View Full Version : Good actors who started late

09-19-2003, 10:34 AM
I watched Little Big Man (http://imdb.com/title/tt0065988/) for about the 215th time last night and was, as always, blown away by the performance of Chief Dan George (http://collections.ic.gc.ca/heirloom_series/volume5/george1b.jpg) as Dustin Hoffman's adoptive grandfather, Old Lodge Skins. Dan George (born Teswano Shaholt), who didn't begin acting until he was past 60, won several awards and was nominated for an Oscar and deservedly so- it was a simply brilliant performance.*

Abe Vigoda didn't become a professional actor (other than some extra work) until he was 50 (when he hit the motherlode with a major supporting role in THE GODFATHER). John McGiver (http://personal.cobleskill.edu/mcgivetp/dad.JPG)** , who was royalty among the "that's whatshisname" actors (often played stuffed-shirt bankers, butlers, etc.), was a high school teacher with an enormous family before he developed a successful career as a character actor.

Who are some other actors or actresses who started late but made up for lost time?

*One of my favorite things about both the movie and Dan George's performance was that they avoided not only the charicatures of so many John Wayne westerns but also avoided the noble savage cliche. Indians were shown as nothing more or less than "Human Beings" with both good and bad among their midst. It's also one of the few movies to depict Indians as having a fully developed sense of humor (you rarely even see Indians laugh in a movie).

**The picture is from a web site managed by one of his sons, a professor at SUNY.

Mr Jim
09-19-2003, 10:48 AM
Alan Rickman didn't really get into acting til he was in his mid twenties (late if you compare to most other actors). He entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts at the age of 26 for 3 yrs and his first major movie role wasn't til he was 35 in Die Hard.

09-19-2003, 10:55 AM
Haing Ngor (http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0628955/) was 44 when he debuted in The Killing Fields.

09-19-2003, 11:01 AM
Allan Arbus, best known as Dr. Sidney Freedman from numerous guest appearances on the TV series M*A*S*H was born in 1918 but his earliest listed film credit is 1961's Hey, Let's Twist. Before then he mostly worked in fashion photography with his then wife, acclaimed photographer Diane Arbus, he also ran a commercial photography and development studio that he closed when he moved to LA to pursue acting.

09-19-2003, 11:14 AM
The TV immortal Burt Mustin (http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0615993/) was a salesman until he got into acting in the late 1940s. He was in his 60s when he debuted in films, and made a great living once TV came in, playing old codgers in hundreds of guest appearances.

Harold Gould's first movie credit was when he was past 40; he became a busy character actor. He had been a drama teacher before becoming an actor.

Lee Strasberg did some acting as a young man, but switched to directing and -- most famously -- teaching acting. His film debut was when he was 73, and he got an Oscar nomination for it.

Anne Ramsey first role was when she was 43; she became a minor star after her performance in Throw Mama From the Train.

09-19-2003, 12:10 PM
One I just remembered is Peg Phillips, who was in her late 60s when she started acting. A resident of Washington state, she got her big break as a bit player in Northern Exposure but proved so good and so talented that she became a 'name in the title credits regular' as the senior citizen store owner Ruth Ann. As with Chief Dan George's performance, a beauty of her role was that it avoided the usual cliches: she wasn't obsessed with sex like The Golden Girls or goofily senile like old people on other shows.

09-19-2003, 12:52 PM
Sydney Greenstreet and Clifton Webb made their film debuts at advanced ages, but they had long careers on the stage before that.

Robert Benchley was a very successful author and editor; in his later 30s, he began to act a little (starting with his own skit, "The Treasurer's Report") and slowly drifted into films as a character actor.

09-19-2003, 02:03 PM
Gene Hackman (http://www149.pair.com/marilynn/hackman.htm) didn't decide on acting until he was 30. I think he's pretty damn skilled.

Sir Rhosis
09-19-2003, 02:03 PM
Didn't George Kennedy only begin acting after retiring from the Army (at least 37-38 at the youngest)?

R. Lee Ermy was also a former military vet who got into films late, probably in his 30s as well.

Sir Rhosis

09-19-2003, 02:12 PM
Wasn't Danny Aeillo discovered in his 40s?

Little Nemo
09-19-2003, 07:48 PM
John Houseman's was 71 when he made his onscreen debut in The Paper Chase.

09-19-2003, 08:23 PM
Margaret Rutherford, who won a Best Supporting Oscar for her role in THE V.I.Ps started acting at 33 but didn't establish herself until she was in her 70's when she portrayed Agatha Christie's Miss Marple in a series of murder mysteries.

09-19-2003, 08:58 PM
Paul Ford had a successful career in advertising.

John Mahoney, I believe, had been a magazine editor in Chicago.

09-19-2003, 09:06 PM
Linda Gray, who played Sue Ellen on "Dallas" was in her mid-thirties before she ever did anything. She may not be doing much now (that I know of) but she was great as the booze-swilling, long-suffering wife of J. R. Ewing.

I always liked her, and her character. I always thought she and J. R. were the perfect "enabling" match for each other!

Sam Stone
09-20-2003, 01:03 AM
Senator Fred Thompson Got his first role in No Way OUt in 1987. He was 45 at the time.

Tim R. Mortiss
09-20-2003, 01:19 AM
Dennis Farina, formerly a Chicago cop, only started acting after being "discoverd" while working security for a film being made in Chicago. I believe he was in his late 40s at the time....Timmy

09-20-2003, 07:15 AM
Regarding Sidney Greenstreet-I belive his first big hit was "THE MALTESE FALCON"-when he was 61. Granted, he had been a stage actor before that, but it surely is amazing to be so successful so late in one's career.

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