He's a Character!

by dictracy23 | created - 11 Mar 2014 | updated - 06 Mar 2017 | Public

random order, you pick who's on first!

1. Lewis Stone

Actor | The Sin of Madelon Claudet

By the time that he was 20, Lewis Stone had turned prematurely grey. He enlisted to fight in the Spanish American War and when he returned, he returned to be a writer. This turned to acting and he began to appear in films during the middle teens. His career was again interrupted by war as he served...

2. Allen Jenkins

Actor | Tomorrow at Seven

Both of Allen Jenkins' parents were musical comedy performers, and he entered the theater as a stage mechanic after World War I, after having spent time working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Although his screen persona was that of a not-too-bright Brooklyn tough guy, Jenkins attended the American ...

3. Edward Arnold

Actor | Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Edward Arnold was born as Gunther Edward Arnold Schneider in 1890, on the Lower East Side of New York City, the son of German immigrants, Elizabeth (Ohse) and Carl Schneider. Arnold began his acting career on the New York stage and became a film actor in 1916. A burly man with a commanding style ...

4. Wallace Beery

Actor | Dinner at Eight

In 1902, 16-year-old Wallace Beery joined the Ringling Brothers Circus as an assistant to the elephant trainer. He left two years later after a leopard clawed his arm. Beery next went to New York, where he found work in musical variety shows. He became a leading man in musicals and appeared on ...

5. Basil Rathbone

Actor | The Adventures of Robin Hood

Basil Rathbone was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1892, but three years later his family was forced to flee the country because his father was accused by the Boers of being a British spy at a time when Dutch-British conflicts were leading to the Boer War. The Rathbones escaped to England, ...

6. Nigel Bruce

Actor | Rebecca

Nigel was, from the beginning, typecast as bumbling English aristocrats, military types or drawing room society snobs and, within the narrow parameters of his range, he was very, very good at playing these parts. Nigel Bruce was born in Mexico, where his father, Sir William W. Bruce, worked as an ...

7. Jack Carson

Actor | Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

When Jack Carson arrived in Hollywood in 1937, he found work at RKO as an extra. His first major acting role came alongside Humphrey Bogart in the romantic comedy Stand-In (1937). After a few years, he developed into a popular character actor who would be seen in a large number of comedies, ...

8. Willie Best

Soundtrack | As Good as It Gets

One of the hard-working, unappreciated African-American actors of Hollywood's "Golden Era" who produced good work with what he was given. He starred alongside some of film's great comedians including the Marx Brothers, Bob Hope, Laurel and Hardy and three films with Shirley Temple. In addition to ...

9. Charles Coburn

Actor | The More the Merrier

A cigar-smoking, monocled, swag-bellied character actor known for his Old South manners and charm. In 1918 he and his first wife formed the Coburn Players and appeared on Broadway in many plays. With her death in 1937, he accepted a Hollywood contract and began making films at the age of sixty.

10. Sydney Greenstreet

Actor | The Maltese Falcon

Sydney Greenstreet's father was a leather merchant with eight children. Sydney left home at age 18 to make his fortune as a Ceylon tea planter, but drought forced him out of business and back to England. He managed a brewery and, to escape boredom, took acting lessons. His stage debut was as a ...

11. Donald Crisp

Actor | How Green Was My Valley

Donald Crisp was born George William Crisp at the family home in Bow, London. Donald's parents were James Crisp and Elizabeth Crisp, his birth was registered by his mother on 4th September 1882. Donald's sisters were Elizabeth, Ann, Alice (known as Louisa) and Eliza and his brothers were James, ...

12. James Gleason

Actor | Arsenic and Old Lace

James Gleason was born in New York City to William Gleason and Mina Crolius, who were both in the theatre. He was married to Lucile Gleason (born Lucile Webster), and had a son, Russell Gleason. As a young man James fought in the Spanish-American War. After the war he joined the stock company at ...

13. Alan Hale

Actor | The Adventures of Robin Hood

Alan Hale decided on a film career after his attempt at becoming an opera singer didn't pan out. He quickly became much in demand as a supporting actor, starred in several films for Cecil B. DeMille and directed others for him. With the advent of sound Hale played leads in a few films, but soon ...

14. Boris Karloff

Actor | Bride of Frankenstein

Along with fellow actors Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price, Boris Karloff is recognized as one of the true icons of horror cinema, and the actor most closely identified with the general public's perception of the "monster" from the classic Mary Shelley book, "Frankenstein". William Henry ...

15. Guy Kibbee

Actor | Captain January

Beginning his show business career at age 13 as an entertainer on Mississippi riverboats, Guy Kibbee graduated to the legitimate stage and spent many years in the theater. In the 1930s he was signed by Warner Brothers, and became part of what was known as "the Warner Brothers Stock Company", a ...

16. Frank McHugh

Actor | All Through the Night

The parents of Frank McHugh ran their own stock company and he was on the stage as a child. When he was 10 he was part of an act that include his brother Matt McHugh and sister Kitty McHugh. After vaudeville and other stock companies, Frank debuted on Broadway "The Fall Guy" (1925). In 1930 he was ...

17. Adolphe Menjou

Actor | Paths of Glory

The words "suave" and "debonair" became synonymous with the name Adolphe Menjou in Hollywood, both on- and off-camera. The epitome of knavish, continental charm and sartorial opulence, Menjou, complete with trademark waxy black mustache, evolved into one of Hollywood's most distinguished of artists...

18. Donald Meek

Actor | Stagecoach

One Hollywood stalwart whose screen incarnations more than lived up to his name was bald-domed character actor Donald Meek, forever typecast as mousy, timorous or browbeaten Casper Milquetoasts. He stood at 5 ft. 6 in. in his boots and weighed a mere 81 pounds. However, the little Glaswegian's ...

19. Frank Morgan

Actor | The Wizard of Oz

Jovial, somewhat flamboyant Frank Morgan (born Francis Wuppermann) will forever be remembered as the title character in The Wizard of Oz (1939), but he was a veteran and respected actor long before he played that part, and turned in outstanding performances both before and after that film. One of ...

20. Thomas Mitchell

Actor | Stagecoach

Thomas Mitchell was one of the great American character actors, whose credits read like a list of the greatest films of the 20th century: Lost Horizon (1937); Stagecoach (1939); The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939); Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939); Gone with the Wind (1939); It's a Wonderful Life...

21. Eugene Pallette

Actor | The Adventures of Robin Hood

This eminently recognisable, bulbous, beetle-browed character actor left Culver Military Academy and began acting in repertory companies before becoming a Hollywood extra and stunt man. Eugene's father had also been a thesp at one time but eventually ended his career as an insurance salesman. In ...

22. Charles Ruggles

Actor | Murder in the Private Car

Charles Ruggles had one of the longest careers in Hollywood, lasting more than 50 years and encompassing more than 100 films. He made his film debut in 1914 in The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914) and worked steadily after that. He was memorably paired with Mary Boland in a series of comedies in the ...

23. Claude Rains

Actor | Casablanca

William Claude Rains, born in the Clapham area of London, was the son of the British stage actor Frederick Rains. The younger Rains followed, making his stage debut at the age of eleven in "Nell of Old Drury." Growing up in the world of theater, he saw not only acting up close but the down-to-earth...

24. C. Aubrey Smith

Actor | Rebecca

Movie roles are sometimes based upon what the audience expects to see. If the role called for the tall stereotypical Englishmen with the stiff upper lip and stern determination, that man would be C. Aubrey Smith, graduate of Cambridge University, a leading Freemason and a test cricketer for England...

25. George Tobias

Actor | Sergeant York

American character actor who specialized in none-too-bright pals of the lead, though his range included villains and ethnic types. A native of New York City, he began acting at 15. He studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse and played on Broadway with the Theatre Guild, and with the Provincetown ...

26. Nat Pendleton

Actor | The Thin Man

Brawn won out over brain as well when it came to wrestler athlete Nat Pendleton's professional movie career. For two decades, this massively-built, dark-haired, good-looking lug played a number of kind-hearted lunkheads, goons, henchmen and Joe Palooka-like buffoons.

Nathaniel Greene Pendleton was ...

27. Peter Lorre

Actor | Casablanca

Peter Lorre was born László Lowenstein on Rózsahegy, Hungary. He was educated in elementary and secondary schools in Vienna, Austria. As a youth, he ran away from home, worked as a bank clerk and, after stage training in Vienna, made his acting debut in Zurich. He remained unknown, traveling for ...

