This was a thread sometime back, and I stumbled on it during a Google search for an actor’s name. It seems to have gone inactive, so I thought I’d take a shot at it again.
Who stands out in your mind as a character or supporting actor/actress? They’re not the top-billed actors, but usually third or fourth on the billing in today’s films, or in the case of older films, lumped in with the other “bit players”.
There were more of this type of actor during the studio system in Hollywood from the 30s to the 70s. They were bit players under contract with the various studios who were pulled in to fill various roles, whose faces became known even if the name didn’t. But they also usually had careers spanning decades, usually with appearances on TV as well as movies.
Some examples from this era: Elisha Cook Jr. (The Maltese Falcon, Spielberg’s 1941), Mary Wickes (The Man Who Came to Dinner, Now Voyager, Sister Act), Guy Kibbee (Gold Diggers of 1933, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, 42nd Street) and Eugene Pallette (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, My Man Godfrey, The Lady Eve)
There aren’t as many today because of independent production companies making most of the films. A few that spring to mind are Don Cheadle, Viggo Mortensen, Alan Ryckman, Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton.