Memorable character or supporting actors/actresses?

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.

From the classic days: Walter Brennan, Edward Arnold, Charles Lane, Vernon Dent, Franklin Pangbourn, Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Margaret Dumont, Grady Sutton.

More recently, Pete Postletwhaite

Another who just came to mind…Michael Rooker, who was just recently on The Walking Dead as Daryl’s older brother Merle.

He has a slew of credits on both TV and movies, including major films like JFK, Days of Thunder and Mississippi Burning, and shows like Law and Order, CSI: Miami, JAG and Criminal Minds. He’s also been in a lot of slasher flicks over the years.

Steve Buscemi is who I always think of.
Margo Martindale, too.
Mark Pellegrino…

Just to add a quick word for Walter Brennan: he’s often under-appreciated, but he plays the chief villain in MY DARLING CLEMINTINE and is as wicked and villainous a character as one might ever want.

The studio system in the old days used dozens of such character actors, in multiple movies.

Another one that just popped to mind - John Turturro, (Transformers, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Don’t Mess with the Zohan…well, you can’t win them all lol).

Others from O Brother Where Art Thou…John Goodman, Holly Hunter and Charles Durning

And another…James Cromwell (Boardwalk Empire, Babe, W. , I Robot). And I’m really going to date myself here. I remember him on All In the Family as Archie Bunker’s pal Stretch Cunningham.

Pedro Armendariz, Jr.!

Oliver Platt. My wife and I joke that he’s in 50% of all movies made in the past 15 years. (Not really, but he seems to pop up a lot, and almost always in a smaller role.)

Thelma Ritter- She seems to be in about every third movie from that period: Miracle on 34th Street to Rear Window.

Bruce McGill (D-Day from “Animal House”). He’s been everywhere for the past 30-odd years.

Jack Elam, sidekick and bad guy in most every western worth watching. Harey Carey, Jr and Chill Wills, also.

Strother Martin: a guy you loved to hate; think the warden in Cool Hand Luke

Peter Lorre: sniveling miscreant to many A list actors.

I was watching The Bride of Frankenstein tonight and aside from Boris Karloff (or simply Karloff, as he’s billed in this movie), there was a supporting actress named Una O’Connor. She was in this film, The Invisible Man, The Bells of St. Marys and a slough of movies and TV shows from the 1930s until the 1950s. She tended to play maids, landladies, and other generally high-strung, nosy, overwrought busybodies with an Irish accent and shrill voice that could break glass at two hundred yards. She was usually added to a film for comic relief, and her voice and mannerisms made her easily recognizable from film to film, even if her name didn’t.

Here’s my thread challenge: a character actor more over the top & cringe-worthy than Vito Scotti’s Japanese sailor on Gilligan’s Island

J.T. Walsh, Will Patton, Luis Guzmán

Back in the 60s and 70s, it seemed casting directors loved putting certain actors in really specific niches. Want a creepy looking guy of vague ethnicity? Get Vito Scotti. The sarcastic senior? Get Betty Garrett. Need her older and scatterbrained counterpart? Well you can pick either Billie Bird or Nedra Volz.