Wednesday, January 25, 2012

10 More Characters Actors We've Always Loved


Henry Daniell (1894 - 1963) could do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. He and Zucco (see next) were two of my very favorite bad guys par excellence. There was nothing on Daniell's face but smarmy, supercilious insolence. That glorious face of his was incapable of 'not sneering.' He really did look wonderfully like a codfish. I adore him. Even if whenever I write about him, I have to hisssss.....!

He was cool, calm and oh-so-sinister as Professor Moriarity to Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes.

To learn more about Henry Daniell - hssssss....! - please use this link.

George Zucco (1886 - 1960) is every one's idea of malevolence in the grand tradition. The only thing he lacked was the twirling mustache. I loved the guy. When  Zucco came on screen you immediately said, 'uh oh' and waited for the worst to happen.

He was perfection too as Professor Moriarity to Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes.

In fact, the few times Zucco played a benign character, I still kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.

To learn more about George Zucco, please use this link.

Paul Cavanaugh (1888 - 1964) Since we're talking basic smarmy. Here's the guy who epitomized the word. Cavanaugh is the universal face of weak charactered second leads. He could be charming in a perfectly surface way - just enough unctuousness to imply his true nature was anything but.

In TARZAN FINDS A MATE, he not only appears naked but actually makes a play for Jane. No wonder Tarzan didn't look upon him with a happy face.

To learn more about Paul Cavanaugh, please use this link.

Walter Connolly (1887 - 1940) has always been my idea of the pompous, high-blood-pressured, society father of the bride. He could also play a great newspaper editor-in-chief and any corporate head of any conglomerate you might imagine.

I guess his role as Claudette Colbert's millionaire papa in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT implanted itself in my subconscious. He was wonderful.

To learn more about Walter Connolly, please use this link.

Elsa Lanchester (1902 - 1986) is most famous for her screech and her hairdo in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN though she could also be wonderfully gentle and self-effacing in her screen roles.

She was married to famed British actor, Charles Laughton (1899 - 1962) and occasionally worked with him, as in WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION. Not a woman of conventional good looks, she could appear quite glamorous in one role, then show up as a plain-jane housefrau in the next.

To learn more about Elsa Lanchester, please use this link.

Barton MacLane (1902 - 1969) was the gruff bad guy in almost every western I saw as a kid. His gravel voice and sinister, snarly look made him the perfect choice to play the menacing saloon owner or the leader of a gang of cattle rustlers or bank robbers. Any general purpose bunch of loutish cowboy varmints would probably have MacLane as its head. He could also, occasionally, play a cop.

To learn more about Barton MacLane, please use this link.

Woody Strode (1914 - 1994) was the essential, quietly looming, physical presence. He was implacable, stalwart and occasionally deadly.  He was not a man to be trifled with. That look of his made you immediately understand that he meant business.

My favorite of his many roles was always the honorable SERGEANT RUTLEDGE. He stole the movie from Jeffrey Hunter and the rest of John Ford's familiar cast.

To learn more about Woody Strode, please use this link.

Ward Bond (1903 - 1960) was an actor who, early on, worked mostly for John Ford in his epic westerns and often beside John Wayne. He played many sleazy bad guys, but could also play the good-hearted sidekick. He achieved a level of stardom in later years as the star of the TV series, WAGON TRAIN.

Another actor with a wonderfully gravelly speaking voice, he was the personification of the 'the big lug' in many of his roles.

To learn more about Ward Bond, please use this link.

Jeanette Nolan (1911 - 1998) was a hard working, versatile actress who began her long career playing a variety of parts, but mostly personified the doting grandma as she got older.

But she could also play nasty and underhanded despite her harmless appearance.

She was married to fellow character actor, John McIntire for 56 years, until his death.

To learn more about Jeanette Nolan, please use this link.

Lee Van Cleef (1925 - 1989) was the ultimate, steely-eyed, chiseled cheekbones, bad guy in tons of 50's and 60's westerns. He also achieved some level of stardom (unusual for a villainous character actor) in the occasional spaghetti western in the 1960's.

He had the slinky appearance, usually dressed in black, of the hard-living, sinister gun fighter who relished his role as arbiter of death.. I would have loved to have seen him playing against type sometime, but I don't think I ever did.

To learn more about Lee Van Cleef, please use this link.

If you don't see your favorites, then please check my previous two posts before you begin lamenting. I might have included them there. But fear not, if I didn't, they might be coming up in a future post.

This is my third entry in a series about My Favorite Character Actors, that I've begun to do monthly.

To read the previous two posts, please use this link and secondly, this link.


  1. I love the work of Jeanette Nolan. I believe her best work was on The Richard Boone Show, where every week the same cast performed a different teleplay. She is also quite memorable in a couple of The Twilight Zone episodes.

  2. Mike: I loved all these actors. Such memorable faces too, occasionally upstaging the leads.

    I don't remember the Richard Boone Show, but I do remember HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL.

  3. Hello Yvette:
    Zucco and Daniells,our absolute favourite Professor Moriartys. Evil oozed from every pore and just a look was enough to turn mere mortals to stone.

