Actors Who Played Church-Related Parts

Here is my list of movie actors who played parts connected with Church, i.e. priests, preachers, monks, nuns, or high ecclesiastical dignitaries (cardinals, popes), regardless of particular denomination.

The focus is on Golden Age Hollywood (with a few exceptions), and only memorable leading and supporting roles are listed.

Additions are most welcome.
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1.
William Holden
William Holden was born William Franklin Beedle, Jr. in O'Fallon, Illinois, to Mary Blanche (Ball), a schoolteacher, and William Franklin Beedle, Sr., an industrial chemist. He came from a wealthy family (the Beedles) that moved to Pasadena, California, when he was three. In 1937, while studying chemistry at Pasadena Junior College...
“ Father O'Bannion in Satan Never Sleeps (1962). ” - lora-31
 
2.
Clifton Webb
Actor, Laura
Already trained in dance and theater, he quit school at age 13 to study music and painting. By 19 he was a professional ballroom dancer in New York, and by his mid-twenties he was performing in musicals, dramas on Broadway and in London, and in silent movies. His first real success in film came in middle age as the classy villain Waldo Lydecker in Laura...
“ Father Bovard in Satan Never Sleeps (1962). ” - lora-31
 
3.
Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster, one of five children, was born in Manhattan, to Elizabeth (Roberts) and James Henry Lancaster, a postal worker. All of his grandparents were immigrants from Northern Ireland. He was a tough street kid who took an early interest in gymnastics. He joined the circus as an acrobat and worked there until he was injured...
“ The Rev. Anthony Anderson in The Devil's Disciple (1959). He also played preacher Elmer Gantry, his Oscar-awarded role, in the namesake movie (1960). ” - lora-31
 
4.
Gregory Peck
Gregory Peck first film, Days of Glory, was released in 1944. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor five times, four of which came in his first five years of film acting: for The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), and Twelve O'Clock High (1949)...
“ Father Francis Chisholm in The Keys of the Kingdom (1944). ” - lora-31
 
5.
George Macready
George Macready--the name probably doesn't ring any bells for most but the voice would be unmistakable. He attended and graduated from Brown University and had a short stint as a New York newspaperman, but became interested in acting on the advice of colorful Polish émigré classical stage director Richard Boleslawski...
“ Rev. Thomas Garfield in Alias Nick Beal (1949). ” - lora-31
 
6.
Ingrid Bergman
Actress, Casablanca
Ingrid Bergman was one of the greatest actresses from Hollywood's lamented Golden Era. Her natural and unpretentious beauty and her immense acting talent made her one of the most celebrated figures in the history of American cinema. Bergman is also one of the most Oscar-awarded actresses, tied with Meryl Streep, both are second only to Katharine Hepburn...
“ Sister Mary Benedict in The Bells of St. Mary's (1945). ” - lora-31
 
7.
Deborah Kerr
Born Deborah Jane Kerr-Trimmer in Scotland in 1921, she was the daughter of a soldier who had been gassed in World War I. A shy, insecure child, she found an outlet for expressing her feelings in acting. Her aunt, a radio star, got her some stage work when she was a teenager, and she came to the attention of British film producer Gabriel Pascal...
“ Sister Clodagh in Black Narcissus (1947), Sister Angela in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957). ” - lora-31
 
8.
Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn was born Audrey Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston on May 4, 1929 in Brussels, Belgium. She was a blue-blood and a cosmopolitan from birth. Her mother, Ella van Heemstra, was a Dutch baroness; Audrey's father, Joseph Victor Anthony Hepburn-Ruston, was born in Úzice, Bohemia, of English and Austrian descent, and worked in business...
“ Sister Luke (Gabrielle van der Mal) in The Nun's Story (1959). ” - lora-31
 
9.
Rosalind Russell
The middle of seven children, she was named after the S.S. Rosalind at the suggestion of her father, a successful lawyer. After receiving a Catholic school education, she went to the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York, having convinced her mother that she intended to teach acting. In 1934...
“ Mother Superior (Rev. Mother) in The Trouble with Angels (1966) and in Where Angels Go Trouble Follows! (1968). ” - lora-31
 
10.
Walter Pidgeon
Walter Pidgeon, a handsome, tall and dark-haired man, began his career studying voice at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He then did theater, mainly stage musicals. He went to Hollywood in the early 1920s, where he made silent films, including Mannequin and Sumuru. When talkies arrived...
“ Mr. Gruffydd, an Irish preacher, in How Green Was My Valley (1941). ” - lora-31
 
11.
Rex Harrison
Rex Harrison was born Reginald Carey Harrison in Huyton, Lancashire, England, to Edith Mary (Carey) and William Reginald Harrison, a cotton broker. He changed his name to Rex as a young boy, knowing it was the Latin word for "King". Starting out on his theater career at age 18, his first job at the Liverpool Rep Theatre was nearly his last - dashing across the stage to say his one line...
“ Pope Julius II in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965). ” - lora-31
 
12.
Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness de Cuffe was born on April 2, 1914 in Marylebone, London, England, and was raised by his mother, Agnes Cuffe. While working in advertising, he studied at the Fay Compton Studio of Dramatic Art, debuting on stage in 1934 and played classic theater with the Old Vic from 1936. In 1941...
“ Father Brown in Father Brown (1954). ” - lora-31
 
13.
Eugene Pallette
Gargantuan-bellied, frog-voiced character actor who was a staple in forties movies. After World War II his ultra-right-wing political views fuelled his 'bomb' paranoia and he bought a property in Oregon which he turned into a well-stocked compound in case the Russians attacked. Many of his old Hollywood friends...
“ Fray Felipe in The Mark of Zorro (1940). ” - lora-31
 
14.
Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby was born Harry Lillis Crosby, Jr. in Tacoma, Washington, the fourth of seven children of Catherine Helen "Kate" (Harrigan) and Harry Lowe Crosby, a brewery bookkeeper. He was of English and Irish descent. Crosby studied law at Gonzaga University in Spokane but was more interested in playing the drums and singing with a local band...
“ Father Chuck O'Malley in Going My Way (1944) and The Bells of St. Mary's (1945). ” - lora-31
 
15.
Henry Travers
British-born Henry Travers was a veteran of the English stage before emigrating to the U.S. in 1917. He gained more stage experience there on Broadway working with the Theatre Guild, and began his long film career with Reunion in Vienna. Travers' kindly, grandfatherly demeanor became familiar to filmgoers over the next 25 years...
“ Rev. Homer Smiley in The Rains Came (1939). ” - lora-31
 
16.
Humphrey Bogart
Actor, Casablanca
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was born in New York City, New York, to Maud Humphrey, a famed magazine illustrator and suffragette, and Belmont DeForest Bogart, a moderately wealthy surgeon (who was secretly addicted to opium). Bogart was educated at Trinity School, NYC, and was sent to Phillips Academy in Andover...
“ James 'Jim' Carmody in The Left Hand of God (1955). ” - lora-31
 
17.
Robert Mitchum
Robert Mitchum was an underrated American leading man of enormous ability, who sublimated his talents beneath an air of disinterest. He was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Ann Harriet (Gunderson), a Norwegian immigrant, and James Thomas Mitchum, a shipyard/railroad worker. His father died in a train accident when he was two...
“ Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter (1955). ” - lora-31
 
18.
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...
“ Pastor Rosier Pile in Sergeant York (1941). ” - lora-31
 
19.
Loretta Young
Sweet, sweeter, sweetest. No combination of terms better describes the screen persona of lovely Loretta Young. A&E's Biography has stated that Young "remains a symbol of beauty, serenity, and grace. But behind the glamor and stardom is a woman of substance whose true beauty lies in her dedication to her family...
“ Sister Margaret in Come to the Stable (1949). ” - lora-31
 
20.
Celeste Holm
Actress, All About Eve
Celeste Holm was an only child, born into a home where her mother was a painter and her father worked in insurance. She would study acting at the University of Chicago and make her stage debut in 1936. Her Broadway debut came when she was 19. She appeared in many successful plays, including "The Women"...
“ Sister Scholastica in Come to the Stable (1949). ” - lora-31
 
21.
Jean Simmons
Actress, Spartacus
Demure British beauty Jean Simmons was born January 31, 1929 in Crouch End, London. As a 14-year-old dance student, she was plucked from her school to play Margaret Lockwood's precocious sister in Give Us the Moon, and she went on to make a name for herself in such major British productions as Caesar and Cleopatra...
“ Sister Sharon Falconer in Elmer Gantry (1960). ” - lora-31
 
22.
Barbara Stanwyck
Today Barbara Stanwyck is remembered primarily as the matriarch of the family known as the Barkleys on the TV western The Big Valley, wherein she played Victoria, and from the hit drama The Colbys. But she was known to millions of other fans for her movie career, which spanned the period from 1927 until 1964...
“ Florence Fallon, a "miracle" woman and preacher, in The Miracle Woman (1931). ” - lora-31
 
23.
Flora Robson
Flora Robson knew she was no beauty, but her wise and sympathetic face would become a familiar - indeed, shining - ornament of the 1930s and 40s silver screen. Though not sure of acting as a career in her early years, she nevertheless appeared on stage for the first time at 5 years old. She was educated...
“ Sister Philippa in Black Narcissus (1947). ” - lora-31
 
24.
Kathleen Byron
Kathleen Byron trained for the stage at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, beginning her work in the movies soon after she finished her training. Her early work with Michael Powell made her name in the UK. She went to Hollywood in the 1940s and 50s but found it difficult to break into the US productions...
“ Sister Ruth in Black Narcissus (1947). ” - lora-31
 
25.
Barry Fitzgerald
One of Hollywood's finest character actors and most accomplished scene stealers, Barry Fitzgerald was born William Joseph Shields in 1888 in Dublin, Ireland. Educated to enter the banking business, the diminutive Irishman with the irresistible brogue was bitten by the acting bug in the 1920s and joined Dublin's world-famous Abbey Players...
“ Father Fitzgibbon in Going My Way (1944), an Oscar-winning role. ” - lora-31
 
26.
Thomas Mitchell
Thomas Mitchell was one of the great American character actors, whose credits read like a list of the greatest films of the 20th century: Lost Horizon; Stagecoach; The Hunchback of Notre Dame; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Gone with the Wind; It's a Wonderful Life and High Noon. His portrayals are so diverse and convincing that most people don't even realize that one actor could have played them all...
“ Father Antoine in Joan of Paris (1942). ” - lora-31
 
27.
Cecil Kellaway
Though a native of South Africa, Cecil Kellaway spent many years as an actor, author and director in the Australian film industry until he tried his luck in Hollywood in the 1930s. Finding he could get only gangster bit parts, he got discouraged and returned to Australia. Then William Wyler called and offered him a part in Wuthering Heights...
“ Monsignor Monaghan in The Cardinal (1963), Monsignor Ryan in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), an Oscar-nominated role. ” - lora-31
 
28.
Charles Bickford
American character actor of gruff voice and appearance who was a fixture in Hollywood pictures from the earliest days of the talkies. The fifth of seven children, he was born in the first minute of 1891. He was a boisterous child, and at nine was tried and acquitted for attempted murder in the shooting of a motorman who had run over his dog...
“ Father Peyramale in The Song of Bernadette (1943), an Oscar-nominated performance. ” - lora-31
 
29.
Edmund Gwenn
There are very few character actors from the 1930s, '40s or '50s who rose to the rank of stardom. Only a rare man or woman reached the level of renown and admiration, and had enough audience appeal, to be the first name in a cast's billing, a name that got marquee posting. Charles Coburn comes to mind, but there aren't many others. However, one who made it was Edmund Gwenn...
“ James, Bishop of Broadminster in The Bishop Misbehaves (1935), Father Hamish MacNabb in The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), Rev. Dr. Lloyd in Life with Father (1947). ” - lora-31
 
30.
Hugh Marlowe
Marlowe was born Hugh Hipple in Philadelphia, and began his stage career in the 1930s at the Pasadena Playhouse in California. He performed extensively on radio, stage, television and film with credits including off-Broadway productions of "The Deer Park" in 1967 and "All My Sons" in 1974.
“ Rev. Watson in Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951). ” - lora-31
 
