Lifetime Achievement for Stars Only? Here Come the Ritters!

If you peruse the winners of the Motion Picture Academy’s Honorary Oscars for Career Achievement or the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Awards, you’ll notice something.  Where the actors are concerned, they’re all leads, all stars.  Jimmy Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck, Peter O’Toole, Bette Davis, Sidney Poitier, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Kelly, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Barbra Streisand, and Jane Fonda have all won one or the other or both.   Supporting players don’t seem to have a lifetime of achievement in the movies, at least according to the powers that be.  I happen to feel the exact opposite way.


The first name that immediately comes to mind is Thelma Ritter.  It’s appalling that Ritter never took home a competitive Oscar, despite multiple nominations for Best Supporting Actress, but even more distressing that the Academy never felt they needed to give her an Honorary Oscar either.  When an actor as good as Ritter doesn’t win a competitive Oscar by 1960, it’s time to honor her another way and let her know she’s at least appreciated as the great performer she is.  Maybe if she had lived longer (she passed in 1969) she would have become one of the few supporting players honored.   Well, either way, here’s my list of the Lifetime Achievement Awards I would hand out to the actors who never got them, either because they were character actors (i.e. supporting) or only allowed to be leads in the B movies of their day.  I’ll call this the Thelma Ritter Honorary Award for Lifetime Achievement by Supporting Players, or the “Ritter” for short.

hortonEdward Everett Horton is one of the first winners of a Ritter in my book.  His performances have so buoyed the movies they were in that I feel if Horton is in a movie, any movie, it automatically gets bumped up a star for that reason alone.   His hugely entertaining turns are so legion that it’s difficult to select just one or two as favorites but, for me, the two I love the most are The Gay Divorcee, specifically his magnificent number with Betty Grable, “Let’s Knock Knees,” and Lost Horizon, specifically his interactions with Thomas Mitchell.  Speaking of which…



MitchellHow is it possible that Thomas Mitchell never got a Lifetime Award?  And talk about too many performances to choose from.  With Mitchell, it’s not difficult, it’s damn near impossible.   So, rather than pick (although Uncle Billy in It’s a Wonderful Life would be high on the list) let me highlight his most amazing year, instead, 1939.   While 1939 has been called Hollywood’s greatest year of the Golden Era, it stands even more strongly as Thomas Mitchell’s greatest year.  He appeared in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Only Angels Have Wings, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gone with the Wind, and, in an Oscar winning role for Best Supporting Actor, Stagecoach.   Allow me a moment to type out a single word to express my feelings here: Wow.   And even though he didn’t win the Oscar for it, it’s his great performance in Only Angels Have Wings that ranks as my favorite.   But get this: Not only is their no Lifetime Achievement Oscar for Mitchell, the man was only nominated twice – Twice!  - for The Hurricane and Stagecoach.  That’s it!  Well, Mr. Mitchell, now you have a Ritter, and you deserve it.


GLENDA FARREL smokingGlenda Farrell is next.  She had a few leads, like the great Torchy Blane character in the series of the same name, which I’ve covered here before.  No, they’re not brilliantly made works of cinema, they’re low budget serials but Farrell shines in them as she did in everything in which she appeared.   One of her earliest movies is still one of my favorites, The Mystery of the Wax Museum.  In earlier efforts, like Little Caesar and I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, she was too subdued.  The real Glenda hadn’t come out yet, but with The Mystery of the Wax Museum, the fast talking Glenda was born.  And for a decades long career of giving one moxie-filled performance after another, Glenda gets a Ritter.



Hattie McDaniel, ca. 1940sAnd speaking of moxie, Hattie McDaniel had it in every movie she ever made.  Hattie was asked to play the same role again and again due to racism in Hollywood in the thirties and forties that didn’t offer many roles for a black actress outside of those as servants and mammies.  Hattie not only took the roles (“I’d rather play a maid than be one,” she reportedly said) but played them with relish.  It was a foregone conclusion that she’d win the Oscar for Gone with the Wind, no one could top her energy and power, but not a foregone conclusion that she would ever have a career beyond that.  Nonetheless, her career, as limited as it was by types of roles, was incredible.  My favorite performance of hers is Alice Adams, with Katherine Hepburn but there are too many to count.  She gets a Ritter to cover them all.


