You Look Familiar...

by Musashi94 | created - 04 Aug 2017 | updated - 04 Aug 2017 | Public

Some of the greatest and most prolific character actors in film history.

1. Martin Balsam

Actor | All the President's Men

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. ...

Known for: 12 Angry Men (1957), Psycho (1960), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

2. Lionel Barrymore

Actor | Key Largo

Famed actor, composer, artist, author and director. His talents extended to the authoring of the novel "Mr. Cartonwine: A Moral Tale" as well as his autobiography. In 1944, he joined ASCAP, and composed "Russian Dances", "Partita", "Ballet Viennois", "The Woodman and the Elves", "Behind the Horizon...

Known for: Grand Hotel (1932), Captains Courageous (1937), You Can't Take It With You (1938), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Key Largo (1948)

3. Ned Beatty

Actor | Network

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, ...

Known for: Deliverance (1972), Nashville (1975), Network (1976), All the President's Men (1976), Superman (1978)

4. Ward Bond

Actor | The Quiet Man

Gruff, burly American character actor. Born in 1903 in Benkelman, Nebraska (confirmed by Social Security records; sources stating 1905 or Denver, Colorado are in error.) Bond grew up in Denver, the son of a lumberyard worker. He attended the University of Southern California, where he got work as ...

Known for: My Darling Clementine (1946), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), The Quiet Man (1952), The Searchers (1956), Rio Bravo (1959)

5. Beulah Bondi

Actress | It's a Wonderful Life

Character actress Beulah Bondi was a favorite of directors and audiences and is one of the reasons so many films from the 1930s and 1940s remain so enjoyable, as she was an integral part of many of the ensemble casts (a hallmark of the studio system) of major and/or great films, including The Trail...

Known for: Make Way for Tomorrow (1937), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Remember the Night (1940), Penny Serenade (1941), It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

6. Walter Brennan

Actor | To Have and Have Not

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 ...

Known for: Fury (1936), To Have and Have Not (1944), My Darling Clementine (1946), Red River (1948), Rio Bravo (1959)

7. Leo G. Carroll

Actor | North by Northwest

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...

Known for: Wuthering Heights (1939), Spellbound (1945), Strangers on a Train (1951), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), North by Northwest (1959)

8. Veronica Cartwright

Actress | Alien

Born in Bristol, England, Veronica is the older sister of the popular child actress Angela Cartwright. In her early career, Veronica was cast in a number of popular movies such as The Children's Hour (1961), Spencer's Mountain (1963) and Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963). As such, she was cast as...

Known for: The Birds (1963), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Alien (1979), The Right Stuff (1983), The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

9. Minoru Chiaki

Actor | Shichinin no samurai

Japanese character actor equally adept at comic or seriously unsavory roles. Chiaki graduated from the University of Chuo with degrees in economics and commerce, but almost immediately found that his interest lay more with the theatre. In 1937, he began to study with the Shin-Tsukiji Gekidan ("The ...

Known for: Rashomon (1950), Ikiru (1952), Seven Samurai (1954), Throne of Blood (1957), The Hidden Fortress (1958)

10. Lee J. Cobb

Actor | 12 Angry Men

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...

Known for: On the Waterfront (1954), 12 Angry Men (1957), Man of the West (1958), Coogan's Bluff (1968), The Exorcist (1973)

11. Elisha Cook Jr.

Actor | Rosemary's Baby

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 ...

12. James Cromwell

Actor | The Green Mile

Born in Los Angeles but raised in Manhattan and educated at Middlebury College and Carnegie-Mellon University, James Cromwell is the son of film director John Cromwell and actress Kay Johnson. He studied acting at Carnegie-Mellon, and went into the theatre (like his parents) doing everything from ...

13. 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 ...

14. Keith David

Actor | The Princess and the Frog

Keith David was born Keith David Williams in New York City's Harlem district, and was raised in East Elmhurst, in the Queens section of the city. He is the son of Dolores (Dickenson), a New York Telephone manager, and Lester Williams, a payroll operations director. As a child, he realized he wanted...

15. Brad Dourif

Actor | One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Gaunt character actor Brad Dourif was born Bradford Claude Dourif on March 18, 1950 in Huntington, West Virginia. He is the son of Joan Mavis Felton (Bradford) and Jean Henri Dourif, a French-born art collector who owned and operated a dye factory. His father died when Dourif was three years old, ...

16. Margaret Dumont

Actress | Duck Soup

Margaret Dumont would probably consider it a tragedy that she is best-known for her performances as the ultimate straight woman in seven of the Marx Brothers' films (including most of their best). By all accounts she never understood their jokes (offscreen and on), which is of course a major reason...

