Saturday, August 21, 2010

Regis Toomey (1898 - 1991)

I know, everyone who is familiar with classic films has heard the name Regis Toomey.  Can you name five movies he's been in?  QUICK!!!  He has 264 roles to his credit on IMDb, starting in 1929 and continuing for 58 years!

He started out on the stage and in musical productions.  His early films included many leading roles, but as the years went by, he found himself in more supporting parts as a character actor.

His first film was Alibi in 1929 with Chester Morris and Mae Busch.  Of course, Mae is a favorite of Laurel and Hardy fans.  Toomey worked with her again in 1934's Picture Brides.  Half of his filmography is in his first two decades of film acting.

He made three films with James Cagney including G-Men in 1935, The Big Sleep with Humphrey Bogart in 1946, two with Edward G. Robinson, three with Gary Cooper including Meet John Doe in 1941, etc.  Toomey was also starring in his own films, while working with these greats.  But by 1940, he was slipping down the cast list and occasionally took an uncredited role.

He worked with Cary Grant in His Girl Friday (1940) and The Bishop's Wife (1947).  In 1945 he appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound with Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck.  He was uncredited in Show Boat in 1951.

In the early fifties he worked in a few teleplays.  Television must have been an easy way to continue some income, but he didn't stop making movies.  In 1953 he had a small part with John Wayne in Island in the Sky, and then with The Duke again in 1954's The High and the Mighty.

More films followed, and increasing parts on TV.  Guys and Dolls in 1955 was probably his last major film.  He found regular work in TV westerns and other series' such as "The Loretta Young Show."  He appears several time on "Cheyenne" and "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color."

His best TV roles came in the sixties, and would have been on "Burke's Law" with Gene Barry where he played detective Les Hart, and he appeared on "Green Acres" as a doctor, who then found himself in a recurring role on "Petticoat Junction."  Not a bad place to be, in a very popular series.

He had a few more TV and movie roles, and his last film was Evil Town in 1987 about "a crazed scientist creating an army of zombies."  Not a great way to end a career.

Now do you remember Regis?  I know you have seen many of his pictures, or you wouldn't be reading my blog.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Madame Curie (1943)

I hadn't seen Madame Curie in quite a few years, and last night, just as I turned on Turner Classic Films, it had just started.  Fortuitous!

Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon star in the 1943 biopic about the woman who discovered polonium and radium, and also coined the term radioactive.  (I told you we weren't finished with physics!)  Obviously, Curie set the stage for many things to come in the world.

But I am interested in the movie, and especially the bit parts.  Let's look.

Of course, one of the first actors I recognized was Henry Travers (1874 - 1965), who also played Clarence the Angel in It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and Mr. Bogardus in The Bells of St. Mary's in 1945.  In Madame Curie he played Pierre Curie's father.  His voice gave him away.

Van Johnson (1916 - 2008) has a small part in this, his eleventh film.  Gene Lockhart (1891 - 1957), father of June, has an uncredited bit part somewhere in there.  This was four years before he played the judge in Miracle on 34th St. 

Alan Napier (1903 - 1988) appears here, and the same year he is also in The Song of Bernadette.  Napier played in 145 roles from 1930 to 1981, and is probably best remembered as Alfred the Butler on TV's "Batman" series.  He was a good actor and we should seek out other things he is in.  Did you know he had a bit part in My Fair Lady?  He was also the high priest in The Mole People in 1956.  I guess they can't all be hits.

Lastly, I want to mention Frederick Worlock (1886 - 1973) who had an extra's part in Madame Curie.  He made over 100 movie and TV appearances.  It looks like he may have been acting on the stage early in his career.  His first film was in 1914, and then he works in one in 1928, then again in 1939.  He must have been doing something for work between films, or just waiting for them to perfect sound recording.

After the slow start, he appears in loads of big movies.  The Sea Hawk in 1940 with Errol Flynn, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Spencer Tracy in 1941, Air Raid Wardons with Laurel and Hardy in 1943, six Sherlock Holmes films with Basil Rathbone, plus National Velvet, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Joan of Arc in 1948 with Ingrid Bergman, then into TV starting in 1951.

He appears in several episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and a lot of the early teleplays on TV.  In 1960 he was in Sparticus, and the next year he did voices in One Hundred and One Dalmations.  His last role was as a passenger on the ill-fated plane in the 1970 hit movie, Airport.

I have seen almost all of the above mentioned films, and I couldn't tell you what Frederick Worlock looks like!  I found a pic to help you, good readers.  I guess that makes for a great Bit Actor.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dead End Kids

I suppose the Dead End Kids were stars when their first movie Dead End came out in 1937.  The movie was a filmed version of the Broadway play by the same name, with basically the same young actors.  Huntz Hall and Leo Gorcey are the names I most connect as Dead End Kids, but of course there were others and I may cover some of them in later posts.