Eddie_Anderson_5Another great actor held back by racist attitudes of the time, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, still managed to do great, great things with what he was given.  From You Can’t Take it With You and You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man to Topper Returns and Cabin in the Sky, Eddie was a great talent, who became known more for his partnership with Jack Benny than anything else.   But his performances in the movies are as good as anything he did with Benny, and that’s saying something.  Mr. Anderson, please accept this Ritter.



billie-burke-1936-portraitSay, did someone just mention the Topper movies?  Because I can’t think of Topper without thinking of Billie Burke and when I think of Billie Burke, well, I just smile.  Billie Burke, known the world over as Glinda, the Good Witch, was so much better in roles like those in Topper where her manic befuddlement at every situation provided comic icing on the cake to Dinner at Eight, where she managed both comic relief and genuine emotion when she discovers her husband is in grave health.  She was a great performer, much better than she gets credit for because of The Wizard of Oz.  And she’s great in that, too, it’s just such a small part of the picture.  Hopefully, the Ritter will take care of that.


From Thelma Ritter to Billie Burke, that’s seven right there.  I’ve stuck with actors from the thirties, mainly (despite Ritter being a performer of the late forties onward), because I think it might be easier to do follow up posts covering Ritter Awards for the forties, fifties, sixties and seventies, rather than try and jam everyone in here all at once (look for them coming soon).  Even so, just covering the thirties, I’ve left off dozens that could be included.   Perhaps in the comments, several more Ritters can be awarded.  For now, I’ll settle for this inaugural seven, a lucky seven.  Lucky for us, that is.  Lucky that we get to enjoy their talents again and again, as long as the cinema survives.

76 Responses Lifetime Achievement for Stars Only? Here Come the Ritters!
Posted By robbushblog : February 12, 2014 3:27 pm

To your list of 30′s supporting players, I must add Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale, Ralph Bellamy and Edward Arnold.

Posted By Dan : February 12, 2014 3:32 pm

Does Oscar Levant count? I always enjoyed the roles he played.

Posted By James : February 12, 2014 3:36 pm

I’d like to nominate Sterling Holloway. He’s perhaps best known for providing voices for Disney characters, but he’s terrific as Fred MacMurray’s cousin in Remember the Night, and the nerdy student who annoys James Cagney in Picture Snatcher. Among many other live action roles – he also has a part in Wild Boys of the Road, one of my favorite William Wellman movies.

Posted By Erika H. : February 12, 2014 3:37 pm

Great choices! As we know well, supporting players make a film and the 30s were rich with great ones. The first one not on your list that popped into my mind was James Gleason, but there are so many. Heck, most of the cast of Arsenic and Old Lace, to start with!

Posted By robbushblog : February 12, 2014 3:47 pm

I must also throw in Ward Bond. He was one of the most prolific character actors in history, beginning in the 20′s and continuing through his death on that long Wagon Train.

Posted By Andrew : February 12, 2014 4:09 pm

Does Walter Brennan qualify? I know he won three Oscars for supporting but not a lifetime achievement award.

I was watching All About Eve last night and was amazed how she didn’t get upstaged by Betty Davis even as Margo pushes Birdie aside. She never makes anyone’s list of people you would want to dinner with but she should.

Posted By gregferrara : February 12, 2014 4:09 pm

Excellent choices all. I suspect we could hand out a dozen of these a day for a week and still have actors in the thirties deserving of them.

And while I agree with all of these, I must say, Rob, that Ward Bond sticks out. He absolutely must be a Ritter winner.

Posted By LD : February 12, 2014 4:12 pm

What a fun post! My nominees for the Ritter are three time Oscar winner Walter Brennan, William Demarest, Leo G. Carroll, Dame May Witty, Edna May Oliver and although she is very much in the 1940′s, Agnes Moorehead.

