James O. Born
I love movies. I watch old ones, new ones, good ones, bad ones, if the story grabs me, I’m happy to go.
In my opinion, most movies are made by the supporting actors. I don’t know why, I think it was my father’s influence, but I love good character actors. They are so vital to any film or TV show that without them I hardly bother to watch. Few people appreciate the impact of a fine supporting actor who never graduates to the role of “star”.
Most character actors are known by face and not by name. This is my attempt to put a name to the face and recognize their accomplishments. I lean toward comedy, even if it is just comic relief in a serious film. I’m fascinated by the successful actors who appear in more films than anyone but get only a nod on the street as if we’ve seen someone we recognize from the sotre or the neighborhood.
A good character actor must, at once not over showdown the star or story, but also be so compelling and unique that we bother to learn their names.
While watching the 1976 movie The Shootist the other day, I was reminded of this fact whenever Harry Morgan was on screen. We all know him as Colonel Potter from MASH or, if a little older, as Joe Friday from Dragnet, but he pops up in more funny old westerns than you can count. 1971’s Support Your Local Gunfighter with James Gardner is the perfect example. His energy is infectious, especially in The Shootist.
Holland Taylor is gaining a following from her Emmy award winning performance on the CBS show Two and Half Men. She is the ultimate, beautiful, witty, sarcastic, cynical older woman and is a genius. From much earlier shows like Tom Hank’s first big break, Bosom Buddies or Tia Leone’s short-lived but funny The Naked Truth, Ms Taylor commands the screen and our attention.
Steve Buscemi has a better known name and face but he’s earned it through quirky roles and fine acting. From his role in the later years of The Sopranos or his appearances in films like The Big Lebowski or Amageddon, to his stellar performance in Fargo he can be considered the king of the current crop of true character actors. His odd looks only emphasize the humanity in a guy equally at ease playing a mobster or a genius engineer with a weakness for strippers.
These are just a few of my favorite character actors but I’m always on the lookout for more.
Who do you look for onscreen? Alfred Molina? Bob Hoskins? Agnes Morehead?
I’d like to know.