When watching a movie, there are some actors who you recognize no matter what roles they’re in since you see their name listed high on the credits and their picture on a magazine cover. Then there are actors who may pop up now and then, yet whenever you recognize them, you say, “That person looks familiar, I wonder where I’ve seen him or her before,” “Is that what’s his/her face?,” or “Is he that guy from…” etc. Of course, those in the latter category tend to be known as character actors who usually play supporting roles. Some may fit a certain type, while some may play a whole range. Some may win Oscars but most don’t. However, unlike leading movie stars, they enjoy steady careers and are rarely out of work. Yet, whoever they are, Hollywood can’t do without them for they’re essential to any movie cast. Now in this selection, we have 10 more legends of the silver screen you may or may not recognize. First, there are character acting legends Eli Wallach, Claude Rains, and Lee J. Cobb. Second, you have actresses Vera Miles and Janet Leigh both best known for appearing in Psycho. Then there is Ann Blyth who usually played nice girls but is best known as Mildred Pierce’s eternally ungrateful daughter from hell. After that you have Walter Pidgeon, a Canadian actor notable for his films with Greer Garson and practically not aging for years as well as Dana Andrews best known for playing hard boiled detectives in the 1940s and a vet who can’t go back to being a soda jerk. Last but not least, there’s Victor Mature who was a mainstay in 1950s sword and sandal epics as well as Hollywood sex siren and World’s Sexiest Inventor Hedy Lamarr. So without further adieu, here are 10 more non-Oscar winning stars for your reading pleasure.
51. Victor Mature
Personal Life: (1913-1999) Born in Louisville, Kentucky. Father was an Italian immigrant who anglicized his name and worked as a cutler. Had a brother who died of osteomyelitis at 11 years old. Attended the Virginia Military Institute and Spencerian Business School. Sold candy and operated a restaurant before moving to California. Studied acting at the Passedena Community Playhouse while living in a tent for 3 years. Spotted by a Hal Roach talent scout. Married 5 times. Died of leukemia at 86.
Famous for: American actor and leading man with a career that spanned 45 years. Best known for appearing in sword and sandal films as well as appearing bare chested in them. Yet, he was seen by producers as a low risk, scandal-free, leading man. Notable roles are Tumak from One Billion Years B. C., William Trainor from No, No, Nanette, Doc Holliday from My Darling Clementine, Nick Bianco from Kiss of Death, Samson from Samson and Delilah, Demetrius from The Robe and Demetrius and the Gladiators, Chief Crazy Horse, Jed Cooper from The Last Frontier, Hannibal, Horemheb from The Egyptian, and Tony Powell from After the Fox.
Nominated for: Mature was never nominated for an Oscar.
Most Crushing Loss: Should’ve been nominated for a Best Supporting Actor in 1953 for The Robe.
Reasons: Let’s just say appearing in enough films with his shirt off led to him being derided by male critics. Not to mention, he was seen more or less as a Hollywood hunk and sex symbol, even in biblical movies like Samson and Delilah. As Groucho Marx said, “I can’t enjoy any picture where the leading man’s chest is bigger than the leading lady’s.”
Trivia: Served in the Coast Guard during WWII and did a series of War Bond tours and morale shows in 1944. Was also engaged to Rita Hayworth and Anne Shirley. Loved golf and had his San Diego house built to overlook the ninth hole of the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Course. Savvy real estate investments and booming television market allowed him to take on roles he wanted and whenever he wanted them.
52. Janet Leigh
Personal Life: (1927-2004) Born Jeanette Helen Morrison in Merced, California. Daughter of Danish immigrants who worked at a ski resort called Sugar Bowl. Discovered by Norma Shearer in 1945 and showed her to talent agent Lew Wasserman while vacationing there. Prior had attended University of the Pacific where she studied music and psychology but left for MGM. Had no prior acting experience prior to the contract and was placed under the tutelage of drama coach Lillian Burns. Appeared in a radio anthology series at 19 and made her first film in 1947. Married 4 times with third marriage being to Tony Curtis and had Jamie Lee and Kelly to him. Married to fourth husband Robert Brandt for 42 years. Suffered from vasculitis and peripheral neuropathy, which caused her right hand to become gangrenous. Died of a heart attack at 77.
Famous for: American actress best remembered for her role in Psycho. Appeared in 5 movies with third husband Tony Curtis. Notable roles are Lissy Anne MacBean from The Romance of Rosy Ridge, Effie Bright from If Winter Comes, Margaret ‘Meg’ March/Brooke from Little Women, June Forsyte from That Forsyte Woman, Connie Ennis from Holiday Affair, Jennifer Paige Angels in the Outfield, Aline de Gavrillac de Bourbon from Scaramouche, Bess Houdini from Houdini, Lina Patch from The Naked Spur, Princess Aleta from Prince Valiant, Lady Anne from The Black Shield of Falworth, Eileen Sherwood from My Sister Eileen, Susan ‘Susie’ Vargas from Touch of Evil, Morgana from The Vikings, Marion Crane from Psycho, Eugenie Rose Chaney from The Manchurian Candidate, Rosie DeLeon from Bye Bye Birdie, Susan Harper from Harper, Mary Ann from Grand Slam, Gert Meredith from One Is a Lonely Number, Gerry Bennett from Night of the Lepus, and Florence Cohen from Boardwalk.
