Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sterling Holloway

Here is another name that is well known to most generations.  Sterling Holloway (1905 - 1992) had a long career, starting in silent films.  He progressed through many stages in his acting.  Some great movies, quite a bit of TV work, and of course, as a popular voice actor for animated features.

In the late silent era, many comedies were two-reelers that ran about 20 minutes.  Features would usually be 60 to 90 minutes.  There were also epic movies such as Napoleon, the 1927 release written by Abel Gance (1889 - 1981), which ran 222 minutes.  Holloway's first feature was Casey at the Bat (1927) starring Wallace Beery (1885 - 1949) and another favorite, Zazu Pitts (1894 - 1963).

Sterling is best known as a comic actor, but he was no stranger to dramas.  In 1933 he appears in Hell Below with Robert Montgomery (1904 - 1981) and Walter Huston (1884 - 1950).

I remember picking him out in Gold Diggers of 1933 in an uncredited part.  He was in two movies with Will Rogers (1879 - 1935), and started working for Walt Disney (1901 - 1966) in Dumbo (1941) and then Bambi (1942), plus many others.  

Another good dramatic role was in the war movie Walk in the Sun in 1945, starring Dana Andrews (1909 - 1992).  He also worked on four Frank Capra (1897 0 1991) films, including two education movies, Our Mr. Sun (1956) and Hemo the Magnificent (1957).

Holloway's earliest TV work was in 1949, before many people had TVs, but he became a regular on "The Adventures of Superman" and "The Life of Riley" in the 1950s.  He can be seen on most of the golden age of TV series'.

In 1963 he scores a part as the fire chief in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, with a cast that has to be the greatest gathering of comedic talent ever attempted.  His last role was on the 1980s hit TV series "Moonlighting" starring Cybill Sheperd (b. 1950) and Bruce Willis (b. 1955).

I think of all his work, his most famous role is as the voice of Winnie the Pooh, which should keep him endeared in the minds of children for years to come.  He was named a Disney Legend in 1991.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Beulah Bondi

Beulah Bondi (1888 - 1981) is one of everyone's favorites when it comes to Bit Actors.  She started as a very successful stage actress on Broadway, and made her first movie at age 43, reprising her Broadway role in Street Scene (1931).

It must have been great being part of the new "Talkies."  Many silent stars were dimming due to voices that didn't match screen expectations, and that left openings for new stars.  It was a chance to work with Lionel Barrymore (1878 - 1954) and many other big names, establishing her reputation as someone you wanted to work with.

She made six films with Barrymore, and also worked with Boris Karloff (1887 - 1969) and Bela Lugosi (1882 - 1956) in The Invisible Ray in 1936; with Errol Flynn (1909 - 1959) and Bette Davis (1908 - 1989) in The Sisters in 1938; and was in the 1940 film version of Our Town.

In 1940 we see her in Remember the Night with Barbara Stanwick (1907 - 1990), and she works with Stanwick again in 1950's The Furies.  A part opposite Clark Gable (1901 - 1960) didn't come until Lone Star in 1952. 

Also in 1952, Bondi started working on TV in some teleplays.  It also agreed with her and most of her later work would be on TV, with occasional movie roles.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, remembers her in her motherly roles.  She played Jimmy Stewart's mother in no less than FOUR movies, and also on TV in "The Jimmy Stewart Show" in 1971!  Most notably in the movies Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and It's a Wonderful Life (1946).

Sadly, at age 92 in 1981, she tripped over her cat and died of the resulting injuries.  Beulah Bondi had quite a career, and no one could doubt how much she added to the movies and TV shows she appeared in.  He last role was on "The Waltons" and she won an Emmy for her effort.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Lady Eve (1941)

I was never a big fan of Barbara Stanwick (1907 - 1990), but in her 101 roles, the majority were made during the golden years of movies, from 1930 to the mid 1950s.  That is when the best Bit Actors and Actresses worked, giving me topics for my blog.

