Best character/supporting actors

work in progress...
View:
Log in to copy items to your own lists.
1.
Warren Oates
Warren Oates was an American character actor of the 1960s and 1970s and early 1980s whose distinctive style and intensity brought him to offbeat leading roles. Oates was born in Depoy, a very small Kentucky town. He was the son of Sarah Alice (Mercer) and Bayless Earle Oates, a general store owner...
 
2.
Walter Huston
Walter Huston, who was born Toronto, Ontario, established himself as one of the great actors of the English-speaking stage and cinema. He established himself as a well-respected and much-sought-after character lead beginning with the early talkies and continuing through the 1930s & '40s. Huston originally studied engineering before seeking a life in the theater...
 
3.
Claire Trevor
Actress, Stagecoach
Claire Trevor was born Claire Wemlinger in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, NY, the only child of Fifth Avenue merchant-tailor Noel Wemlinger, an immigrant Frenchman from Paris who lost his business during the Depression, and his Belfast-born wife Betty. Trevor's interest in acting began when she was 11 years old...
 
4.
Elisha Cook Jr.
Although this pint-sized actor started out in films often in innocuous college-student roles in mid-30s rah-rahs, playing alongside the likes of a pretty Gloria Stuart or a young, pre-"Oz" Judy Garland, casting directors would soon enough discover his flair for portraying intense neurotics or spineless double-dealers...
 
5.
Richard Widmark
Richard Widmark established himself as an icon of American cinema with his debut in the 1947 film noir Kiss of Death in which he won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination as the killer "Tommy Udo". Kiss of Death and other noir thrillers established Widmark as part of a new generation of American movie actors who became stars in the post-World War II era...
 
6.
Steve Buscemi
Actor, Fargo
Steve Buscemi was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Dorothy (Wilson), a restaurant hostess, and John Buscemi, a sanitation worker. He is of Italian (father) and English, Dutch, and Irish (mother) descent. He became interested in acting during his last year of high school. After graduating, he moved to Manhattan to study acting with John Strasberg...
 
8.
Edmond O'Brien
Oscar-winner Edmond O'Brien was one of the most-respected character actors in American cinema, from his heyday of the mid-1940s through the late 1960s. Born on September 10, 1915, in the New York City borough of The Bronx, O'Brien learned the craft of performance as a magician, reportedly tutored by neighbor Harry Houdini...
 
9.
Thomas Mitchell
Certainly there have been many phrases coined about Thomas Mitchell as one of the most recognizable and exemplary character actors of Hollywood's golden years, but behind that elfish demeanor was a talent to fit many hats. He was a first-generation American of Irish immigrants who settled in New Jersey...
 
10.
George C. Scott
Best known for his stage work, as well as his portrayal of General George S. Patton in the film Patton, as General Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, and as Ebenezer Scrooge in Clive Donner's A Christmas Carol. He was the first actor to refuse the Academy Award for Best Actor (for Patton)...
 
11.
Robert Ryan
Distinguished U.S. actor and longtime civil rights campaigner Robert Bushnell Ryan was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Mable Arbutus (Bushnell), a secretary, and Timothy Aloysius Ryan, whose wealthy family owned a real estate firm. His father was of Irish ancestry, and his mother was of English and Irish descent...
 
12.
Claude Rains
Actor, Casablanca
William Claude Rains, born in the Camberwell area of London, was the son of the British stage actor Frederick Rains. The younger Rains followed, making his stage debut at the age of eleven in "Nell of Old Drury." Growing up in the world of theater, he saw not only acting up close but the down-to-earth business end as well...
 
13.
John Carradine
John Carradine, the son of a reporter/artist and a surgeon, grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York. He attended Christ Church School and Graphic Art School, studying sculpture, and afterward roamed the South selling sketches. He made his acting debut in "Camille" in a New Orleans theatre in 1925. Arriving in Los Angeles in 1927...
 
14.
Marcel Dalio
Actor, Sabrina
Sunday, November the 20th is the anniversary of Marcel Dalio's death in 1983. It was the end of a serendipitous life. You know him. He was a citizen of the world. Born Israel Moshe Blauschild, in Paris, in 1900, he became a much sought-after character actor. His lovely animated face with its great expressive eyes became familiar across Europe...
 
15.
Donald Pleasence
Actor, Halloween
Balding, quietly-spoken, of slight build and possessed of piercing blue eyes -- often peering out from behind round, steel-rimmed glasses -- Donald Pleasence had the necessary physical attributes which make a great screen villain. In the course of his lengthy career, he relished playing the obsessed...
 
