The Golden Age of Hollywood

I didnt see a thread here talking about the great character actors so I thought, hey lets see if i can get one going!

One of the great things about Old Hollywood and the "Studio System" was that each studio had their roster of ever-reliable workhorse character actors...we see these same faces popping up in film after film after film, sometimes they play a variety of character types, sometimes they seem to play the same person in every film, but regardless they always make me smile and many of them were formidable talents who most definitely kept the leading players on their toes!

Some were what i call crossover actors in that sometimes they had lead parts, other times they played character roles (Claude Rains, Joan Blondell anyone?) while others seemed to make a career out of mostly unbilled bit parts (i.e. the immortal Charles Lang!)

I'll start with one of my all-time fave WB character guys: Mr Robert Barrat!

Tall, physically imposing and forceful, Mr Barrat appears in almost 90 films in just the decade of the 1930's alone! Some being substantial roles in A pictures too, such as "The Life of Emile Zola" (1937)..but usually he had small character parts, quite often a heavy, which is something he excelled at like few others! I'm sure even those of you that arent familiar with his name might recognize his face :)

One of Mr Barrat's most unforgettable roles is in the film "Mountain Justice" (1937) starring Josephine Hutchinson and George Brent and Directed by Michael Curtiz...Mr Barrat plays Hutchinson's mentally and physically abusive religious zealot backwoods hillbilly father with such intensity and conviction he is just downright scary!

He is also quite memorable as a loud mouthed communist turned raging capitalist in William Wellman's excellent "Heroes for Sale" (1933) with Richard Barthelmess and Loretta Young, as a mentally deranged strongman obsessed with Ruth Chatterton in Wellman's "Lily Turner" (1933), and as the disgusting low-life father to Barbara Stanwyck in the classic pre-code scorcher "Babyface" (1933 again, lol). 

I attached a scan of a vintage promotional still i have of Mr Barrat from "Mountain Justice" and below it is a very nice vintage autograph album page signed by him sometime in the mid 1930's that i acquired very recently!

OK so lets hear who your fave character actors and actresses are! I am hoping to learn something as i am not very well-versed in character players from studios besides WB!



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haha omg i LOOOVE Ian Wolfe!! when i was a kid my intro to him was on 2 diff Star Trek eps, "Bread and Circuses" and "All of our Yesterdays"!  but yeah holy crap is he in a lot of films and he always looks the same, lol! he has a great voice too, i would recognize him just by his voice alone i think! great choice Patti!

a quick look on IMDB and i counted over 50 of his films i have seen at some time or another and i didnt even bother getting into the 60's, lol! i LOVE his character in Hitchcock's "Saboteur", so reserved when hes bonking Bob Cummings on the head with a blackjack!

oh god yes Ward shows up all the time! he is a fantastic actor and appears in some of the greatest films ever made thats for sure. Just his work with Ford alone entitles him to legend status in my book. i guess Ford and the Duke used to kid him about his huge behind, apparently they once sent him a picture with duke on one side, ford on the other and a horse facing backwards in the middle and the caption "wish you were here" something like that i cant recall exactly. and in the Searchers, Ward gets an injury to said large behind courtesy of Patrick Wayne! 

haha no kidding right? and the sad thing is NOW i notice Ward's big butt ALL the time!!!

My next character actor to showcase is the amazing Guy Kibbee! Over 100 film appearances in less than a 20 year career (80 of them in the decade of the 1930's!), many at his home studio of Warner Bros. Kibbee very often played a drunk/womanizer type and i must say was most convincing in the part haha! He is truly memorable as the dumb cluck political candidate Zachary Hicks in WB outrageous political satire "The Dark Horse" starring an equally outrageous Warren William. He appeared in several WB Busby Berkeley musicals, several James Cagney films and a couple of Capra pictures as well :D I always smile when i see his name in the opening credits!
attached is a small publicity shot, another of him and Joan Blondell from "Gold diggers of 1933" and also an autograph album page signed by Mr Kibbee that I have owned for some time now and must find a good vintage photo to frame it up with!


I just love Guy Kibbee.  I see him in so many movies, like Blonde Crazy, Union Depot, The Strange Love of Molly Louvain, Big City Blues, Rain, 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade, Wonder Bar, Mr Smith Goes to Washington.  

I especially love him in Captain January as the lighthouse keeper, and the father/grandfather figure to little Star Mason (adorable Shirley Temple), a foundling he rescued from a shipwreck.  Such a great movie.  Other great character actors in that movie include Slim Summerville, Sara Haden and Jane Darwell.  Jane Darwell deserves special mention on this thread I think.  I've seen her as so many wonderful characters in so many great films, including Mary Poppins and The Grapes of Wrath.

Other character actors I like are Eric Blore, Arthur Treacher and Frank Morgan and many,many more.  Its these and all the other great character actors in movies during the Thirties that made them so great!

you know, as ashamed as i am to admit it being a WB guy, i still have yet to see Wonder Bar! and i have never seen Capt January either! i have the silent version with Baby Peggy waiting here to be viewed tho. i suppose one day i will have to grin and bear a shirley temple film to see Kibbe in one of his best known roles :)

all the other films you mentioned, i have seen and Kibbee is great in them all. I LOVE Union Depot and Blonde Crazy and i finally got to see Molly Louvain for the first time a couple of months ago. Ann Dvorak is so good in that, as always!

Frank Morgan is sort of MGM's equivalent to Guy Kibbee, often playing a drunkard, lol. He too is a fantastic actor, and what a voice!

Yes, my son used to love Captain January (he can't remember it now he says).  He thought Shirley was so cool because she got to live in a lighthouse.  That really captured his imagination.

It's actually Sara Haden on the bus with the little girl (Jane Withers) and not Jane Darwell as the clip's title suggests.

Jane Darwell

Arthur Treacher (seen here with Shirley Temple in Curly Top, above)

Eric Blore (3rd from left) with other players in Top Hat

haha oh dear god i do LOVE Eric Blore! he's Warren Willam's man servant in almost all of the Lone Wolf films made at Columbia and they are a smashingly good team i must say! Arthur Treacher is also quite hilarious, i just saw him in "Personal Maid's Secret" a WB quickie B film, and recently also in "Step Lively Jeeves" with my beloved Patricia Ellis.

Jane Darwell is a fantastic actress! ever see "The Ox-Bow Incident"? my god she plays so against type, she is really nasty...i remember when i saw that for the first time i was quite taken aback by her!

great choices Karen!

on the far left in that picture from "Top Hat" is another amazing character actor the eternally awesome Edward Everett Horton, best remembered by me as "Roaring Chicken" on F-Troop, lol! but he is in so many films, always a friendly face to see! and what a face too, lol!

Oh yes, I absolutely LOVE Edward Everett Horton.  I just saw him recently in Lonely Wives, where he has 2 roles!  A funny movie adapted to the screen from a stage play.  There is more on this film at Ktrek's thread "What's the last classic film you've seen" (or a similar name to that).

I love Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore in the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films.  They are so great together!


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