28. Edward Everett Horton

Actor | Arsenic and Old Lace

It seemed like Edward Everett Horton appeared in just about every Hollywood comedy made in the 1930s. He was always the perfect counterpart to the great gentlemen and protagonists of the films. Horton was born in Brooklyn, New York City, to Isabella S. (Diack) and Edward Everett Horton, a ...

29. Raymond Massey

Actor | Arsenic and Old Lace

Educated at the University of Toronto & Balliol College, Oxford, he joined the Canadian Field Artillery in World War I, served in France & was wounded. His first appearance was in a stage production in Siberia, during its occupation by American Forces in 1918. Raymond returned to Canada & the farm ...

30. Harry Davenport

Actor | Gone with the Wind

Character fame on film came quite late for long-time stage actor Harry Davenport at age 70, but he made up for lost time in very quick fashion with well over a hundred film roles registered from the advent of sound to the time of his death in 1949. Beloved for his twinkle-eyed avuncular and/or ...

31. Franklin Pangborn

Actor | Hail the Conquering Hero

Franklin Pangborn - a name more befitting a fictionalized bank president rather than a great comedic actor - was a singular character actor but little is known of his early years. He spent some time in developing acting talent prior to appearing on Broadway by March of 1911, and would do six plays ...

32. Lionel Barrymore

Actor | Key Largo

Famed actor, composer, artist, author and director. His talents extended to the authoring of the novel "Mr. Cartonwine: A Moral Tale" as well as his autobiography. In 1944, he joined ASCAP, and composed "Russian Dances", "Partita", "Ballet Viennois", "The Woodman and the Elves", "Behind the Horizon...

33. Edward G. Robinson

Actor | Key Largo

Emanuel Goldenberg arrived in the United States from Romania at age ten, and his family moved into New York's Lower East Side. He took up acting while attending City College, abandoning plans to become a rabbi or lawyer. The American Academy of Dramatic Arts awarded him a scholarship, and he began ...

34. Walter Brennan

Actor | Red River

In many ways the most successful and familiar character actor of American sound films and the only actor to date to win three Oscars for Best Supporting Actor, Walter Brennan attended college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studying engineering. While in school he became interested in acting and ...

35. Eric Blore

Actor | Top Hat

Born in London, Eric Blore came out of college and started his working life as an insurance agent. But while touring in Australia he took an interest in the stage and theater. He gave up his insurance job and turned to acting after returning to England. With his elfish long, straight nose, ...

36. Felix Bressart

Actor | Ninotchka

With his lanky frame, big nose, toothbrush moustache and horn-rimmed glasses he looked like someone had decided to cross Groucho Marx with Albert Einstein. The perennial scene-stealer Felix Bressart had two distinct careers as a comic actor: an earlier one, on stage and screen in his native Germany...

37. Walter Connolly

Actor | It Happened One Night

The name may have been forgotten, especially today (seven decades later), but the portly, apoplectic, exasperated figure on the 1930s screen wasn't. While his film career, save a couple of silents, lasted a paltry seven years (1932-1939), character actor Walter Connolly certainly ran the distance. ...

38. William Demarest

Actor | It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

A stocky, serious-looking character, Carl William Demarest started off in vaudeville in 1905 along with two older brothers. At one time he also performed in a stage act with his wife Estelle Collette (billed as 'Demarest and Collette') and then moved on to Broadway. He entered movies in 1926 and ...

39. Alan Mowbray

Actor | The Man Who Knew Too Much

Alan Mowbray, the American film actor who was one of the founding members of the Screen Actors Guild, was born Ernest Allen on August 18, 1896, in London, England, to a non-theatrical family. He served in the British army during World War I and received the Military Medal and the French Croix De ...

40. S.Z. Sakall

Actor | Casablanca

Hungarian-born S.Z. Sakall was a veteran of German, Hungarian and British films when he left Europe because of the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement. In Hollywood from shortly after the outbreak of World War II, Sakall began appearing in comedies and musicals, often playing a lovable if ...

41. Walter Slezak

Actor | Born to Kill

Tall, portly Viennese character actor Walter Slezak simultaneously pursued two different careers after his arrival in America in 1930: one, as a star of musical comedy on the stage, and another, as a portrayer of villains, impish rogues or pompous buffoons on screen.

Walter was born in May 1902 in ...