16.
Ernest Borgnine
Ernest Borgnine was born Ermes Effron Borgnino on January 24, 1917 in Hamden, Connecticut. His parents were Anna (Boselli), who had emigrated from Carpi (MO), Italy, and Camillo Borgnino, who had emigrated from Ottiglio (AL), Italy. As an only child, Ernest enjoyed most sports, especially boxing, but took no real interest in acting...
 
17.
Adolfo Celi
Sicilian born actor/writer/director was very popular with European audiences, but largely unknown to the west apart from his portrayal of the villainous SPECTRE agent "Emilio Largo" in the spectacular James Bond film Thunderball. However, due to his heavy accent, Celi's voice was dubbed by Robert Rietty...
 
18.
Karl Malden
Karl Malden resumed his film acting career in the 1950s, starting with The Gunfighter and Halls of Montezuma. The following year, he was in A Streetcar Named Desire, playing Mitch, Stanley Kowalski's best friend who starts a romance with Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh). For this role, he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor...
 
19.
M. Emmet Walsh
Wonderfully talented, heavyset character actor (from New York, but regularly playing Southerners) M. Emmet Walsh has made a solid career of playing corrupt cops, deadly crooks, and zany comedic roles since the early 1970s. Michael Emmet Walsh was born in Ogdensburg, to Agnes Katharine (Sullivan) and Harry Maurice Walsh...
 
21.
Lionel Stander
Lionel Stander, the movie character actor with the great gravelly voice, was born on January 11th, 1908 in The Bronx borough of New York City. Stander's acting career was derailed when he was blacklisted during the 1950s after being exposed as a Communist Party member during the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings...
 
22.
Burgess Meredith
Actor, Rocky
One of the truly great and gifted performers of the century who often suffered lesser roles, Burgess Meredith was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1907 and educated in Amherst College in Massachusetts before joining Eva Le Gallienne's stage company in New York City in 1933. He became a favorite of dramatist Maxwell Anderson...
 
23.
George Kennedy
George Harris Kennedy, Jr. was born on February 18, 1925 in New York City, to Helen A. (Kieselbach), a ballet dancer, and George Harris Kennedy, an orchestra leader and musician. Following high school graduation, Kennedy enlisted in the United States Army in 1943 with the hope to become a fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps...
 
24.
William Bendix
Popular American character actor William Bendix's burly physique and New York accent were equally suited to playing genial lugs and vicious thugs. Bendix was born in midtown Manhattan, the son of musician Oscar Bendix (not violinist/conductor Max Bendix, as is often reported). He made his film debut in 1911...
 
25.
Tomas Milian
Actor, Traffic
Tomas Milian, an American actor born in Cuba; was trained at the Actors Studio. He appeared in a few plays on Broadway, as well as in a show by Jean Cocteau in Spolene. Mauro Bolognini noticed him and that was the starting point of a rich cinematographic career in Italy, where he played in all manner of genres...
 
26.
Roy Scheider
Actor, Jaws
Lean, angular-faced and authoritatively spoken lead / supporting actor Roy Scheider obviously never heard the old actor's axiom about "never appearing with kids or animals" lest they overshadow your performance. Breaking that rule did him no harm, though, as he achieved pop cult status by finding, fighting...
 
27.
Lee Van Cleef
One of the great movie villains, Clarence Leroy Van Cleef, Jr. was born in Somerville, New Jersey, to Marion Lavinia (Van Fleet) and Clarence LeRoy Van Cleef, Sr. His parents were both of Dutch ancestry. Van Cleef started out as an accountant. He served in the U.S. Navy aboard minesweepers and subchasers during World War II...
 
28.
Ben Johnson
Born in Oklahoma, Ben Johnson was a ranch hand and rodeo performer when, in 1940, Howard Hughes hired him to take a load of horses to California. He decided to stick around (the pay was good), and for some years was a stunt man, horse wrangler, and double for such stars as John Wayne, Gary Cooper and James Stewart...
 
29.
Martin Balsam
Martin Henry Balsam was born on November 4, 1919 in the Bronx, New York City, to Lillian (Weinstein) and Albert Balsam, a manufacturer of women's sportswear. He was the first-born child. His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant, and his mother was born in New York, to Russian Jewish parents. Martin caught the acting bug in high school where he participated in the drama club...
 
30.
Peppino De Filippo
Born in Naples in 1903, Peppino De Filippo debuted at the age of 6 in Scarpetta's 'Miseria e Nobilta' in Rome. He studied the piano and went away to college for two years. During WWI, back in Naples, he joined Scarpetta's company 'Molinari', and it was here that he met Totò. At 22, he joined the company of Salvatore De Muto...
 
31.
Harry Dean Stanton
Actor, Alien
Prolific character actor Harry Dean Stanton's drooping, weather-beaten appearance and superb acting talent have been his ticket to appearing in over 100 films, and 50 TV episodes. Stanton was born in West Irvine, Kentucky, to Ersel (Moberly), a cook, and Sheridan Harry Stanton, a barber and tobacco farmer...
 
32.
Jon Polito
A veteran of nearly 100 films, Jon Polito is most recognized for his work with The Coen brothers, as well as his many television appearances as a series regular and guest star. Notable Motion Picture roles are in Millers Crossing, Barton Fink, The Man Who Wasn't There, The Crow, Blankman, and The Freshman with Marlon Brando...
 
34.
Eli Wallach
One of Hollywood's finest character / "Method" actors, Eli Wallach was in demand for over 60 years (first film/TV role was 1949) on stage and screen, and has worked alongside the world's biggest stars, including Clark Gable, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Marilyn Monroe, Yul Brynner, Peter O'Toole, and Al Pacino, to name but a few...
 
36.
Richard Conte
Richard Conte was born Nicholas Richard Conte on March 24, 1910, in Jersey City, New Jersey, the son of an Italian-American barber. The young Conte held a variety of jobs before becoming a professional actor, including truck driver, Wall Street clerk and singing waiter at a Connecticut resort. The gig as a singing waiter led to theatrical work in New York...
 
37.
Sam Jaffe
Actor, Ben Casey
Born Shalom Jaffe in New York City, he became known to the world as Sam Jaffe. From a Jewish family as a child he appeared in Yiddish theater productions with his mother, a well-known regional stage actress. He graduated from the City College of New York and then studied engineering at Columbia University graduate school...
 
39.
Sydney Greenstreet
Actor, Casablanca
Sydney Greenstreet's father was a leather merchant with eight children. Sydney left home at age 18 to make his fortune as a Ceylon tea planter, but drought forced him out of business and back to England. He managed a brewery and, to escape boredom, took acting lessons. His stage debut was as a murderer in a 1902 production of "Sherlock Holmes"...
 
40.
Howard Da Silva
Howard da Silva was one of 324 actors, writers and directors who fell victim to the Hollywood blacklisting of the early 1950s, and had his career halted in the blink of an eye. Originally was a steelworker before making his stage debut at age 20 in New York. He made a name for himself on Broadway before going to Hollywood...
 
42.
Leo G. Carroll
One of the most indispensable of character actors, Leo G. Carroll was already involved in the business of acting as a schoolboy in Gilbert & Sullivan productions. Aged 16, he portrayed an old man in 'Liberty Hall'. In spite of the fact, that he came from a military family, and , perhaps, because of his experience during World War I...
 
43.
Walter Brennan
In many ways the most successful and familiar character actor of American sound films and the only actor to date to win three Oscars for Best Supporting Actor, Walter Brennan attended college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studying engineering. While in school he became interested in acting and performed in school plays...
 
44.
John Goodman
John Stephen Goodman is a U.S. film, television, and stage actor. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Virginia Roos (Loosmore), a waitress and saleswoman, and Leslie Francis Goodman, a postal worker who died when John was a small child. He is of English, Welsh, and German ancestry. John is best known for his role as Dan Conner on the television series Roseanne (1988-1997)...
 
45.
Louis Calhern
Actor, Notorious
Tall, distinguished, aristocratic Louis Calhern seemed to be the poster boy for old-money, upper-crust urban society, but he was actually born Carl Vogt, to middle-class parents in New York City. His family moved to St. Louis when he was a child, and it was while playing football in high school there that he was spotted by a representative of a touring acting troupe and hired as an actor...
 
46.
Joseph Calleia
His full name was Joseph Alexander Caesar Herstall Vincent Calleja - but he was better known as Joseph or Joe Calleia, one of Hollywood's most recognized bad guys. But Calleia's roots and talents ran much deeper than character actor. He was Maltese, born on that barren but historically important island of Malta between Italy and Africa in the Mediterranean...
 
47.
 
49.
Mario Adorf
Mario Adorf, a tell-tale name indeed. Mario calls to mind the actor's Italian roots (his father was a Calabrian surgeon) whereas Adorf reveals his German origins (his mother was a radiologist from the German region Eifel). As for the full name Mario Adorf it echoes to perfection the international character of this living legend's long career...
 