17. Dan Duryea

Actor | Scarlet Street

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 ...

18. Jack Elam

Actor | C'era una volta il West

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 ...

19. William Fichtner

Actor | Crash

A small-town guy with a big heart, William Fichtner has been captivating the hearts of Western New Yorkers for decades. Bill was born in 1956 on Long Island, New York, to Patricia A. (Steitz) and William E. Fichtner. He is of German, Irish, and English descent.

Fichtner was raised in Cheektowaga, ...

20. Kamatari Fujiwara

Actor | Shichinin no samurai

Kamatari Fujiwara was born on January 15, 1905 in Tokyo, Japan. He was an actor, known for Seven Samurai (1954), The Hidden Fortress (1958) and Yojimbo (1961). He died on December 21, 1985 in Tokyo.

21. Scott Glenn

Actor | The Hunt for Red October

Scott Glenn was born January 26, 1941, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Hope and Theodore Glenn, a salesman. As he grew up in Appalachia, his health was poor; he was bedridden for a year and doctors predicted he would limp for the rest of his life. During long periods of illness, Glenn was reading a...

22. Elsa Lanchester

Actress | Witness for the Prosecution

Elsa Sullivan Lanchester was born into an unconventional a family at the turn of the 20th century. Her parents, James "Shamus" Sullivan and Edith "Biddy" Lanchester, were socialists - very active members of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in a rather broad sense and did not believe in the ...

23. Porter Hall

Actor | Double Indemnity

For over two decades, Porter Hall made a career out of playing villains and pompous, unpleasant people. His movie career was not a mirror of his real life, however. Mr. Hall was well known as a generous and outgoing person who was well-liked by almost everybody he knew. It is ironic that the role ...

24. Murray Hamilton

Actor | Jaws

Murray Hamilton was one of those character actors whose face would be familiar to most movie buffs at an instant, yet his name may not. That's a shame, because Hamilton was one of the most versatile and prolific of performers who was never anything less than completely convincing in any role he ...

25. Lance Henriksen

Actor | Hard Target

An intense, versatile actor as adept at playing clean-cut FBI agents as he is psychotic motorcycle-gang leaders, who can go from portraying soulless, murderous vampires to burned-out, world-weary homicide detectives, Lance Henriksen has starred in a variety of films that have allowed him to stretch...

26. Edward Everett Horton

Actor | Arsenic and Old Lace

It seemed like Edward Everett Horton appeared in just about every Hollywood comedy made in the 1930s. He was always the perfect counterpart to the great gentlemen and protagonists of the films. Horton was born in Brooklyn, New York City, to Isabella S. (Diack) and Edward Everett Horton, a ...

27. Ben Johnson

Actor | The Last Picture Show

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 ...

28. Gunnel Lindblom

Actress | Det sjunde inseglet

After acting studies at the Gothenburg City Theater from 1950-52, she made her breakthrough debut in Gustaf Molander's Kärlek (1952). When Ingmar Bergman became head of the Malmö City Theater he asked her to join him there and with him as a director she played the role of Margareta in Goethe's...

29. Strother Martin

Actor | Slap Shot

American character actor who achieved considerable fame in the last decade of his life. A native of Kokomo, Indiana, Strother Martin Jr. was the youngest of three children of Strother Douglas Martin, a machinist, and Ethel Dunlap Martin. His family moved soon after his birth to San Antonio, Texas, ...

30. Thomas Mitchell

Actor | Stagecoach

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 (1937); Stagecoach (1939); The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939); Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939); Gone with the Wind (1939); It's a Wonderful Life...

31. Warren Oates

Actor | The Wild Bunch

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. ...

32. Maria Ouspenskaya

Actress | Dodsworth

The daughter of a lawyer, Ouspenskaya studied singing at the Warsaw Conservatory and acting at Adasheff's School of the Drama in Moscow. She received her practical training as an actress touring in the Russian provinces. She later joined the Moscow Art Theatre. It was here that she first worked ...

33. Eugene Pallette

Actor | The Adventures of Robin Hood

This eminently recognisable, bulbous, beetle-browed character actor left Culver Military Academy and began acting in repertory companies before becoming a Hollywood extra and stunt man. Eugene's father had also been a thesp at one time but eventually ended his career as an insurance salesman. In ...

34. Michel Piccoli

Actor | Le mépris

Born in a musician's family, he spent the first fifteen years of his career appearing both on stage and on screen, mostly in supporting roles. His breakthrough came after Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt (1963) and about 100 films, ranging from art-house movies to commercial mainstream, followed. He won ...