A couple of actors I would like to mention who were both leads and supporting who should have received some sort of lifetime achievement award, the great Mary Astor and George Brent.

Posted By gregferrara : February 12, 2014 4:12 pm

I don’t think winning an Oscar should preclude anyone at all. Mitchell won for Stagecoach. So, yes, Walter Brennan is another great choice. I mean, so many of these we’re mentioning seem to me to define lifetime achievement, more so than many lead actors/stars.

Andrew, I think you left out a name in your comment. Are you talking about Celeste Holm or Anne Baxter?

Posted By gregferrara : February 12, 2014 4:14 pm

William Demarest, now THAT was a character actor. Another one who never got the full recognition he deserved.

Posted By robbushblog : February 12, 2014 4:23 pm

Jack Carson and William Frawley!

Posted By robbushblog : February 12, 2014 4:23 pm

Vincent Price and Cesar Romero!

Posted By spence : February 12, 2014 4:39 pm

Yep, Ward Bond is both “Gentlemen Jim” & “The Searchers”

Posted By LD : February 12, 2014 5:09 pm

Forgot to mention Frank Morgan.

Posted By KathyC : February 12, 2014 5:29 pm

One of the true delights of thirties Hollywood was Guy Kibbee

Posted By ’58 Classic : February 12, 2014 5:48 pm

S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall and Monty Woolley!

Posted By Jack Favell : February 12, 2014 5:50 pm

This is totally in my wheelhouse! I watch classic films more for the supporting cast than for the leads. They make or break a film as far as I am concerned.

I love every single person mentioned in the article and in the comments. None could be more deserving of recognition.

UNA MERKEL is my choice from among the supporting players of the thirties. NO ONE could deliver a backhanded line like she did, and she also was able to turn on the drama when she was given the chance – her performance in Summer and Smoke as Alma’s frighteningly off kilter mother steals the picture, though she’s not got much screen time.

Just a mote – Edward Everett Horton is well worth watching in SUMMER STORM, starring Linda Darnell and George Sanders (another who might go on the honorary Ritter short list). His character is so very different in this film. He’s excellent as a Russian of high birth and fortune who has to change with the times when his country goes through the upheaval of revolution. He’s a sleazy cad, a womanizer and an opportunist in the film, not above turning someone in for money, and yet you feel sorry for him at the end of the film. Really a brilliant performance.

Posted By ’58 Classic : February 12, 2014 5:55 pm

Akim Tamiroff and the magnificent Eve Arden!

Posted By kingrat : February 12, 2014 5:58 pm

Thomas Mitchell fans need to see HIGH BARBAREE, where he once again plays a man who drinks too much, but this is the gentlest of his alcoholic roles. It’s also great to see him in THE LONG VOYAGE HOME where he actually has the leading role and John Wayne has the supporting role of a shy Swedish sailor.

Posted By Jack Favell : February 12, 2014 6:05 pm

kingrat – I love The Long Voyage Home, such a great ensemble of supporting actors. Mitchell also had the lead in Out of the Fog, as I’m sure you already know! Which brings me to JOHN QUALEN…his partner in crime so to speak.

I think Qualen gave the most outstanding performance by a supporting actor EVER in The Grapes of Wrath – as Muley, the slightly ‘tetched’ homesteader who tells Tom Joad what happened to his family.

Ok Ok… I could go on all day with these Ritter awards…

Posted By swac44 : February 12, 2014 6:11 pm

Boy is this post ever up my alley! I’ve been giving these awards out for years, but in my brain they’re known as “The Pangborns.”

Horton, Mitchell, Farrell and Burke are certainly standouts in my mind (McDaniel goes without saying, of course). Just saw Mitchell in Secret of the Incas, playing a bad guy trying to double cross Charlton Heston, and he was just as menacing here as he was befuddled in It’s a Wonderful Life. Why hasn’t this surfaced on home video (in any form), anyway? Couldn’t be its remarkable similarities to another Paramount property, Raiders of the Lost Ark, could it? Nawwwwww…..