The Lady Eve (1941) starring Henry Fonda (1905 - 1982) and Stanwick, has a supporting cast that just doesn't stop!  Let's take a look.

Charles Coburn (1877 - 1961) has 95 titles to his credit.  He started making movies in the early 1930s and was cast in a Ginger Rogers (1911 - 1995) and James Stewart (1908 - 1997) film, Vivacious Lady in 1938.  He works in movies with some great stars, and in 1940 is in the Hope and Crosby film, Road to Singapore

Coburn's name always seems to be near the top of the cast list.  His persona probably kept it there.  In 1952 he works with Cary Grant (1904 - 1986), Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962) in Monkey Business, and with Monroe again the next year in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  He then starts another career on television in 1950.  His final movie is John Paul Jones (1959), where he played Benjamin Frankin (1706 - 1790 - Franklin made no movies).

William Demarest (1892 - 1983) has 168 titles starting in 1926.  Eric Blore (1887 - 1959) made 86 films, including six with Fred Astaire (1899 - 1987).  Melville Cooper (1896 - 1973) has 101 titles.  Robert Grieg (1879 - 1959) made his name starting with the Marx 100 or so other titles.  And Dora Clement (1881 - 1979) who had bit parts in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Destry Rides Again (1939), and Buck Privates (1941).  Wow!

One last name we should look at is Eugene Pallette (1889 - 1954) who played in 250 movies starting in 1913.  He was in the 1918 Tarzan of the Apes with Elmo Lincoln (1889 - 1952).  Also look for him in My Man Godfrey (1936), he played Friar Tuck in 1938 in The Adventures of Robin Hood, and may be best known as Chick McGann in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  He was a big guy with a bigger voice.

I will have to look for The Lady Eve, because I have never seen it!  Now that I know who is in it, I have no choice.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ned Beatty

Let's take a quick look at Ned Beatty (b. 1937) who is a supporting actor, Bit Actor, and almost a star.

Beatty got his movie start in Deliverance (1972) and he now has 159 titles on IMDb in movies and on TV.  That was the beginning of seven films with his friend, Burt Reynolds (b. 1936). 

He made quite a few decent movies in the 1970s, working with some important actors, actresses and directors.  He has a series of big movies in the later half of that decade.

All the President's Men (1976) with Dustin Hoffman (b. 1937), Robert Redford (b. 1936), and an all star cast
Network (1976) with Faye Dunaway (b. 1941) and William Holden (1918 - 1981)
Silver Streak (1976) with Gene Wilder (b. 1933)
Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) with Richard Burton (1925 - 1984)
Gray Lady Down (1978) with Charlton Heston (1923 - 2008)
Superman (1978) and also Superman II in 1980
1941 (1979) directed by Steven Spielberg (1946)

So that must have been his finest work.

In 1982 he is in The Toy with Jackie Gleason (1916 - 1987) and Richard Pryor (1940 - 2005).  Not all of his movies were big hits.  Purple People Eater (1988), Chattahoochee (1989) and Big Bad John (1990) come to mind...or rather don't come to mind. 

In 1993 he plays the father of Rudy, in a very good film by the same name, and then he takes a role the same year in Ed and His Dead Mother!  Maybe Beatty got caught up in taking anything to make a buck, but in 2002 he was in Thunderpants, which is obviously a movie for young kids.  Here is the description from IMDb.  "An 11-year-old boy's amazing ability to break wind leads him first to fame and then to death row, before it helps him to fulfill his ambition of becoming an astronaut."

During all of those movie contracts, Ned also was in quite a few TV shows and TV movies.  I am sure his best work is divided evenly between the large and small screens.

Ned Beatty was only nominated once for an Oscar, as Best Supporting Actor in Network.  So I will classify him as a great Bit Actor, and continue to enjoy his work.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dick Powell

I know, Dick Powell (1904 - 1963) is certainly not a Bit Actor.  I don't think he ever was...well maybe in his first few films.  I like him, its my blog, so deal with it.