Nominated for: Leigh was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1960 for Psycho.
Most Crushing Loss: Well, she probably should’ve beat Shirley Jones for Best Supporting Actress in 1960. I mean who can forget her in the iconic shower scene though Jones was good, too. Perhaps not receiving an honorary Oscar is more crushing.
Reasons: Maybe because the studios weren’t happy about her and Curtis getting together. Then again, it could be just getting burned by the competition. Also was seen more as a sex symbol in many of her roles such as Marion Crane.
Trivia: Wrote 4 books. Served on the board of directors of the Motion Picture and Television Foundation. Was so traumatized from the shower scene from Psycho that she avoided showers for the rest of her life.
53. Vera Miles
Personal Life: (1929-present) Born Vera June Ralston in Boise City, Oklahoma. Grew up in Pratt, Kansas and Wichita. Moved to Los Angeles in 1950 where she landed small roles on film and TV. Made her first film in 1952. Married 3 times and had 4 children. Took the name Miles from her first husband. Retired in 1995 and refuses to grant interviews or make public appearances as of 2015.
Famous for: American actress best known for working closely with Alfred Hitchcock. Career spanned for 45 years. Notable roles are Denny Burke from The Rose Bowl Story, Jill Hardy from Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle, Laurie McCoy from Wichita, Laurie Jorgensen from The Searchers, Jean Lennox from 23 Paces to Baker Street, Virginia Hanson from Autumn Leaves, Betty Compton from Beau James, Lucy Ann Hardesty from The FBI Story, Rose Balestrero from The Wrong Man, Virginia Killain from A Touch of Larceny, Lila Crane from Psycho, Liz Saxon from Back Street, Hallie Stoddard from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, Dorothy Williams from A Tiger Walks, Lydia (Liddy) Calloway from Those Calloways, Vida Downey from Follow Me, Boys!, Ellen Wedloe from Gentle Giant, Madelyn Buckman from Hellfighters, and Joan Caper from Into the Night.
Nominated for: Miles was never nominated for an Oscar.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1960 for Psycho.
Reasons: She usually identified as an icy Hitchcock blonde than anything. Also, her movies after the 1960s aren’t very well known and was typecast as wives, love interests, and mothers. Still, she was a rather underrated actress who didn’t take showy roles that usually land Oscar nominations anyway.
Trivia: Was Miss Kansas in 1948 and third runner up for Miss America. Appeared on Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life as a “beauty contest winner” in 1951. Has a son named Michael Scott.
54. Ann Blyth
Personal Life: (1928-present) Born in Mount Kisco, New York. Parents divorced shortly after her birth. Debuted on Broadway in 1941. Signed to Universal and made her first film in 1944. Married to Dr. James McNulty for 54 years and had 5 children. Lived in La Jolla and Toluca Lake, California. Retired in 1985.
Famous for: American actress and singer often cast in Hollywood musicals, but also successful in dramatic roles. Notable roles are Bessie Jo Kirby from Bowery to Broadway, Veda Pierce from Mildred Pierce, Ruth from Brute Force, Sheila Carrson from Killer McCoy, Doris Mead from A Woman’s Vengeance, Regina Hubbard from Another Part of the Forest, Lenore the Mermaid from Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, Dorothy Benjamin from The Great Caruso, Princess Shalimar from The Golden Horde, Valerie Carns from Thunder on the Hill, Countess Marina Selanova from The World in His Arms, Rose Marie Lemaitre from Rose Marie, Kathie Ruder from The Student Prince, Lady Mary from The King’s Thief, Marsinah from Kismet, Gloria Brent from The Buster Keaton Story, and Helen Morgan from The Helen Morgan Story.
Nominated for: Blyth was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1945 for Mildred Pierce.
Most Crushing Loss: Losing to Anne Revere in the 1945 Best Supporting Actress race she should’ve one. I mean her performance as the scheming and ungrateful Veda Pierce has made more mothers feel better about their teenage daughters than anyone else in movie history. I mean this girl can really play a bitch, to put it lightly.
Reasons: Though Blyth would have a long acting career as an actress, she would quit movies in 1957 and would spend the rest of it in musical theater, television, and summer stock. Also, the Academy probably preferred to award the Oscar to women playing kind, endearing mothers than possibly psychopathic daughters from hell.