  4. Yvette - The Richard Boone Show only ran for one season in the early 1960's. I've recently seen around six of the episodes and they are wonderful. It was the same cast every week doing a different drama. The cast consisted of Lloyd Bochner, Bethel Leslie, Ford Rainy, Harry Morgan, Guy Stockwell, Warren Stevens, Jeanette Nolan and Richard Boone. The scripts were written by some of the top writers of the day like Clifford Odets and Rod Serling. The show never found an audience, but I believe it won an Emmy.

  5. Jane and Lance, I couldn't have said it any better myself. :)

  6. Mike, it does sound fabulous. I know every single name you mentioned. How about that?

    Maybe I'll come across a couple of episodes myself.

    I like the idea of using the same cast over and over in different parts.

    Timothy Hutton did this with the Nero Wolfe series starring Murray Chaykin, of a few years ago.

  7. I'd like to see the "Richard Boone Show", too. Love those '50s and '60s anthology shows.

    Great bunch of character actors, Yvette.

  8. Thanks, Jacqueline. I'm determined to do one of these a month until I cover all my very favorites - mostly from the past. :)

  9. Ward Bond was one of the best - he could play so many different types of characters. I swear sometimes he could get taller or shorter for different roles! I like Jeanette Nolan too - I've seen her a number of times this year, mostly in '60s TV.

    Have you ever seen The Big Clock (1948)? Elsa Lanchester had a really good comedic part in that, as a fluttery, eccentric artist.

  10. Great list. One minor correction: Woody Strode lived until 1994.

  11. I remember most of these actors from their parts in the movies mentioned and others.

    But I loved Elsa Lancaster as the bride of Frankstein. Who could be better?

    And whatever I saw her in, she was excellent. A real favorite.

    What a marriage she and Charles Laughton must have had? I can't even imagine it.

    I'll add The Big Clock to that ever-growing nostalgic movie list.

  12. Elizabeth: I saw THE BIG CLOCK many years ago. Time to see it again. :)

    Ward Bond could do just about anything, I guess. He was wonderful.

  13. I'm so sorry about that blip, Hal. Thanks for correcting me.

  14. Kathy, I too often wondered about that marriage. You have to wonder sometimes what makes certain marriages work. Actually they looked kind of cute together. :)

  15. Lee Van Cleef - now there's an actor who sent a chill down your spine by just looking at you. He once said, "Being born with a pair of beady eyes was the best thing that ever happened to me." He doesn't move much, only his shifty eyes do. He and Eastwood entertained well together.

  16. Well, I read about Laughton and Lanchester's marriage and from what I read, he was gay. She caught him in a relationship with a young man and kicked him out.

    But they did stay together through thick and thin. She was with him at the end of his life.

    Wikipedia lists her movies.

  17. Lee Van Cleef was a superb screen presence, Prashant. I agree. There is something about certain types of faces that the camera just loves. Beady eyes and all. :)

    "They had faces then."

  18. I knew that Laughton was gay, Kathy. But I thought she probably knew about it. Love comes in all kinds of accommodations.

  19. Jeanette Nolan was an accomplished Shakespearean actress and was Lady MacBeth to Orson Welles' Macbeth in her early career. She played a nasty villainess (a cop's wife who makes his suicide look like a murder) in THE BIG HEAT with Glenn Ford. It's a shame she ended up playing nothing but crones, hags, and dotty old women in various "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", "Twilight Zone" and "Night Gallery" episodes. She was truly an intense and multi-talented actress. One of the best of her era.

    As for the ensemble cast a lot of early TV shows had a stable of actors they used over and over: "Alfred Hitchock Presents", "Perry Mason", "Twilight Zone" would feature the same actors repeatedly in smaller parts. I think it was a time saver for the casting department and probably a budgetary necessity.

  20. I agree, John, about Jeanette Nolan's work as an actress. But I'll bet she was happy enough to collect a paycheck as she got older.

    You know what Hollywood usually does to older women actresses. They are pitiless.

    Again I say, I like ensemble casts. Whatever their reason for being.

  21. I think Walter Connolly is my favorite, if only for the fact that it's a pretty good bet that if his name is in the credits, the movie will probably be lots of fun.

    P.S. LOVED Elsa Lanchester in The Private Life of Henry VIII.

  22. Lauren: Oh I so agree, he was wonderful. I wish he'd lived longer and done even more films. :)

    He is always my idea of the frazzled father with an ungovernable family.

    Elsa was a hoot.

  23. I love Walter Connolly as Myrna Loy's father in Libeled Lady (one of my favorite movies).

  24. Hmmmmm, you know, I don't think I've ever seen that film, Ryan. I'll have to do something about that. But yeah, Walter Connolly was just the perfect high rent father. :)

  25. You need to see the movie. I'ts terrific with a great cast. Besides Myrna Loy, it has William Powell, Jean Harlow, and Spencer Tracy

  26. Henry's last name was Daniell not Daniells. Sorry to nitpic, but he's such a great villain that it's a shame not to spell his name correctly.

  27. You can nitpick all you want, Deb. I don't mind it. I'd prefer to be corrected than have something eroneous linger on my blog. :)

    The thing is, I KNOW it's Daniell. So shame on me!


Your comment will appear after I take a look.