The group was also known as The Little Tough Guys, The East Side Kids and The Bowery Boys.  They were apparently difficult to control while on the set, so they really lived their parts.  In about 21 years, more or less together, they made almost 90 films at four different studios.

Huntz Hall (1919 - 1999) made a total of 116 movie and TV appearances.  He was in 67 films together with Leo Gorcey from 1937 to 1966.  Since Hall was best known as a gang member to the public, it was easy for him to create the same character in most of his films.  He even used the same name in many of them, some with just the same first name. 

In later years he was truly a bit actor.  He appeared in "Flipper" on TV, he had a part in Herbie Rides Again in 1974, but it went downhill from there.  1976 - Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood; 1979 - Gas Pump Girls; and 1992 - Auntie Lee's Meat Pies.  Not very big hits.  According to a biography poster on IMDb, Hall did OK with his income because he owned a percentage of The Bowery Boys pictures.

Leo Gorcey (1917 - 1969) has a total of 90 roles.  Almost his entire acting career was spent as one of the "boys."  After The Bowery Boys series of movies ended for him in 1956, he was on TV twice, then appeared as a cab driver in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in 1963, and his last film was with Huntz Hall in 1966, called Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar.  The Bowery Boys went on until 1958 without Gorcey.

Even though these guys had fame and did make a living, I can't help but feel sorry for them in a way.  Leo Gorcey was married five times.  His first wife left him and married Groucho MarxHuntz Hall (married thrice) was arrested several times over the years, but he eventually straightened himself out.  I guess they played their parts to the limit.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dwight Schultz

You may tend to think of great Bit Part Players as mostly being in the classic movies of the 1930s to the 1950s, but there are many who are working hard, even as we speak...or rather, blog.

A familiar face on the screen, large and small, is Dwight Schultz.  Born in 1947, he has so far been involved in 149 roles.  These include TV, movies, voice overs for animation, and also video game voicing, starting on TV in 1981.  His first movie was a small part in The Fan (1981) with Lauren Bacall and James Garner

His big break came two years later when he was cast as Howling Mad Murdock on "The A Team" starring George Peppard.  That job lasted four years. 

In 1989 he had a major part as J. Robert Oppenheimer in Fat Man and Little Boy with Paul Newman.  There has been a lot of physics in my post this week, and more to come!  Of course, Oppenheimer was in charge of the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bomb.

More movies and TV appearances follow, some good, some not so good.  Then, in 1990, another good break as he is cast in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" as an engineer, Lt. Reginald Barclay.  He played in five episodes on the series, but with Star Trek there is always a future. 

In 1996 he reprised his role in Star Trek: First Contact.  Isn't it interesting how you can show history in a movie simply by going back in time?  Star Trek does it so nicely (and frequently).  This movie takes us back to when the first warp drive spaceship left Earth, just to fill in the historical details.  The Borg encounter was just filler.

From 1995 to 2001 we find Reg Barclay in "Star Trek: Voyager" with Kate Mulgrew.  I do miss Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine!  (I always wondered why they gave her high heels in space.)  Scultz also had Star Trek employment in 2003 as the voice of Reg Barclay in an animated program and later in some video games.  If you do well your first time on S.T., you can make a career!

Interspersed with all of the Star Trek were quite a few TV shows and movies, and a lot of voice work including direct to video releases. 

In the video game "EverQuest" he is the voice of:
"Duke Ferrin / Korong Shatterjaw / Bargiss Ranlor / Priest Kelian / Delacar Mithanson / Cargomaster Libertius / Stalker Granis / Kren Rfay / Dindaek Everhot / Edwyn Arcanum / Scribe Jabir / Lusius Ulixes / Caius Callidus / Mallius Otho / Kualdin Swoonsong / Tilzak N'Lim / Verin Ithelz / Lt. Blutark / Generic Male Ghost Half Elf Enemy / Generic Male High Elf Enemy / Generic Male Kerran Enemy / Generic Male Efreeti Enemy / Generic Male Ghost Erudite Enemy / Generic Male Ghost Dwarf Enemy (voice)"  (from IMDb)

I hope he could read the script to keep it all straight!

Schultz appeared in the 2010 remake of The A-Team, and is currently working on a cartoon series called "Chowder."  This Bit Actors isn't finished, I hope.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Whois Yahoo Serious?

I had fun writing about Eisenhower yesterday, so today I took a look at which actors played Albert Einstein.  Over 63 years, and in multiple countries and languages, there are 109 portrayals of Einstein listed on IMDb.  A popular character!

And the part has attracted a wide range of actors.  Ludwig Stossel took the lead in 1947 in a Brian Donlevy movie called The Beginning or the End, about the development of the bomb.  A lot of character actors followed, plus some you may not expect in the part. 

I saw the names Robert Downey, Jr., Rene Auberjonois, Arte Johnson (!), Walter Matthau as mentioned yesterday in I.Q., Elliott Gould, Maximilian Schell, and he was voiced in the animated film, Firedog this year by Tom Berenger.  (I have no idea what Albert Einstein has to do with a movie about a dog overcoming fear of fire to save his friend's father.)