31.
Karl Malden
Karl Malden resumed his film acting career in the 1950s, starting with The Gunfighter (1950) and Halls of Montezuma (1950). The following year, he was in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), playing Mitch, Stanley Kowalski's best friend who starts a romance with Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh). For this role...
“ Father Barry in On the Waterfront (1954). ” - lora-31
 
32.
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...
“ Father Rector Paul Duquesne in The First Legion (1951), Rev. Dr. Mosby in The Parent Trap (1961). ” - lora-31
 
33.
Robert Morley
English character actor Robert Morley was educated in England, Germany, France and Italy. His family planned for him to go into the diplomatic service but he liked the idea of acting more. After studying at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London he appeared on the London stage in 1929 and in 1938 he first appeared on Broadway as the lead in Oscar Wilde...
“ Rev. Samuel Sayer in The African Queen (1951). ” - lora-31
 
34.
Claudette Colbert
One of the brightest film stars to grace the screen was born Emilie Claudette Chauchoin on September 13, 1903, in Saint Mandé, France where her father owned a bakery at 57, rue de la République (now Avenue Général de Gaulle). The family moved to the United States when she was three. As Claudette grew up...
“ Sister Mary Bonaventure in Thunder on the Hill (1951). ” - lora-31
 
35.
Donna Reed
Donna Reed was born in the midwestern town of Denison, Iowa, on January 27, 1921, as Donna Belle Mullenger. A small town - a population of less than 3,000 people - Denison was located by the Boyer River, and was the county seat of Crawford County. Donna grew up as a farm girl, much like many young girls in western Iowa...
“ Marguerite Patourel turned nun in Green Dolphin Street (1947). ” - lora-31
 
36.
Thomas Gomez
Actor, Key Largo
After graduating from high school in 1923, Thomas Sabino Gomez answered a help wanted ad, which resulted in his joining the Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne theater group. Prior to that time he had not considered acting as a career. He continued working as an actor with the Lunts, traveling across country and honing his acting skills...
“ Father Bartolome Romero in Captain from Castile (1947). ” - lora-31
 
37.
Julie Andrews
Julia Elizabeth Wells was born on October 1, 1935, in England. Her mother, Barbara Ward (Morris), and stepfather, both vaudeville performers, discovered her freakish but undeniably lovely four-octave singing voice and immediately got her a singing career. She performed in music halls throughout her childhood and teens...
“ Maria, a former convent novice, in The Sound of Music (1965). ” - lora-31
 
38.
Montgomery Clift
Edward Montgomery Clift (nicknamed 'Monty' his entire life) was born on October 17, 1920 in Omaha, Nebraska, just after his twin sister Roberta and eighteen months after his brother Brooks Clift. He was the son of Ethel "Sunny" Anderson (Fogg) and William Brooks Clift. His father made a lot of money in banking but was quite poor during the depression...
“ Father Michael Logan in I Confess (1953). ” - lora-31
 
39.
Jennifer Jones
One of the world's most underrated Academy Award-winning actresses, Jennifer Jones was born Phylis Lee Isley on 2 March 1919 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Flora Mae (Suber) and Phillip Ross Isley, who ran a travelling stage show. As a young aspiring actress, she met and fell for young aspiring actor Robert Walker and they soon married...
“ Bernadette Soubirous, who eventually became a nun, in The Song of Bernadette (1943). ” - lora-31
 
40.
Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, to Italian immigrants Natalina Della (Garaventa), from Northern Italy, and Saverio Antonino Martino Sinatra, a Sicilian boxer, fireman, and bar owner. Growing up on the gritty streets of Hoboken made Sinatra determined to work hard to get ahead. Starting out as a saloon singer in musty little dives (he carried his own P.A...
“ Father Paul in The Miracle of the Bells (1948). ” - lora-31
 
41.
Fredric March
Fredric March began a career in banking but in 1920 found himself cast as an extra in films being produced in New York. He starred on the Broadway stage first in 1926 and would return there between screen appearances later on. He won plaudits (and an Academy Award nomination) for his send-up of John Barrymore in The Royal Family of Broadway...
“ William Spence, a Methodist minister, in One Foot in Heaven (1941). ” - lora-31
 
