What A Character! 2019 – Day 3

Subsequent to Day 1 over at Outspoken and Freckled, and Day 2 at Once Upon A Screen, I am presenting Day 3 of our annual tribute to the names below the title, those scene-stealing supporting players who add immeasurably to our favorite films.

First up, Gary Pratt takes a good look — literally — at Donald Pleasance, particularly as half of a beautiful friendship in The Great Escape in a guest post on Outspoken and Freckled.

Lesley at Second Sight Cinema looks at late-blooming Charles Coburn, who nonetheless became “as indispensable to the movies as he had been to the American stage for nearly four decades.”

Aurora at Once Upon A Screen… profiles another late bloomer, the inimitable Majorie Main, whose “physical look, her mannerisms, dry wit, and that voice! all made a package that was not easy to forget.”

The Lady Eve shines the spotlight on Joyce Compton, declaring, “there’s more to [her] story than her turns as scatterbrained, Southern-fried blondes.”

Kellee at Outspoken & Freckled sheds some very deserved light on Frank McHugh’s life and career.

To be continued with more character actors to come…

This post is part of the What A Character! 2019 Blogathon.

Announcing the What A Character! 2019 Blogathon

It’s hard to believe we’ve been hosting this blogathon for eight years now! But perhaps it isn’t that shocking — after all, discussing those scene-stealing character actors is a crowd-pleasing pastime amongst cinephiles.

Year after year, it’s an event we all look forward to. Wise-cracking Eve Arden, nurturing Louise Beavers, sassy Thelma Ritter, double-take pro Edward Everett Horton, tart-tongued Edna May Oliver, gravelly-voiced Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, fatherly Charles Coburn, frazzled Franklin Pangborn, bullfrog voiced, barrel-chested Eugene Pallette, cigar-chomping Ned Sparks… these and so many more lovable character actors are who we look forward to seeing as our dearest ole chums. Couldn’t we all use a trusted sidekick? All the details after the jump.

Continue reading “Announcing the What A Character! 2019 Blogathon”

Lionel Atwill’s Double Life

Lionel Atwill, a fixture of action and horror films throughout the 1930s and 1940s, is a familiar face whose background was unknown to me, so I figured he’d be great to write about for the 7th Annual What A Character! Blogathon. To be honest, there’s a lot more story here than I expected.

Continue reading “Lionel Atwill’s Double Life”

Day 3 of the 2018 What A Character! Blogathon

‘Tis the season to recognize the names below the title, as our yearly recognition of those supporting players whose faces you know (but names you might not) concludes today.

Check out Day 1 by Kellee at Outspoken and Freckled and Day 2 at Aurora‘s blog Once Upon a Screen. All the nitty-gritty blogathon details are in the Announcement post. Thanks to my partners in cinematic tribute for making this such a fun project and to Turner Classic Movies for the blogathon title and inspiration. And now on with the show…

Continue reading “Day 3 of the 2018 What A Character! Blogathon”

Announcing the SEVENTH Annual What A Character! Blogathon – Dec. 14-16, 2018

9th August 1933: Jean Harlow (1911 - 1937) is Hollywood sex goddess Lola Burns and Frank Morgan (1890 - 1949) is her father, Pop Burns, in 'Bombshell', (aka 'Blonde Bombshell') directed by Victor Fleming. Mary Forbes (1883 - 1974) plays Mrs Middleton.
Frank Morgan and June Brewster are just two of the superb character actors in BOMBSHELL (1933). Image via Doctor Macro

When you re-watch your favorite films, what keeps you coming back for more? A great story with sharp writing? No doubt. Beautiful costumes, swanky set designs, and stunning cinematography? Most assuredly. But the performances are key to any movie. While we all look forward to the popular leading actors, it is the stand-out, scene-stealing supporting actors that feel like “home.”

Wise-cracking Eve Arden, nurturing Louise Beavers, sassy Thelma Ritter, double-take pro Edward Everett Horton, tart-tongued Edna May Oliver, gravelly-voiced Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, fatherly Charles Coburn, frazzled Franklin Pangborn, bullfrog-voiced, barrel-chested Eugene Pallette, cigar-chomping Ned Sparks… these and so many more lovable character actors are who we look forward to seeing as our dearest old chums. We all could use a trusted sidekick.

stagecoach-1939a-700w
John Ford’s STAGECOACH (1939) was rife with talented characters.

