They Wore It Well: Actors & Mustaches

mustache1James D. Barnes in THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY (1903)

Throughout the month of June you’re going to be seeing a lot of mustaches on TCM. Every Friday night you can tune in and enjoy some carefully coiffed facial hair in a series of Pirate Pictures hosted by funny man Greg Proops. And on June 9th mustache lovers won’t want to miss Mustache Monday. This special one day event will feature a series of films with famously mustachioed actors including Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Groucho Marx, William Powell, Peter Sellers and Sean Connery, which segues into a tribute to British born actor Richard Harris who often sported a mustache as well as a full beard.

Mustaches of all shapes, sizes, widths and weights have long been part our movie history so it’s easy to take them for granted. But a good mustache can have power and presence in the movies and many actors have made great use of their facial hair to seduce costars, entice laughter and menace their enemies. One of cinema’s most famous mustaches belongs to James D. Barnes (pictured above) who appeared in one of the first narrative silent films, THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY (1903). Barnes played an outlaw who famously points a gun directly at the camera and fires. His bushy mustache makes him look rough, tough and threatening and it undoubtedly left a lasting impression on audiences. Since then many beloved movie stars have modeled mustaches on and off screen but overtime their significance has changed. During the1930s and 1940s mustaches were often sported by actors portraying elegant, worldly and sophisticated men with an air of authority. But after WW2 mustaches grew more robust and became somewhat of an anti-authority symbol frequently representing artistic freedom and rebellion. And in the 1970s and 80s they suggested a kind of carefree virility and aggressive masculinity. Today mustaches and beards are extremely popular among men of all ages and even though their cultural significance has diminished the mustache can still turn heads and ignite discussion.

In honor of TCM’s upcoming Mustache Monday event I decided to compile a gallery of performers who often gave us ‘good mustache’ followed by a few suggested films. If I overlooked one of your favorite mustachioed actors feel free to mention them in the comment section below.

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Charlie Chaplin

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE GOLD RUSH (1925), MODERN TIMES (1936) and THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940).

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Douglas Fairbanks

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1921), THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1924) and THE BLACK PIRATE (1926).

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John Barrymore

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE TEMPEST (1928), ARSENE LUPIN (1932) and DINNER AT EIGHT (1933).

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Oliver Hardy

Where He Gives Good Mustache: SONS OF THE DESERT (1933), BABES IN TOYLAND aka MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS (1934) and WAY OUT WEST (1937).

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Ronald Colman

Where He Gives Good Mustache: BULLDOG DRUMMAND (1929), LOST HORIZON (1937) and A DOUBLE LIFE (1947).

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Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Where He Gives Good Mustache: SCARLET DAWN (1932), PRISONER OF ZENDA (1937) and GUNGA DIN (1939).

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Clark Gable

Where He Gives Good Mustache: IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934), GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) and STRANGE CARGO (1940).

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Groucho Marx

Where He Gives Good Mustache: ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930), DUCK SOUP (1933) and A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1935).

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Warren William

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THREE ON A MATCH (1932), EMPLOYEE’S ENTRANCE (1933) and IMITATION OF LIFE (1934).

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William Powell

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE THIN MAN (1934), MY MAN GODFREY (1936) and LIBELED LADY (1936).

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Melvyn Douglas

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932), THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933) and NINOTCHKA (1939)

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Conrad Veidt

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940), A WOMAN’S FACE (1941), and CASABLANCA (1942).

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Robert Donat

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO (1934), THE 39 STEPS (1935) and THE MAGIC BOX (1951).

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Errol Flynn

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX (1939) and THE SEA HAWK (1940).

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Basil Rathbone

Where He Gives Good Mustache: CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935), ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) and SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939)

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Nigel Bruce

Where He Gives Good Mustache: SHERLOCK HOLMES (Film Series 1939-1946), REBECCA (1940) and SUSPICION (1941).

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Laurence Olivier

Where He Gives Good Mustache: REBECCA (1940), 49TH PARALLEL (1941) and SLEUTH (1972)

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Boris Karloff

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE MASK OF FU MANCHU (1932), THE INVISIBLE RAY (1935) and TARGETS (1967)

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John Carradine

Where He Gives Good Mustache: HURRICANE (1937), STAGECOACH (1939) and HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945).

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Cesar Romero

Where He Gives Good Mustache: DIAMOND JIM (1935), 15 MAIDEN LANE (1936), and WEEK-END IN HAVANNA (1941).