One of my favourite faces to spot in older films is George Chandler, perhaps best known as the wayward son in the W.C. Fields short The Fatal Glass of Beer, but he’s in dozens (and dozens) of films from the silent era to the ’60s. But I guess he’s more of a bit player than a supporting actor, but I kinda live for those moments where he pops up.

Oh yeah, let me throw Elisha Cook Jr. into the mix as well!

Posted By James : February 12, 2014 7:02 pm

Elisha Cook Jr.’s career lasted long enough that he acted in both The Maltese Falcon and Blacula, which I appreciate (heck, he’s also in 1941, for that matter).

Posted By Errol Jones : February 12, 2014 7:38 pm

Well…Thelma Ritter is ‘tops’ in this..and was nominated for her work in With a Song in my Heart (with Susan Hayward), Pickup on South Street (with Richard Widmark) and Pillow Talk (Doris & Rock) and should have ‘won’ before she died.

Also…like to add two people who never get ‘good mention’. CONNIE GILCHRIST, who played Linda Darnell’s mother (and Ritter her friend) in A Letter to Three Wives and so many more roles she did and also…JAN STERLING, who always seemed to be ‘forgotten’ in so many great roles that she did, with one supporting nomination (that I remember) in The High and the Mighty, along with co-star nominee CLAIRE TREVOR who actually did win supporting for Key Largo, but she was another who never got her ‘just dues’ in the business.

Posted By LD : February 12, 2014 7:43 pm

Two among the most prolific actors in films, John Carradine and Donald Crisp.

Posted By tdraicer : February 12, 2014 7:55 pm

I thought about it, but realized I just have too many; the factory that manufactures Ritters could never keep up.

Posted By robbushblog : February 12, 2014 7:55 pm

How could I forget Ma Bailey? Beulah Bondi certainly deserves recognition. I read an article just today about Make Way for Tomorrow, possibly her only lead role (with Thomas Mitchell supporting, natch!), and she is heartbreaking in it. She was always wonderful in everything (pun intended).

Posted By Jbenn : February 12, 2014 7:56 pm

Off the top of my head:
For men: Misha Auer (who always played some kind of amorphous “foreign” role), Edgar Buchanan (seen in dozens and dozens of westerns and comedies), Allyn Joslyn (the ultimate mustachioed smart aleck), Reginald Gardiner (the ultimate mustachioed Brit), Allan Mowbray (the non-mustachioed Brit who was seemingly in every B-movie of the 30s-40s), James Gleason (who played the same character each time but he was sooo good at it) and Charles Lane (who lived to over 100 and played so many roles in TV and films that most of them weren’t even credited).

For women, as mentioned the triumvirate of wise-cracking gals: Glenda Farrell, Una Merkel, Eve Arden (Thelma Ritter being in a class of her own), Maria Ouspenskaya (who only needed a few minutes of film times to dominate a film), Edna May Oliver (so memorable in everything she did), or even Angela Lansbury (who we know now as one of the longest-lasting, mult-dimensional of actresses but during her MGM days was always playing the second or third leading lady).

Posted By Diane : February 12, 2014 8:19 pm

I’ve always loved FAY BAINTER (I’m particularly thinking of ‘Jezebel’) and EVE ARDEN (‘Mildred Pierce’).

Like another comment on this site, I generally watch these films for the supporting casts, rather than the big-name stars.

How much better does it get than Donald Crisp (also mentioned) telling Fay Bainter that “you’re more like Julie than she is herself” ? or Eve Arden’s repartee with Jack Carter (“Hey…leave me with something on, will ya? – after he’s been leering at her, up on a ladder).

Posted By gregferrara : February 12, 2014 8:37 pm

I sooo want to see Secret of the Incas but I thought it was unavailable. How’d you see it? Screener? Old tape? Theater?