For the 7th consecutive year, we as the blogathon hosting trio of Aurora of Once Upon A Screen and @CitizenScreen, Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled and @IrishJayhawk66, and myself, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club and @Paula_Guthat invite you to join us for the WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON 2018, December 14, 15, 16, as we pay tribute to the brilliance of the supporting players.

Continue reading “Announcing the SEVENTH Annual What A Character! Blogathon – Dec. 14-16, 2018”

Sixth Annual What A Character! Blogathon – Day 3

Welcome to Day 3 of the Sixth Annual What A Character! Blogathon, in which we celebrate those actors whose faces you know but whose names you may not. I’m your hostess for the Day 3 offerings. Be sure to also check out Day 1, hosted by Kellee at Outspoken and Freckled, and Day 2, hosted by Aurora at Once Upon A Screen. It’s been my pleasure to work with these two dames to shed some light on the names below the title. And now, on with the show…

First up, my co-host Aurora at Once Upon A Screen recaps the multi-faceted stage, TV, and film career of Mary Wickes from her earliest theater work to Sister Act and beyond.

Terry at A Shroud of Thoughts reminds us that William Schallert, who is so well-known for his intelligent and/or nice characters, could actually be “not exactly sympathetic…downright villainous.”

Crítica Retrô looks at a different kind of actor, Looney Tunes former main character and dependable sidekick, Porky Pig.LA

Cinematic Scribblings highlights standout Japanese actress Haruko Sugimura and her portrayals of “not always particularly pleasant people.”

Carole & Co honors “one of the foot soldiers of film (and TV) acting,” Nat Pendleton.

Prowler Needs A Jump surveys Patrick Magee‘s amazingly diverse, half-century career.

Co-host Kellee at Outspoken and Freckled provides a pronunciation refresher while honoring the oeuvre of Zasu Pitts.

That William Powell Site examines that star’s scene-stealing performance in Beau Geste (1926), “another opportunity for [him] to steal the show.”

LA Explorer catalogs the extensive career of Eddie “Rochester” Anderson through radio, films, and TV.

Silver Scenes recounts the life and work of “tough but lovable broad” Connie Gilchrist.

The Dream Book Blog reviews the roles of character actress and sometime Val Lewton muse Elizabeth Russell.

—> Stop back later in the day (Sunday, December 17, 2017) as I will be updating this list as more posts are published!

Bonus: Short clip featuring two of our What A Character honorees, Nat Pendleton and Zasu Pitts, in Sing and Like It (1934):

 

 

 

 

 

 

What A Character! The cast of ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS (1948)

I’m not really one for musicals. I don’t universally enjoy them all. But when I like them, I really like them, and they are among my favorite films of all-time. For instance, 42nd Street, Dames, Swing Time, Singin’ in the Rain, and Romance on the High Seas (1948).

To sum up the plot (bear with me): Married couple Michael and Elvira Kent (Don DeFore and Janis Paige) each constantly suspect the other of infidelity. Michael though is too wrapped up in his work to go on the vacations Elvira plans for their anniversaries, and every year he cancels and they stay home. In the course of booking these trips, she meets Georgia Garrett (Doris Day) at the travel agency. Georgia never goes anywhere either; she’s broke and only goes to the agency to window-shop. When the Kents’ third anniversary rolls around, Elvira has reason to suspect that Michael’s inevitable postponement of this trip, a cruise to Rio, is because of his new blonde secretary.

While she’s still fuming with jealousy, the travel agency mistakenly delivers Georgia’s passport photo to Elvira, and that gives the latter an idea: In these pre-Internet, pre-TSA days, Elvira will send Georgia on the cruise in her place, so that Elvira can stay home and keep an eye on her husband without him knowing she’s still in town. Her insistence on going on the cruise by herself heightens Michael’s suspicion, and he in turn hires private detective Peter Virgil (Jack Carson) to go on the cruise and keep an eye on Elvira. Only with the help of her Uncle Lazlo (S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall) does Elvira successully sneak Georgia onto the ship. Once the ship sails, many complications ensue.