His life must have been exciting.  He was married to Joan Blondell (1906 - 1979) and then to June Allyson (1917 - 2006).  He was originally a singer, and after making hundreds of Busby Berkeley (1895 - 1976) films, all with hundreds of beautiful women, he started making detective movies.  He even sold Humphrey Bogart his famous boat, Santana.

OK, I got carried away.  He only made eleven Busby Berkeley films.

Powell made 58 movies and several TV shows, including his own "The Dick Powell Theater" in the 1960s.  After a few less popular films, he made 42nd Street in 1933 with Berkeley as a choreographer, and Ginger Rogers (1911 - 1995) and Ruby Keeler (1910 - 1993) in the cast.

That same year he made two shorts and six movies, including two other Berkeley musicals, Gold Diggers of 1933 and Footlight Parade

In 1935 he was a bit out of his element in A Midsummer Night's Dream, starring James Cagney (1899 - 1986) and Mickey Rooney (b. 1920).  I think Cagney was out of his element as well.

The war years brought some war movies, including In The Navy (1941) with Abbott and Costello.  Then, in 1944, he was in one of his most popular films, Murder, My Sweet, as the detective Phillip Marlow.  It is considered film noir at its best.

In the 1950s his popularity started to wane and his movies weren't as memorable.  He found good work on TV, and he played Phillip Marlow again on "Climax!" in 1954.

Dick Powell died of cancer in 1963, which may have been attributed to directing a movie near an atomic bomb test site.  The movie was The Conquerer (1956) with John Wayne playing Genghis Kahn.  (Any relation to Madeline Kahn (1942 - 1999)?)  Apparently, several members of the cast and crew also eventually died of cancer.

To me, the best pairing Dick Powell ever did was with the songs of Al Dubin (1891 - 1945) and Harry Warren (1893 - 1981).  His voice will always ring in my memory.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rip Torn

According to his bio on IMDb, Rip Torn (b. 1931) received his nickname from his father, who was also called Rip.  Torn is their real last name.  It sure sounds like a 1960s screen name to me!  And another tidbit, Sissy Spacek (b. 1949) is his cousin.

With 182 titles listed on IMDb, I can only cover some highlights today.  He started on the big screen in 1959 as the dentist in Tennessee Williams' Baby Doll starring Carol Baker (b. 1931), but he found real work on television in his early career.  Let's look at some of his movies.

In 1959 he is in Pork Chop Hill with Gregory Peck (1916 - 2003) and in 1961 he plays Judas in King of Kings.  The next year he was in Sweet Bird of Youth with Paul Newman (1925 - 2008) and his future wife, Geraldine Page (1924 - 1987).

He works with Steve McQueen (1930 - 1980) in Cincinnati Kid (1965).  He also stars in a few movies, Tropic of Cancer in 1970 was a steamy story about the writer Henry Miller (1891 - 1980), and he plays the title role.

He works with Page again in Nasty Habits (1977) where he plays a priest and she a nun.  In 1978 he is in Coma with Michael Douglas (b. 1944).  Notice that he continues to work small roles with very talented actors and actresses.  I am sure there is a long learning process in acting, and his personality allows him to take on any part he is offered.  He even takes a part in a sword and sorcery fantasy called The Beastmaster in 1982.

There was a lot of work in the 1980s, but not much to talk about.  Summer Rental with John Candy (9150 -- 1994) in 1985?  In 1993 he scores a part in RoboCop 3.  Still not the big hit.  In 1996, Down Periscope with Kelsey Grammer (b. 1955) is good, and I think quite funny, but again not a major motion picture.

Then, in 1997, he is cast as Zed in Men in Black.  A very big hit movie with Will Smith (b. 1958) and Tommy Lee Jones (b. 1946).  Plus, sequels to come!  Men in Black II in 2002, and he is currently filming Men in Black III for release in 2012.

Rip Torn has made quite a few more movies than I can mention here.  His TV list is probably bigger than his movies, so maybe that will be a part of a future post.