Posted By gregferrara : February 12, 2014 8:38 pm

tdraicer is probably right, there are too many to mention (but keep mentioning them anyway!). I’d say this would turn into a Hall of Fame instead, with each character actor an inductee.

Posted By gregferrara : February 12, 2014 8:40 pm

Also, so many names here could easily be on my list. Elisha Cook deserves special recognition for willingly playing the loser time and time again. He never wins in a movie, he always gets it in the end. Hell, even in Salem’s Lot he gets it in the end.

Posted By gregferrara : February 12, 2014 8:41 pm

Also, Frank Morgan, what a great actor. Watched Shop Around the Corner again about a month ago and he’s so good.

Posted By robbushblog : February 12, 2014 8:53 pm

Peter Lorre and Claude Rains. Thank you.

Posted By robbushblog : February 12, 2014 8:54 pm

Porter Hall.

Posted By James : February 12, 2014 9:49 pm

Secret of the Incas is up on Youtube, in sections.

Posted By MDR : February 13, 2014 12:06 am

Excellent post as always Greg! Back when Moira and I used to contribute regularly here, we’d frequently highlight some of our favorite character actors – like Thelma Ritter (perfect choice for the award!) – because we love them so much.

Can’t agree with you more about Billie Burke, but feel that ‘we’ should mention that her only Oscar nominated role in Merrily We Live (1938) will be on TCM in mid-April. Don’t miss it if you haven’t seen it; it’s full of laughing-out-loud as well as some very sweet moments by this essential character actress.

Speaking of which, years ago I put together a list (with photos) of essential character actors; most of whom have been mentioned in the comments above already:

Unfortunately, I never got around to compiling an “essential character actresses” list.

Posted By andrew : February 13, 2014 12:11 am

Greg, I was referring to Miss Ritter herself in All About Eve

Posted By DevlinCarnate : February 13, 2014 12:16 am

wow…the most glaring example in this discussion…Wallace Ford…a great wisecracking sidekick

Posted By Jack Favell : February 13, 2014 1:33 am

You folks are my kind of people! This thread has made me so happy. It’s great to know there are still those who not only know the names of these great actors, but also their body of work. Thank goodness for TCM.

Aline MacMahon.

Posted By gregferrara : February 13, 2014 2:26 am

Ah, thanks, Andrew. Sorry, getting old.

Posted By gregferrara : February 13, 2014 2:27 am

James, thanks for the link.

Posted By Marjorie Birch : February 13, 2014 2:29 am

Thomas Mitchell in “Moontide” as a needy, creepy, and vindictive bad guy. (Claude Rains is there to, looking so seedy and unshaven that I didn’t realize who he was until he spoke. He looked like a hermit crab.)

Posted By gregferrara : February 13, 2014 2:29 am

MDR – Great list! And James Gleason, I should’ve mentioned him here at some point, he’s one of my favorites.

Posted By Michaela : February 13, 2014 3:35 am

I’ve been searching my brain (and movie collection) to see who’s been missed, and here’s what I’ve got: Clarence Kolb, Otto Kruger, H.B. Warner, Harry Davenport…I’m sure I’ll fall asleep tonight thinking about this…

Oh, and how could anyone forget Gladys Cooper? She never lets me down–not to mention she also terrifies me a lot.

Does Keenan Wynn count? Always loved him.

Posted By John Mather : February 13, 2014 3:38 am

Frank McHugh and Ned Sparks of those wonderful Warner Brothers films of the 30′s?

Posted By gregferrara : February 13, 2014 3:42 am

How about Mary Wickes? Anyone mention her yet?

Posted By Doug : February 13, 2014 3:43 am

I can’t recall a post blowing up like this, and as much as I appreciate all the names championed here, you’re all missing the man who would have a trophy case full of “Ritters”:
Charles Coburn!

Posted By Richard Brandt : February 13, 2014 6:06 am

I met Charles Lane! Sorry, I can’t resist openings to mention that.

Jan Sterling in THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY gave another daring performance for its day, in the dramatic scene where she strips off all of her makeup.