42.
Paul Henreid
Actor, Casablanca
The son of aristocratic banker Baron Carl Alphons and Marie Luise von Hernried, Paul grew up in Vienna and studied at the prestigious Maria Theresa Academy (graduating in 1927) and the Institute of Graphic Arts. For four years, he worked as translator and book designer for a publishing outfit run by Otto Preminger...
“ Rev. Arthur Nicholls in Devotion (1946). ” - lora-31
 
43.
David Niven
David Niven was named after the Saint's Day on which he was born, St. David, patron Saint of Wales. He attended Stowe School and Sandhurst Military Academy and served for two years in Malta with the Highland Light Infantry. At the outbreak of World War II, although a top-line star, he re-joined the army (Rifle Brigade)...
“ Bishop Henry Brougham in The Bishop's Wife (1947). ” - lora-31
 
44.
Charles Boyer
Actor, Gaslight
Charles Boyer studied philosophy before he went to the theater where he gave his debut in 1920. Although he had at first no intentions to pursue a career at the movies (his first movie was L'homme du large by Marcel L'Herbier) he used his chance in Hollywood after several filming stations all over Europe...
“ Father Marc Arnoux in The First Legion (1951) and Boris, a Trappist monk, in The Garden of Allah (1936). ” - lora-31
 
45.
Dana Andrews
American leading man of the 1940s and 1950s, Dana Andrews, was born Carver Dana Andrews on a farm by Collins, Covington County, Mississippi. He was the son of Annis (Speed) and Charles Forrest Andrews, a Baptist minister. He was one of thirteen children, including actor Steve Forrest. Andrews studied business administration at Sam Houston State Teachers College in Texas...
“ Father Thomas Roth in Edge of Doom (1950). ” - lora-31
 
46.
Dirk Bogarde
Sir Dirk Bogarde, distinguished film actor and writer, was born Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde on March 28, 1921, to Ulric van den Bogaerde, the art editor of "The Times" (London) newspaper, and actress Margaret Niven in the London suburb of Hampstead. He was one of three children...
“ Roman Catholic priest Arturo Carrera in The Angel Wore Red (1960). ” - lora-31
 
47.
Richard Burton
Probably more frequently remembered for his turbulent personal life and multiple marriages, Richard Burton was nonetheless regarded as one of the great British actors of the post-WWII period. Burton was born Richard Walter Jenkins in Pontrhydyfen, Wales, to Edith Maude (Thomas) and Richard Walter Jenkins...
“ Rev. Dr. Edward Hewitt in The Sandpiper (1965). ” - lora-31
 
48.
Lucile Watson
Unsmiling character player Lucile Watson was one of Hollywood's most indomitable mothers of the 1930s and 1940s...and you can take that both ways. The archetypal matriarch who enhanced scores of plush, soapy, Victorian-styled drama, her prickly pears could be insufferable indeed and heaven help anyone who gathered up the courage to take them on...
“ Mother Superior Josephine in The Garden of Allah (1936). ” - lora-31
 
49.
Spencer Tracy
Spencer Tracy was born four years after his brother Carroll to truck salesman John Edward and Caroline Brown Tracy. He attended Marquette Academy along with Pat O'Brien and the two left school to enlist in the Navy at the start of World War I. He was still at Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia at the end of the war...
“ Father Matthew Doonan in The Devil at 4 O'Clock (1961). ” - lora-31
 
50.
Shirley MacLaine
Actress, The Apartment
Shirley MacLaine was born Shirley MacLean Beaty in Richmond, Virginia. Her mother, Kathlyn Corinne (MacLean), was a drama teacher from Nova Scotia, Canada, and her father, Ira Owens Beaty, a professor of psychology and real estate agent, was from Virginia. Her brother, Warren Beatty, was born on March 30, 1937. Her ancestry includes English and Scottish...
“ Sister Sara in Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970). ” - lora-31
 
51.
Ethel Barrymore
Ethel Barrymore was the second of three children seemingly destined for the actor's life of their parents Maurice and Georgiana. Maurice Barrymore had emigrated from England in 1875, and after graduating from Cambridge in law had shocked his family by becoming an actor. Georgiana Drew of Philadelphia acted in her parents' stage company...
“ Mother Superior in The Red Danube (1949). ” - lora-31