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Lon Chaney Jr.

Where He Gives Good Mustache: SON OF DRACULA (1943), CALLING DR. DEATH (1943) and WEIRD WOMAN (1944).

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Vincent Price

Where He Gives Good Mustache: HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1958), PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) and THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973)

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Clifton Webb

Where He Gives Good Mustache: LAURA (1944), SITTING PRETTY (1948) and CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (1950).

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Zachary Scott

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS (1944), MILDRED PIERCE (1945) and RUTHLESS (1948).

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David Niven

Where He Gives Good Mustache: A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946), BONJOUR TRISTESSE (1958) and THE PINK PANTHER (1963)

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Peter Sellers

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE PINK PANTHER (1963), THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT (1964) and DR. STRANGELOVE (1964)

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Toshiro Mifune

Where He Gives Good Mustache: HIGH AND LOW (1963), GRAND PRIX (1966) and JAPAN”S LONGEST DAY (1967).

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Terry Thomas

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE NAKED TRUTH (1957), TOM THUMB (1958) and THE MOUSE ON THE MOON (1963)

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Lee Van Cleef

Where He Gives Good Mustache: IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956), FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965) and DEATH RIDES A HORSE (1967).

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Oliver Reed

Where He Gives Good Mustache: WOMEN IN LOVE (1969), THE DEVILS (1971) and ROYAL FLASH (1975)

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Alain Delon

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE LEOPARD (1963), LE CERCLE ROUGE aka THE RED CIRCLE (1970) and LE GITAN aka THE GYPSY (1975).

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Charles Bronson

Where He Gives Good Mustache: FAREWELL FRIEND aka ADIEU L’AMI (1968), THE MECHANIC (1972) and DEATH WISH (1974).

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Donald Sutherland

Where He Gives Good Mustache: DON’T LOOK NOW (1973), INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) and THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY (1979).

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Sean Connery

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE MOLLY MAGUIRES (1970), THE OFFENCE (1973) and ZARDOZ (1974).

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Richard Harris

Where He Gives Good Mustache: MAJOR DUNDEE (1965), THE MOLLY MAGUIRES (1970) and MAN IN THE WILDERNESS (1971).

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Franco Nero

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE FIFTH CHORD (1971), FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE (1978) and QUERELLE (1982).

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Richard Roundtree

Where He Gives Good Mustache: SHAFT (1971), SHAFT IN AFRICA (1973) and A GAME FOR VULTURES (1979).

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Robert Redford

Where He Gives Good Mustache: BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969), JEREMIAH JOHNSON (1972) and THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN (1979)

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Burt Reynolds

Where He Gives Good Mustache: FUZZ (1972), SEMI-TOUGH (1977) and SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (1977).

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Billy Dee Williams

Where He Gives Good Mustache: LADY SINGS THE BLUES (1972), MAHOGANY (1975) and STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980).

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Nick Nolte

Where He Gives Good Mustache: THE DEEP (1977), NORTH DALLAS FORTY (1979) and EXTREME PREJUDICE (1986).

And last but not least… TCM’s Star of the Month!

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Rock Hudson

Where He Gives Good Mustache: HORNET’S NEST (1970), PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW (1971) and SHOWDOWN (1973).

19 Responses They Wore It Well: Actors & Mustaches
Posted By missrhea : June 5, 2014 9:28 pm

I like Robert Young’s mustache in “Goodbye, My Fancy” with Joan Crawford (a picture from it is used on his IMDb page). Most of the time he is seen with one is when he’s older and playing a villain or when he played Mr. Lawrence in the TV version of “Little Women”.

Posted By Susan Doll : June 5, 2014 10:01 pm

I never realized before that Oliver Hardy’s mustache looks like Hitler’s mustache. On another note, I would have to vote for Robert Redford’s ‘stache in BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID as my favorite.

Posted By Machelle : June 5, 2014 10:04 pm

You have Nick Nolte’s stacheography beginning at 1977, so let’s have an early appearance of the Sam Elliott in Lifeguard (1976).

Posted By Maryann : June 5, 2014 11:33 pm

All of the male leads in TOMBSTONe have wonderful facial hair

Posted By Maureen Whitmore : June 5, 2014 11:33 pm

Tyrone Power in THE RAINS CAME, THE MARK OF ZORRO, and THE BLACK SWAN and Peter O`Toole in GOODBYE MR, CHIPS, MY FAVORITE YEAR, CLUB PARADISE.