35. Slim Pickens

Actor | Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

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 ...

36. Jon Polito

Actor | Miller's Crossing

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 include: Millers Crossing, Barton Fink, The Man Who Wasn't There, The Crow, Blankman, and The...

37. John Rhys-Davies

Actor | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Acclaimed Welsh actor John Rhys-Davies was born in Ammanford, Carmarthenshire, Wales, to Mary Margaretta Phyllis (Jones), a nurse, and Rhys Davies, a mechanical engineer and Colonial Officer. He graduated from the University of East Anglia and is probably best known to film audiences for his roles ...

38. Thelma Ritter

Actress | All About Eve

Thelma Ritter appeared in high school plays and was trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In the 1940s she worked in radio. Her movie career was started with a bit part in the 1946 Miracle on 34th Street (1947). In the movie she played a weary Xmas shopper. Her performance in the short ...

39. Sig Ruman

Actor | A Night at the Opera

Wonderfully talented German-born actor, capable of tremendous comedic and dramatic performances, usually as some type of pompous bureaucrat or similarly arrogant individual. Ruman was born on October 11, 1884, in Hamburg, Germany, and actually studied electrotechnology in college before making the ...

40. Eitarô Shindô

Actor | Onna no issho

Eitarô Shindô was born on November 10, 1899 in Fukuoka, Japan as Tatsugoro Shindo. He was an actor, known for Onna no issho (1953), A Geisha (1953) and Sisters of the Gion (1936). He died on February 18, 1977 in Tokyo, Japan.

41. C. Aubrey Smith

Actor | Rebecca

Movie roles are sometimes based upon what the audience expects to see. If the role called for the tall stereotypical Englishmen with the stiff upper lip and stern determination, that man would be C. Aubrey Smith, graduate of Cambridge University, a leading Freemason and a test cricketer for England...

42. Harry Dean Stanton

Actor | Alien

Stanton was born in West Irvine, Kentucky, to Ersel (Moberly), a cook, and Sheridan Harry Stanton, a barber and tobacco farmer. Lived in Lexington, Kentucky and graduated from Lafayette Senior High School with the class of 1944. Drafted into the Navy, he served as a cook in the U.S. Navy during ...

43. Peter Stormare

Actor | Fargo

Peter Stormare was born in Arbrå, Gävleborgs län, Sweden, to Gunhild (Holm) and Karl Ingvar Storm. He began his acting career at the Royal National Theatre of Sweden, performing for eleven years. In 1990 he became the Associate Artistic Director at the Tokyo Globe Theatre and directed productions ...

44. Eijirô Tôno

Actor | Yôjinbô

Eijirô Tôno was born on September 17, 1907 in Gunma, Japan. He was an actor, known for Yojimbo (1961), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and Tokyo Story (1953). He died on September 8, 1994.

45. Frank Vincent

Actor | Goodfellas

"Go home and get your shine box....", so said ill-fated Billy Batts in Goodfellas (1990). However, Billy Batts is better known to a legion of crime-film fans as the talented actor, musician, and comedian Frank Vincent. Multi-talented Vincent was born in North Adams, Massachusetts, but was raised in...

46. M. Emmet Walsh

Actor | Blood Simple

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...

47. James Whitmore

Actor | The Shawshank Redemption

Born on October 1, 1921, in White Plains, New York, gruff veteran character actor James Whitmore earned early and widespread respect with his award-winning dramatic capabilities on Broadway and in films. He would later conquer TV with the same trophy-winning results.

The son of James Allen Whitmore ...

48. Dianne Wiest

Actress | Hannah and Her Sisters

One of three children (she has two brothers, Greg and Don), Dianne Wiest was born in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. Her mother, Anne Stewart (Keddie), was a nurse from Auchtermuchty, Scotland, and her father, Bernard John Wiest, was a college dean and social worker who was born in Pennsylvania, of ...

49. Shelley Winters

Actress | The Poseidon Adventure

Shelley Winters was born Shirley Schrift of very humble beginnings on August 18, 1920 (some sources list 1922) in East St. Louis, Illinois. Her mother, Rose Winter, was born in Missouri, to Austrian Jewish parents, and her father, Jonas Schrift, was an Austrian Jewish immigrant. She had one sibling...

50. Burt Young

Actor | Rocky

Burly, talented character actor who has remained consistently busy playing "rough at the edge" type characters, often on the wrong side of the law. Young was born on April 30 1940 in New York City, the son of a high school shop teacher. He is of Italian descent. Young received his dramatic arts ...



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