If Arte Johnson isn't odd enough as Einstein, how about Andrea Gall in a movie from 2002 called The Ten Rules: A Lesbian Survival Guide.

One name caught my eye...Yahoo Serious played Einstein in his 1989 movie, Young Einstein.  He has a strange name so I looked at his bio on IMDb.  The writer says, "Yahoo Serious (born Greg Pead) became one of Australia's most successful independent conceptual artists and filmmakers of the 1980s and 1990s."  Pretty serious stuff.  Then I looked at his filmography.

Total number of productions he was involved with...THREE!  So much for Australia as an important breeding ground for independent filmmakers.  Here is the complete filmography of Yahoo, seriously.  (Well, it brings a smile to my face!)

1989 Young Einstein
   Writer, producer, director, actor, stunts, editorial dept.

1993 Reckless Kelly
   Writer, producer, director, actor, editorial dept., music dept.

2000 Mr. Accident
   Writer, producer, director, actor, stunts.

For that body of work, he was on a Time magazine cover.  I hope it pays the bills.  I'll try to be more serious tomorrow.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight David Eisenhower ("Ike" 1890 - 1969) was the very first president I voted for.  That was during his re-election in 1957.  I was seven years old and I had an "I Like Ike" button that I wore to school.  I was sure, at the time, that my button helped him win.

IMDb shows that there have been 28 roles for Ike, with about 19 different actors playing the part.  We watched I.Q. from 1994 last night, and Keene Curtis (1923 - 2002) was the Ike choice in that film.  I.Q. is a light rom-com starring Meg Ryan and Tim Robbins with Walter Matthau playing Albert Einstein.  Curtis acted on the stage, screen and on TV was best known as John Hill who owned the restaurant upstairs from "Cheers."

According to IMDb, Eisenhower was first played by Harry Carey, Jr. in a 1955 John Ford movie called The Long Gray Line, starring Tyrone Power.  In 1962's smash hit, The Longest Day, he is played by Henry Grace.  It was the only movie that Grace acted in, but he was the set decorator for almost 200 other movies and TV shows.

I must do some research on and actor named James Flavin (1906 - 1976) who played Ike in a 1976 TV documentary on Gary Francis Powers.  Flavin is credited with 484 roles!

Robert Duvall, Richard Dysart and E. G. Marshall all played Ike in the 1980's.  Tom Selleck was Ike in 2004 on TV in "Ike: Countdown to D-Day."  A look at the cover of the DVD shows Selleck without hair or a mustache, but I guess you have to make sacrifices for your job.

There are a few others, and I think there are some who deserve their own listing on my blog, due to the variety or volume of work they did on the screen.  Maybe I should have started with George Washington.

Here's to The General of the Army, Dwight D. Eisenhower.  An interesting historical note.  Because congress bestowed five stars on Eisenhower and some other generals during WWII, they had to come up with a higher honor for George Washington.  He is now known as "The General of the Armies."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Percy Helton (1894 - 1971)

Percy Helton was pretty much my definition of Bit Actor.  He had a very long career, appeared in a multitude of roles on film and TV (over 200 by IMDb's count), almost always had a speaking part making him more than an extra, and he is unforgettable.

He started acting at age two in vaudeville and became acquainted with George M. Cohan who used him in several plays.  His film career started in 1915.  After service in the First World War, he returned to the stage.

In the late 1930s he started making films again, and it was his role as the drunken Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street in 1947 that really got him noticed.

His short, round figure and his hoarse, high voice almost guaranteed him a speaking part.  By 1950 you could see him on TV.  He worked with Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in both mediums.

He was at home being cast as an old man, a judge, or a town drunk in a western.  I think that 1953 and 1954 were his best years in film, before his TV accomplishments started.  Look for him in these great movies -
Call me Madam, The Robe and How to Marry a Millionaire in 1953
A Star is Born, White Christmas and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1954

He began showing up in everything on TV.  Early parts included "Gang Busters," "Waterfront," "The Lone Ranger," "The Millionaire," "December Bride," "Circus Boy," "Father Knows Best," "Death Valley Days" and MANY others, just in the 1950s decade.

In the 1960s he was in several episodes of "The Untouchables," "Lawman," "The Real McCoys," and he appeared quite a few times in "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."  But he wasn't finished in Movies.

In 1962 he was the train conductor in The Music Man.  In 1964 he was the funeral director in Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.  Much more TV during this decade, and then at age 75 he was Sweetface, the old man who tries to misdirect the railroad agents away from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969.  This was his last major motion picture.  He is credited with two releases after his death, but I am not familiar with those.

His last TV gigs in 1971 were on "Mission Impossible" and "Nanny and the Professor."

Check out his complete list on IMDb, and start making your own list of Percy Helton movies and TV shows you've seen!