50.
Lee J. Cobb
Lee J. Cobb, one of the premier character actors in American film for three decades in the post-World War II period, was born Leo Jacoby in New York City's Lower East Side on December 8, 1911. The son of a Jewish newspaper editor, young Leo was a child prodigy in music, mastering the violin and the harmonica...
 
51.
Everett Sloane
Everett Sloane, the actor most known for playing Mr. Bernstein in Orson Welles classic Citizen Kane as a member of Welles' Mercury Players, was born in New York, New York on October 1, 1909. Sloane was bitten by the acting bug quite early, and first went on-stage when he was seven years old. After high school...
 
52.
 
54.
Tony Shalhoub
Actor, Monk
Anthony Marcus Shalhoub was born and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin. His father, Joe Shalhoub, who owned a grocery chain, emigrated from Lebanon to the United States as an orphan at the age of ten, later marrying Shalhoub's mother, Helen (Seroogy), who herself was born in Wisconsin, to Lebanese parents...
 
55.
Dan Duryea
Dan Duryea was educated at Cornell University and worked in the advertising business before pursuing his career as an actor. Duryea made his Broadway debut in the play "Dead End." The critical acclaim he won for his performance as Leo Hubbard in the Broadway production of "The Little Foxes" led to his appearance in the film version, in the same role.
 
56.
Slim Pickens
Slim Pickens spent the early part of his career as a real cowboy and the latter part playing cowboys, and he is best remembered for a single "cowboy" image: that of bomber pilot Maj. "King" Kong waving his cowboy hat rodeo-style as he rides a nuclear bomb onto its target in the great black comedy Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb...
 
57.
Jack Elam
Colorful American character actor equally adept at vicious killers or grizzled sidekicks. As a child he worked in the cotton fields. He attended Santa Monica Junior College in California and subsequently became an accountant and, at one time, manager of the Bel Air Hotel. Elam got his first movie job by trading his accounting services for a role...
 
58.
Charles Durning
Actor, The Sting
WWII veteran, dance instructor and diversely talented stage & screen actor were all inclusions on the resume of this perpetually busy US actor who didn't get in front of the cameras until around the time of his fortieth birthday. The stockily built Charles Durning was one of Hollywood's most dependable and sought after supporting actors...
 
60.
Lawrence Tierney
Legendary Hollywood "tough guy", on screen and off. Remembered as the title character in Dillinger and as the consummately brutal lover of Claire Trevor in Born to Kill. Notorious also for his frequent, well-publicized past involvements in public altercations - like barroom brawls - and other real-life manifestations of rowdiness...
 
61.
 
63.
Franco Fabrizi
Mr. Fabrizi was Italian actor best known for his performance as the lady-killer among a group of small-town youths in Federico Fellini's 'I Vitelloni'. Starting as a stage and variety revue actor in 1947, he broke into film in 1952 with Francesco De Roberti's 'Carica Eroica'. His role as a tireless philanderer became characteristic of his on-screen and off- screen persona...
 
64.
Robert Shaw
Actor, Jaws
Robert Archibald Shaw was born on August 9, 1927 in Westhoughton, Lancashire, England, the eldest son of Doreen Nora (Avery), a nurse, and Thomas Archibald Shaw, a doctor. His paternal grandfather was Scottish, from Argyll. Shaw's mother, who was born in Piggs Peak, Swaziland, met his father while she was a nurse at a hospital in Truro...
 
65.
Sam Elliott
Actor, Hulk
Tall, thin, wiry Sam Elliott is the classic picture of the American cowboy. Elliott began his acting career on the stage and his film debut was in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Although his future wife, Katharine Ross co-starred in the film, the two did not meet until they filmed The Legacy Together. Over the years there would be few opportunities to act in feature westerns...
 
66.
Akim Tamiroff
Though born in Russia and having a Russian-sounding name, Akim Tamiroff is actually of Armenian descent. At 19 he decided to pursue acting as a career and was chosen from among 500 applicants to the Moscow Art Theater School. There he studied under the great Konstantin Stanislavski, and launched a stage career...
 
67.
Ving Rhames
Strikingly featured and muscular American actor Ving Rames was born Irving Rameses Rhames in Harlem, New York, to Reather, a homemaker, and Ernest Rhames, an auto mechanic. A good student, Ving entered the New York High School of Performing Arts, where he discovered his love of acting. He studied at the Juilliard School of Drama...