Wallace Ford forever!

Posted By Suzanne Scherrer : February 13, 2014 6:28 am

It’s great to see all the love for the character actors.

I agree with all mentioned above and would like to add Ned Sparks, who’s deadpan delivery and unmistakeable voice add to so many great Warner films of the Depression era.

And also a nod to Slim Summerville. In honor of Shirley Temple, I watched “Captain January” on Tuesday and Summerville nearly steals the show as Captain Nazro; which is saying something when he shares the screen nearly the whole film with the great Guy Kibbee and adorable Miss Temple.

Posted By robbushblog : February 13, 2014 2:46 pm

I came back to add Wallace Ford and Mary Wickes to the list, only to find out that they were added in my absence. Good thinking, folks! So, instead, I will add Gene Lockhart, Victor Moore and Louise beavers to the list, with Henry Travers, Edmund Gwenn and Elsa Lanchester coming along as well. And saints preserve us! How could we all be forgetting Barry Fitzgerald, not to mention his brother Arthur Shields?

Posted By LD : February 13, 2014 3:11 pm

Has anyone mentioned Melvyn Douglas? Also Louis Calhern and the reliable villain, Henry Daniell.

Posted By Jack Favell : February 13, 2014 3:18 pm

The remarkable, beautiful Theresa Harris, who managed to avoid being typecast as a maid or servant throughout her whole career. AND she was able to give dimension to roles that were sometimes only 30 seconds or so of screen time. A great actress.

Posted By Mike Doran : February 13, 2014 4:13 pm

Years ago, one of our local Chiago sataions ran an old RKO comedy called Sing And Like It: a dumb gangster hears a sappy song abot motherhood and determines to make its quavery singer/composer into a Broadway star.
Here’s the cast:
Ritter Time, anyone?

Posted By James : February 13, 2014 4:27 pm

Nat Pendleton acted in The Thin Man (and it’s first sequel), and Buck Privates, one of the best Abbott & Costello films (and it’s sequel). And he also somehow ended up in Scared to Death, one of the strangest and most oddly entertaining Povery Row thrillers I’ve ever seen.

Posted By swac44 : February 13, 2014 9:02 pm

Glad someone mentioned Frank McHugh, I wasn’t that aware of him until more recently, but binging on precodes I became quite fond of his charms (love it when he sings). From the same stable of supporting actors, he’s kind of love-him-or-hate-him, but I’m a fan of Hugh Herbert in most things.

Posted By Doug : February 13, 2014 11:34 pm

So many great performers mentioned already; I must add one of the best comic foils of the Marx Brothers and Jack Benny: Sig Ruman!

Posted By Mark Mayerson : February 14, 2014 12:46 am

Allen Jenkins. I recently rewatched Dead End and was amazed at his performance in that film. He was great at comedy, but in Dead End, he plays straight and does a great job.

Posted By missrhea : February 14, 2014 3:53 am

My vote goes for Harry Davenport…always playing country doctors (Claudia and David), judges (You Can’t Take It With You or The Bachelor and the Bobby-soxer) or grandfathers (Meet Me in St. Louis). He apparently had a long silent career before talkies, too.

Btw, Secret of the Incas is available on Amazon Instant Video and some of the cheaper ‘classics’ sellers have it on DVD.

Posted By Muriel : February 14, 2014 4:40 am

Gene Lockhart! He was great as a villain, a buffoon, a lovable relative, a parasite, anything! He could also sing.
Henry Daniell, Miles Mander, Theresa Harris, Margaret Wycherly, Mantan Moreland,
And as Doug mentioned above: Charles Coburn

Then there is am amazing stable of British character actors! They deserve a post of their own.

Posted By Muriel : February 14, 2014 4:50 am

“Does Oscar Levant count?” Not really, because he only played one person in movies: himself.

Posted By Jack Favell : February 14, 2014 2:16 pm

Felix Bressart.

