slack by saying “…actors who *rarely* got nominated…”. :-> I suspect he chose the men he did not only because they were popular but also gave such consistently good performances that they were taken for granted. I’ve read quotes by Robert Young implying as much.

Anyway, I agree about Jack Carson and I really liked Dana Andrews in “The Best Years of Our Lives”.

Posted By missrhea : June 9, 2012 9:34 pm

emgee & greg: I admit I wondered why Tracy was included but I did try to cut the author a little slack by saying “…actors who *rarely* got nominated…”. :-> I suspect he chose the men he did not only because they were popular but also gave such consistently good performances that they were taken for granted. I’ve read quotes by Robert Young implying as much.

Anyway, I agree about Jack Carson and I really liked Dana Andrews in “The Best Years of Our Lives”.

Posted By missrhea : June 9, 2012 9:46 pm

emgee: I wanted to add that Mr. Andrews, Mr. O’Brien and Mr. Young seem to be the exception to your statement about them all winning awards. According the IMDb (I know they aren’t totally accurate) none had any nominations. Robert Young’s came from TV where he won Emmys for comedy AND drama and a Golden Globe for “Welby”.

Posted By missrhea : June 9, 2012 9:46 pm

emgee: I wanted to add that Mr. Andrews, Mr. O’Brien and Mr. Young seem to be the exception to your statement about them all winning awards. According the IMDb (I know they aren’t totally accurate) none had any nominations. Robert Young’s came from TV where he won Emmys for comedy AND drama and a Golden Globe for “Welby”.

Posted By dukeroberts : June 10, 2012 10:51 am

That would be Crazy Legs Hirsch.

Posted By dukeroberts : June 10, 2012 10:51 am

That would be Crazy Legs Hirsch.

Posted By Jenni : June 10, 2012 5:00 pm

Thanks Duke- I was putting my opinions on Zero Hour on another laptop and forgot to sign in, thus the anon tag.

Posted By Jenni : June 10, 2012 5:00 pm

Thanks Duke- I was putting my opinions on Zero Hour on another laptop and forgot to sign in, thus the anon tag.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 11, 2012 9:11 am

Duke – Favorite Jack Carson moment in Arsenic and Old Lace is when he mentions his mother was an actress, Peaches LeTeuer. Legitimate? “Of course, she’s legitimate, she’s my mother, ain’t she?”

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 11, 2012 9:11 am

Duke – Favorite Jack Carson moment in Arsenic and Old Lace is when he mentions his mother was an actress, Peaches LeTeuer. Legitimate? “Of course, she’s legitimate, she’s my mother, ain’t she?”

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 11, 2012 9:13 am

The Crowded Sky has every character (EVERY SINGLE ONE!) do voice-overs where they’re thinking about something, like “Jack never has a second cup of coffee at home.” And every time they do, the camera dramatically pulls in on their face. It happens about every 7 minutes or so. Characters also have flashbacks about their lives that play hilariously bad. This movie and Zero Hour would make a great double-feature for fans of Airplane.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : June 11, 2012 9:13 am

The Crowded Sky has every character (EVERY SINGLE ONE!) do voice-overs where they’re thinking about something, like “Jack never has a second cup of coffee at home.” And every time they do, the camera dramatically pulls in on their face. It happens about every 7 minutes or so. Characters also have flashbacks about their lives that play hilariously bad. This movie and Zero Hour would make a great double-feature for fans of Airplane.

Posted By dukeroberts : June 11, 2012 9:23 am

“Jim never vomits at home.” That tears it! I’m adding Zero Hour and The Crowded Sky to my queue….if they’re available.

Posted By dukeroberts : June 11, 2012 9:23 am

“Jim never vomits at home.” That tears it! I’m adding Zero Hour and The Crowded Sky to my queue….if they’re available.

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