Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Actors with Character, Part 1

posted by Nell Minow

You know them. That is, they look familiar, but you might not be sure if that is because you saw them in a movie or because you saw them on a train. These are character actors, the indispensible performers who are there for the leading men and ladies to talk to, fight with, run from, almost marry, rescue, punch, shoot, chase, or watch die so they can learn an important lesson. They provide comic relief and when it is necessary they die onscreen to give the main character a growth experience. And while they get paid a small fraction of those 7-figure salaries that go to the stars, their contribution to the movie’s power to entertain and inspire is often as great or greater.
I’m going to share some of my favorites in this and upcoming posts and you can learn more about them in Hey! It’s That Guy!.

The films of the 1930’s had some classic character actors who appeared over and over. Here we can see two of the best, Edward Everett Horton (specialty: silly upper class types) and Eric Blore (specialty: looking down on silly upper class types). Do their voices sound familiar? They both provided voice talent for the Rocky and Bullwinkle series.

YouTube Preview Image

“Ball of Fire” is one of my all-time favorites, in part because of its wonderful collection of character actors playing Gary Cooper’s professor colleagues. You can see some of them here including Oscar Homolka, Henry Travers (the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life”) and the hilariously nasal Richard Hayden.

YouTube Preview Image

More character actors in future posts, and of course I’d love to hear about your favorites.



  • jestrfyl

    Thank goodness for imdb.com! My son and I are constantly arguing (in a fun way) over who that actor is in the background and what other work we know them from. I am better with the pre-90’s stuff and he is much better with recent sightings. The problem with books like this is that they are immediately out of date. So we have imdb set for nearly instant use.

  • iorek

    WAsn’t Eric Blore the owner of a dance instruction studio in some Fred Astaire movie?

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Very good, iorek! One of my favorites, “Swing Time.” Thanks for writing!

  • http://theravelledsleave.blogspot.com Lynn

    Peter Riegert. Loved him as the lead in “Local Hero”, loved him even more as the exasperated cop in “The Mask”.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    A great choice, Lynn! I hope you saw him in “Crossing Delancy” — one of his best.

Previous Posts

What Happened to All the Great Quotable Movie Lines?
Michael Cieply has a fascinating piece in the New York Times about the movie lines we love to quote and why there don't seem to be any new ones. Look through all of the top ten lists of the year, and see if you can think of one quotable line from any of them. That doesn't mean they aren't well wri

posted 3:58:57pm Dec. 20, 2014 | read full post »

George Clooney and the Cast of Downton Abbey
You don't have to be a fan of "Downton Abbey" (or "Mr. Selfridge") to love this hilarious spoof, with guest appearances by Jeremy Piven, George Clooney and the Absolutely Fabulous Joanna Lumley. [iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/ryo7fqdmcGQ?rel=0" frameborder="0"] [

posted 1:43:50pm Dec. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Ask Amy Says: A Book on Every Bed
I love to remind people about Amy Dickinson's wonderful "Book on Every Bed" proposal: Here’s how it happens: You take a book (it can be new or a favorite from your own childhood). You wrap it. On Christmas Eve (or whatever holiday you celebrate), you leave the book in a place where Santa is

posted 12:00:42pm Dec. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Matthew Llewellyn, Composer for Wally Lamb's "Wishin' and Hopin'"
Wishin' and Hopin' is Lifetime movie airing December 21, 2014, based on the novel by Wally Lamb. It stars Molly Ringwald and Meat Loaf with narration by Chevy Chase. Composer Matthew Llewellyn was kind enough to answer my questions about creating a score for this nostalgic holiday story. How d

posted 9:40:56am Dec. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Wild's Cheryl Strayed Has a New Advice Podcast
Before Wild, Cheryl Strayed was the pseudonymous "Dear Sugar" advice columnist for The Rumpus. Her columns were collected in Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. Writer Steve Almond (Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America) also wrote as Dear Su

posted 3:59:40pm Dec. 19, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.