At least one Russian, Mischa Auer, has made a full life out of bit acting. I suppose I first saw him in Destry Rides Again, the 1939 version with Jimmy Stewart. Then I started noticing him in everything!
Check out this list of major films...
My Man Godfrey
Pick a Star (I consider it a major film...Laurel and Hardy are in it!)
You Can't Take it with You
Destry (of course)
Mischa Auer had a total of 175 roles, from a 1928 silent film called Something Always Happens, to an Italian romance film called For Love...For Magic in 1967, the year he died. Some of these are major films with major stars, and they used Mischa in parts that he was able to bring life to.
He even worked with a young Humphrey Bogart in a film called Women of all Nations in 1931. Bogart's scenes were deleted from the final cut, and Mischa's part went uncredited. I wonder if they spent any time together and talked about their careers. Bogart was born in 1899 and Auer was born six years later, but they both started in films in 1928.
My wife and I love You Can't Take it with You. Frank Capra directing Lionel Barrymore, Jean Arthur, Jimmy Stewart, Ann Miller and Mischa Auer. If the story was trash, the cast would have carried the film.
Dub Taylor, another famous bit actor, started his career in this film, and ended it in Maverick in 1994. Ann Miller was only 15 years old, but she was already spinning! (I think my wife likes Ann Miller the best.)
Let's see...Spring Byington, Mary Forbes, Eddie Anderson, Charles Lane, Ward Bond...the cast of this movie is about 155 strong. I believe that what makes some movies great is not only the leads, but casting really good bit actors who can add to the film, but sometimes remain in the background so they don't overshadow the story.
One last thing. I added a search box to my blog. It should work if you want to see if I have touched base on any of your favorite movies or actors!