It’s a plot of Shakespearean complexity — with songs! *

Continue reading “What A Character! The cast of ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS (1948)”

What A Character! Daniel Stern – Wise-Ass to the Stars

Daniel Stern in Home Alone (1990)

By Jack Deth

Welcome all and sundry! Having been sidelined for awhile with the vagaries of an old body catching up with me, I was thrilled to see that the Sixth Annual What A Character! Blogathon was in the works, with some delightful selections from numerous cinephiles coaxing my attention to the newer batches of those who work in the background of sets and groups, inching their way closer to success.

To that end, allow me a few moments of your time while I dig out, dust off, root around, and unearth the career of some local homegrown Maryland talent in

What A Character: Master Craftsman Daniel Stern. Wise-Ass To The Stars!

Along with Chris Meloni (“Bound,” “Oz,” “Law & Order: SVU”) and Jonathan Banks (“Who’ll Stop The Rain,” “Wiseguy,” “Breaking Bad”), Stern was the tall, gangling scarecrow of an upstart who caught my eye providing sarcastic comic relief as one of four high school graduate buddies facing life’s daunting future in Breaking Away.

A Peter Yates-directed coming-of-age project from 1979, filmed in and around Bloomington, Indiana. A surprisingly good example of a on-location film that excels in “Bang For The Buck,” mixing teen angst, uncertainty, and a scaled-down version of a hometown bicycle “Tour de France” with the four friends — “Cutters,” named after the local families who cut and formed marble and granite for the state’s municipal and court buildings — going up against better-trained, -financed and -equipped fraternities. Adding a dash of underdog to the film’s drama and comedy that surprised audiences, the Golden Globes, and Academy of Arts and Sciences alike.

Continue reading “What A Character! Daniel Stern – Wise-Ass to the Stars”

Announcing the SIXTH ANNUAL What A Character! Blogathon – Dec. 15-17, 2017

When you think about your very favorite classic movies, what makes them your favorites? The films worth watching multiple times, endlessly discussing, or just chilling out with…what makes them the cinematic equivalent of comfort food? Sure, great writing is key, but those lines are just words without the right actors delivering them. Beautiful costumes are great, but without the right actors wearing them, they’re just clothes. Stunning, authentic art direction and set design are wonderful, but empty, without the right actors inhabiting that world. And gorgeous cinematography can only hold your eye for so long, without the right actors being lit. And so on…
Continue reading “Announcing the SIXTH ANNUAL What A Character! Blogathon – Dec. 15-17, 2017”

Fifth Annual What A Character! Blogathon – Day 3

wacRoscoe Karns (above) welcomes you to the What A Character! Blogathon, now in its fifth fabulous year of celebrating those actors whose faces you know but whose names you may not. I’m your hostess for the Day 3 offerings. Be sure to also check out Day 1, hosted by Kellee at Outspoken and Freckled and Day 2, hosted by Aurora at Once Upon A Screen. It’s been my pleasure to work with these two dames to shed some light on the names below the title. And now, on with the today’s show…

  • Blogferatu presents a “grossly oversimplified horror overview” of John Carradine‘s career from the ’40s to the ’80s. “And not just any horror movies, but some of his schlockier moments.”
  • Cliff at Immortal Ephemera explores the sometimes sketchy biography of Stanley Fields, who “had a voice that matched his face. Either could have been raked over gravel.”
  • Aurora at Once Upon A Screen writes about Edmund Gwenn‘s career, including, but not limited to, his turn as everyone’s favorite Santa Claus and his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock.
  • Silver Scenes declare of their WAC! choice, “Thurston Hall is his name and governors, senators, businessmen, and doting fathers are his game.”
  • Quiggy at The Midnite Drive-In contributes an appreciation of John Hillerman‘s “pomposity and refinement” in four essential roles.
  • Gary (aka @santaisthinking) guest blogs on Kellee’s Outspoken and Freckled about Victor McLaglen in two chapters: “His Adventurous Youth – Boers, Boxing, and Baghdad” and “His Career – Big Screen Grins and Bromance.”
  • Then Kellee herself analyzes why Joan Blondell, that “down-to-earth, tell-it-like-it-is scene-stealer,” rarely got top billing, despite her “talent, enduring work ethic and generosity of spirit.”

Happy reading, leave a comment, start a conversation! Additional awesomeness expected throughout the day so check back here soon. Many thanks to everyone who has supplied such entertaining and educational posts this year. I’ve personally expanded both my knowledge and my to-watch list, and I hope you all have too.

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