Top 20 Greatest Character Actors

From 1920-The Present these men made film watching all the more enjoyable
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1.
Harry Andrews
British character actor Harry Andrews had the sort of massive granite face and square jaw that would stamp that career, but he set himself apart with brilliant stage and screen work. He had graduated from Wrekin College in Shropshire and then moved on to the stage, appearing with Liverpool Repertory in 1933 and focusing on Shakespearean roles...
 
2.
Ernest Thesiger
Although he made nearly 60 films in a 50-year acting career, it is for the two he made with director James Whale that Ernest Thesiger will be best remembered. Born Ernest Frederic Graham Thesiger in London on January 15, 1879, he was the grandson of the first Baron of Chelmsford. Educated at Marlbrough college and the Slade...
 
3.
Jason Miller
Character actor and playwright Jason Miller had a variety of jobs before he started a writing career and wrote his own play, "That Championship Season", for which he received the Pulitzer Prize Award. Miller gave up his professional writing career in the early seventies to start acting. In 1973, he starred as a troubled priest in the horror film classic The Exorcist...
 
4.
Ned Beatty
Stocky, genial-looking supporting actor Ned Beatty was once hailed by Daily Variety as the "busiest actor in Hollywood". Ned Thomas Beatty was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Margaret (Fortney) and Charles William Beatty. He grew up fishing and working on farms. His hometown of St. Matthews, Kentucky...
 
5.
Rip Torn
Rip Torn was born Elmore Rual Torn, Jr. on February 6, 1931 in Temple, Texas. "Rip" is a family name, taken by generations of Torn men and bestowed on Elmore by his father, who was also called "Rip". Torn attended Texas A & M and the University of Texas, where he majored in animal husbandry. Extremely naïf when he was young...
 
6.
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...
 
7.
Ian Holm
Sir Ian Holm is an Academy Award-nominated British film and stage actor who was a star of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and played more than 100 roles in films and on television. He was born Ian Holm Cuthbert on September 12, 1931, in Goodmayes, Essex, UK, to Scottish parents who worked at the Essex mental asylum...
 
8.
Cedric Hardwicke
Actor, Rope
Sir Cedric Hardwicke, one of the great character actors in the first decades of the talking picture, was born in Lye, England on February 19, 1893. Hardwicke attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and made his stage debut in 1912. His career was interrupted by military service in World War I, but he returned to the stage in 1922 with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre...
 
10.
Walter Huston
For many years Walter Huston had two passions: his career as an engineer and his vocation for the stage. In 1909 he dedicated himself to the theatre, and made his debut on Broadway in 1924. In 1929 he journeyed to Hollywood, where his talent and ability made him one of the most respected actors in the industry. He won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
 
11.
Wilfrid Hyde-White
British character actor of wry charm, equally at home in amused or strait-laced characters. A native of Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire, he attended Marlborough College and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. His stage debut came in 1922, and by 1925 he was a busy London actor. He married actress Blanche Glynne (real name: Blanche Hope Aitken) and in 1932 toured South Africa in plays...
 
12.
Anthony Newley
Anthony Newley was born in Hackney, London, England, to Frances Grace Newley and George Kirby, a shipping clerk. He was attracted to acting, after seeing an ad for a child actor in a Fleet Street window. He attended the Italia Conti Stage School from the age of 14 and, two years later, played the Artful Dodger in David Lean's film...
 
13.
Ian Richardson
Actor, Dark City
A classical actor (and founding member in 1960 of the Royal Shakespeare Company), Richardson earned international fame as the villainous Francis Urquart in the BBC television trilogy, "House of Cards." Uttered in a cut-glass accent, the Machiavellian Prime Minister's sly "You might well think that ...
 
14.
Richard Haydn
Inimitable London-born character actor, noted for his put-on nasal delivery and pompous, fussy manner. Richard Haydn had a laborious start to his show business career, selling tickets in the box office of London's Daly Theatre. This was followed by an unsuccessful stint with a comedy act in musical revue...
 
16.
Freddie Jones
The British character actor Freddie Jones came to the acting profession after 10 years of working as a laboratory assistant and acting in amateur theater on the side. To kick off his mid-life career change, Jones attended Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama in Kent, England, on a scholarship. He then worked in repertory theater...
 
17.
Ian McDiarmid
Ian McDiarmid was born on August 11, 1944 in Carnoustie, Tayside, Scotland. He studied for a Master's degree in Clinical Psychology at the University of St. Andrews, but eventually found that his calling was in theatre. He went to the Royal Academy in Glasgow, where he received the prestigious gold medal for his work...
 
18.
David Wayne
His father was an insurance executive; his mother died when he was four. He attended Western Michigan University then worked as a statistician in Cleveland where he joined a Shakespeare repertory company. Two years later he had a minor role in "The American Way" in New York. He was rejected by the army in World War II but volunteered as an ambulance driver in North Africa...
 
19.
Karl Malden
Born to a Czech mother and a Serbian father in Chicago as Mladen Sekulovich, on March 22, 1912, Karl Malden did not speak English until he was in kindergarten. After graduating from high school in the nearby steel town of Gary, Indiana, Malden worked in the industry for three years until 1934, when he was frustrated with the drudgery of manual labor...