42. Keenan Wynn

Actor | Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

The talented scion of a show-business family, Keenan Wynn's father was the great burlesque and television buffoon Ed Wynn while his maternal grandfather, Frank Keenan, earned distinction on the other side of the entertainment ladder as a Shakespearean tragedian. Mother Hilda Keenan was also a minor...

43. Arthur Treacher

Actor | Mary Poppins

Born Arthur Veary Treacher in Brighton, East Sussex, England, he was the son of a lawyer. He established a stage career after returning from World War I, and by 1928, he had come to America as part of a musical-comedy revue called Great Temptations. When his film career began in the early 1930s, ...

44. Henry Travers

Actor | It's a Wonderful Life

British-born Henry Travers was a veteran of the English stage before emigrating to the U.S. in 1917. He gained more stage experience there on Broadway working with the Theatre Guild, and began his long film career with Reunion in Vienna (1933). Travers' kindly, grandfatherly demeanor became ...

45. Brian Donlevy

Actor | Beau Geste

It seems that Brian Donlevy started out life as colorfully as any character he ever played on the stage or screen. He lied about his age (he was actually 14) in 1916 so he could join the army. When Gen. John J. Pershing sent American troops to invade Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa--Mexican ...

46. Lou Costello

Actor | Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein

Lou Costello was born Louis Francis Cristillo in Paterson, New Jersey, to Helen (Rege) and Sebastiano Cristillo. His father was from Calabria, Italy, and his mother was an American of Italian, French, and Irish ancestry. Raised in Paterson, Costello dropped out of high school and headed west to ...

47. Clarence Kolb

Actor | His Girl Friday

Contrary to his familiar image, Clarence Kolb started out as one half of a vaudeville comedy act, Kolb and Dill. He made a few shorts in 1916 and a feature in 1917, but went back to vaudeville and the stage immediately thereafter, and did not return to films until the late 1930s. His stern, ...

48. George E. Stone

Actor | Some Like It Hot

A minor prototype of the "Runyon-esque" character for more than three decades, Polish-born actor George E. Stone (né George Stein) was in actuality a close friend of writer Damon Runyon and would play a host of colorful "dees, dem and dos" cronies throughout the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. With great ...

49. John Qualen

Actor | Casablanca

One of the best and most familiar character actors of the first four decades of sound films, although few who knew his face also knew his name, John Qualen was born in Canada to Norwegian parents. His father was a minister. The family moved to the United States and Qualen (whose real name was ...

50. Willie Fung

Actor | The Gay Falcon

Willie Fung was born on March 3, 1896 in Canton, China. He was an actor, known for The Gay Falcon (1941), Shanghai (1935) and 6,000 Enemies (1939). He died on April 16, 1945 in Los Angeles, California, USA.

51. Stepin Fetchit

Actor | Judge Priest

Stepin Fetchit remains one of the most controversial movie actors in American history. While he was undoubtedly one of the most talented physical comedians ever to do his shtick on the Big Screen, achieving the rare status of being a character actor/supporting player who actually achieved superstar...

52. Rags Ragland

Actor | Whistling in Brooklyn

Rags Ragland was a boxer, then a burlesque comedian and then a Broadway performer before ending up in Hollywood to repeat his stage role as the boisterous sailor in Panama Hattie (1942), in which Ann Sothern played on film the part that had been played on Broadway by Ethel Merman. Ragland, typecast...

53. Paul Muni

Actor | Scarface

Paul Muni was born Sept. 22, 1895, in Lemberg, Austro-Hungarian Empire, to Salli and Phillip Weisenfreund, who were both professionals. His family was Jewish, and spoke Yiddish. Paul was educated in New York and Cleveland public schools. He was described as 5 feet 10 inches, with black hair and ...

54. Harry Cording

Actor | The Adventures of Robin Hood

Burly bit part actor often seen in the Sherlock Holmes movies of the '40's as a menacing chauffer, sailor or Cockney. His speaking parts were always well done and added considerably to the B grade movies of the period .

55. Charley Grapewin

Actor | The Wizard of Oz

This old codger film favorite, born in 1869 (some reports say 1875), got into the entertainment field at an early age, first as a circus performer (aerialist and trapeze artist). When acting sparked his interest, he worked in a series of stock companies while writing stage plays that he himself ...



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