Posted By Doug : February 14, 2014 2:54 pm

Looking through the list, I see one great omission (I know there are more),Charles Winninger! Recently saw him as Rosalind Russell’s father in “She Wouldn’t Say Yes” and he was great. He’s also in guilty pleasure “Pot O’ Gold” as Jimmy Stewart’s uncle.

Posted By Richard Brandt : February 14, 2014 3:05 pm

Mark Mayerson: YES! Allen Jenkins is amazingly good in DEAD END! Absolutely the best thing he ever did. He’s the eyes through which we observe his partner’s dismaying descent into the morass of his own past. His own dismayed reaction when Bogey suggests a really, really bad plan is beautifully underplayed.

Peter Lorre was simply the best actor in motion pictures. Period.

His only rival for most deserving of a lifetime achievement award? Mel Blanc. Maybe the greatest actor who ever lived.

Posted By gregferrara : February 14, 2014 3:34 pm

I’d like to write up DEAD END here one day because it’s one of my favorite movies of the thirties. The first time I saw it, I was floored. I remember thinking, “Why didn’t this win Best Picture?!” Great, great movie. So great that the set bound play-feel doesn’t distract.

Posted By gregferrara : February 14, 2014 3:35 pm

Melvyn Douglas is another one who had a few leads but more often than not was supporting and what great support he gave.

Posted By Emgee : February 14, 2014 9:14 pm

Raymond Burr
Dan Duryea
John McIntire
Jay C. Flippen
AND…….Joan Blondell…..

Posted By robbushblog : February 14, 2014 10:23 pm

Mike Mazurki.

Posted By Tom H. : February 14, 2014 10:43 pm

Whit Bissell ought to be on this list. And Connie Gilcrist! I was just watching her and Ritter in the kitchen scene in “Letter to Three Wives.” Hard to tell which one stole the scene, but it sure was a major competition. Oh, and throw in Paul Douglas, too.

The westerns and noirs are full of character actors who you could always count on putting in a good performance, like Jack Elam, Earl Holliman, Jack Lambert, Strother Martin, Paul Stewart, John Hoyt, Anthony Caruso, Marc Lawrence…the list goes on.

Posted By Jenni : February 16, 2014 5:14 am

Eric Blore!!!!!!!

Posted By Jenni : February 16, 2014 5:18 am

Gladys Cooper and Lucille Watson!!!

Posted By jbryant : February 16, 2014 9:59 am

Mike: TCM actually showed Sing and Like It late last year. It’s great and, yes, quite a cast!

Doug: Agree that Charles Winninger should make the list, for Show Boat (1936 version), Three Smart Girls, Nothing Sacred, Beyond Tomorrow, Living in a Big Way, and his brilliant leading role in John Ford’s The Sun Shines Bright, in addition to the ones you mentioned.

Here’s why Walter Brennan definitely deserves a “Ritter” – he won all three of his Oscars in a five-year period (1936-40), but only got one nomination thereafter, in 1941 for Sergeant York. I guess at that point the Academy figured he’d been honored enough, because he was completely snubbed for Oscar-worthy work in To Have and Have Not, My Darling Clementine, Red River, Bad Day at Black Rock and Rio Bravo, to name a few.

Posted By gregferrara : February 17, 2014 4:02 am

I’ve always noticed that, too, how Brennan quickly reached the point where he was so consistently good they just stopped noticing him.

Posted By Brian : February 18, 2014 5:03 pm

Has anyone mentioned Marjorie Main? How about Edgar Kennedy? Two of my favorites…

Posted By gregferrara : February 19, 2014 1:25 pm

Just wanted to say, as this thread now seems wrapped up, that this is the greatest list of great supporting players ever. Thanks, all!

Posted By – Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of TCM with a free screening of CASABLANCA : February 20, 2014 8:18 pm

[…] supporting characters who constantly threaten to upstage one another. All of them are worthy of a Thelma Ritter Award as recently outlined by my fellow Morlock, Greg […]

Posted By Don Danard : March 3, 2014 6:16 pm

I’d nominate Olin Howland (Howlin). A terrific supporting players in any number of films.

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