Posted By Doug : June 6, 2014 12:21 am

Kimberly, your list is perfect-every one I would have mentioned is there.
I watched “Dragonwyck” last night and now I realize what was different-Vincent Price was cleanshaven for once. I think I prefer him with a mustache.

Posted By Christine Hoard-Barre : June 6, 2014 6:10 am

I LOVED THIS! THANKS!

Posted By Patricia Nolan-Hall (@CaftanWoman) : June 6, 2014 10:49 am

Very impressive list. Warren William was the first guy who popped into my mind.

How about JOHN WAYNE: Rio Grande, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Shootist ?

Posted By Walt : June 6, 2014 2:07 pm

It should be Terry-Thomas, not Terry Thomas.

Posted By Ben Martin : June 6, 2014 2:55 pm

The under-rated often misunderstood Charles Bronson first wore his famous mustache in Villa Rides and after that never wanted to shave it off again. I think Lola, Once Upon a Time in the West and Hard Times were the only films he could be convinced to shave it off after that, even when playing General Dan Shomron in Raid On Entebbe or an American Indian in Chato’s Land.

Posted By Jenni : June 6, 2014 3:36 pm

What a great post! I have to add Henry Fonda as I think he looked great in a ‘stache, and did wear them in a few films:My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache,and The Oxbow Incident-well, in that one it’s more of a hasn’t shaved in days look. I would also add Rex Harrison in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and James Mason in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, staches and beards on those two looked great!

Posted By kingrat : June 6, 2014 4:58 pm

Kimberly, this is just great. I’m nostalgic for the mustache, and later beard, that I had for several decades until the beard turned gray but the hair didn’t, so I particularly love the 1970s mustaches.

Those pictures of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Cesar Romero are really stunning. Wow!

Posted By Pamela Porter : June 6, 2014 7:48 pm

Kudos for including Warren William, but this list is meaningless without Sam Elliot

:D

P~

Posted By Joe Thompson : June 8, 2014 3:29 am

This is a good list, Kimberly. I would have included Snub Pollard, but I’m eccentric. I have worn a mustache for many years. I was telling my barber I would like to trim it into a William Powell/Warren William/my grandfather pencil mustache. He said no one wears pencil mustaches nowadays. Too much work.

Posted By george : June 8, 2014 8:12 pm

Jack White of the White Stripes might have had the last impressive pencil mustache. He’s shaved it since.

Posted By heidi : June 9, 2014 4:10 pm

Oh My! That image of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. almost made me swoon! What a guy, what a mustache!
I know it isn’t from movies, but David Suchet and his Poirot has a great one!
What about some of the fancy waxed handle bar mustaches? I know there were some bad guys that sported them, but I am drawing a blank.

Posted By swac44 : June 10, 2014 3:20 pm

In the same vein as Sam Elliot (whose occasional moustache-to-moustache show downs with the impressively facially coiffed Nick Offerman on Parks & Recreation has been an utter delight this past season), the first name that came to my mind was real-life cowboy and unforgettable screen presence Richard Farnsworth (The Grey Fox, The Straight Story), who came by his ‘stache honestly.

Also, Gene Hackman in Night Moves, one of my favourite entries from that oh-so-moustachioed decade, the 1970s.

Posted By Juana Maria : June 13, 2014 6:02 pm

This list actually made me scream with delight! Especially for Lee Van Cleef and Sean Connery!!! I have always loved moustaches, no excellent moustaches on men. There is a difference. Oh! By the way, where’s Anthony Quinn? Jack Palance? Lee Marvin? They’ve sported moustaches for various films too. Where is my beloved Tom Selleck? L. Q. Jones? Albert Salmi? Sam Elliot? Elliot didn’t have a moustache in “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid”, his first movie. Everything else I’ve seen him in, he had the moustache. Can I even begin to say how happy moustaches make me?! I mean on handsome men, of course. On women, it is usually a case of hirsutism or that they’re post menopause. Yucky huh? Oh well, I’ll look at these photos are sigh some more.. P.S. Doesn’t Carey Elwes look like a cross or Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Errol Flynn,in “The Princess Bride”?

Posted By Carolyn : September 19, 2014 2:56 am

Nice post & great pics of Messrs Colman, Fairbanks (both) Douglas and Rathbone!

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