Trivia: Her and husband James McNulty received the rank of Lady and Knight of the Holy Sepulchre by Cardinal Cook. Sister-in-law of singer Dennis Day. Married a man named James McNulty (which is ironic since there’s a guy from The Wire with the same name who’s a womanizing drunk whose catchphrase is, “What the fuck did I do?”). Received a Cadillac and swimming pool from Howard Hughes.
55. Hedy Lamarr
Personal Life: (1914-2000) Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Father was a banker and mother was a concert pianist. Made her first film in 1933 at 18. Fled her Nazi first husband and Germany for Paris in 1937 and was discovered by Louis B. Mayer who signed her to an MGM contract. Arrived in Hollywood in 1938. Married 6 times and had 3 children. Became a US citizen in 1953. Retired in 1958. Was arrested for shoplifting in 1966 and 1991. Was estranged from her son James for almost 50 years (and left him out of her will but he sued her $3.3 million estate). Had plastic surgery in her later years. Died in Casselberry, Florida of heart failure, chronic valvular heart disease, and arteriosclerotic heart disease at 85.
Famous for: Austrian American actress who became a star in the 1930s to the 1950s in glamorous parts alongside leading men and was promoted as the “world’s most beautiful woman.” Had a controversial nude sex scene in Ecstasy. Notable roles are Eva Hermann from Ecstasy, Gaby from Algiers, Manon deVargnes Carey from Lady of the Tropics, Karen Vanmeer from Boom Town, Sandra Kolter from Ziegfeld Girl, Dolores Ramirez from Tortilla Flat, Lucienne Talbot from Crossroads, Tondelayo from White Cargo, Irene Von Mohr from The Conspirators, Madeleine Damien from Dishonored Lady, Delilah from Samson and Delilah, and Joan of Arc from The Story of Mankind.
Nominated for: Lamarr was never nominated for an Oscar.
Most Crushing Loss: Not receiving an honorary Oscar or a Science or Technical Award for being a pioneer in Wi-Fi which probably has made movie making a hell of a lot easier, especially since filmmaking is a collaborative effort, especially nowadays.
Reasons: Lamarr was basically typecast as a sex symbol whose roles emphasized her beauty and sexuality but were light on lines. Also, the Science and Technical field in the Academy is a male dominated field. Still, the main reason she’s on here has more to do with her inventing a world changing communications technology in her spare time.
Trivia: Co-created a frequency hopping and spread spectrum with neighbor and avant garde composer, George Antheil as a way to help counter torpedoes which became important to the US military during WWII. Both were inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014. Also invented an improved traffic stop light and a tablet that would dissolve in water to create a carbonated beverage, which she said tasted like Alka-Seltzer. First husband was a weapons seller who had government ties to Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Hosted lavish parties with her first husband, sometimes with Hitler and Mussolini in attendance (no wonder she ran away from him). Sued Mel Brooks for $10 million for invasion of privacy on the unauthorized use of her name in Blazing Saddles (which was settled out of court).
56. Eli Wallach
Personal Life: (1915-2014) Born in Brooklyn, New York City to Jewish immigrants from Poland. Parents owned Bertha’s Candy Store. Graduated with a degree in history from the University of Texas at Austin. Earned a master’s degree in education from the City College of New York. Gained his first method acting experience at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City where he studied under Sanford Meisner. Drafted into the US Army in 1941 serving as a staff sergeant in a military hospital in Hawaii and was later commissioned as a second lieutenant after going through Officer’s Candidate School in Texas for medical administrative work. Served in Casablanca and France during WWII. Made his Broadway debut in 1945. Film debut was in 1956. Married to Anne Jackson for 65 years and had 3 children. Was a teetotaler. Lost sight in his left eye due to a stroke. Died of natural causes at 98.
Famous for: American actor whose career spanned over 60 years. TCM states he’s “one of the greatest ‘character actors’ ever to appear on stage and screen,” with over 90 film credits. He and his wife were one of the best known acting couples in America on stage. Founding member of the Actor’s Studio where he studied under Lee Strasberg. His versatility gave him the ability to play a wide variety of different roles throughout his career, primarily as a supporting actor. Notable roles are Silva Vacarro from Baby Doll, Calvera from The Magnificent Seven, Guido from The Misfits, the General from Lord Jim, Tuco from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Davis Leland from How to Steal a Million, Ben Baker from McKenna’s Gold, Cotton Weinberger from The Two Jakes, Don Altobello from The Godfather Part III, Mr. Loonie from Mystic River, and Old Man from The Ghost Writer.
Nominated for: Wallach was never nominated for an Oscar but he received an honorary one which he deserved.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1966 for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Reasons: Let’s just say making Babydoll during the 1950s might’ve had something to do with it. I mean that film was very controversial back in the day. Then again, it did manage to get nominated for stuff. Then again, it could just as well being burned by the competition.
Trivia: While at Austin, he performed plays with Ann Sheridan and Walter Cronkite. Also learned to ride horses there, too. He and his unit wrote a play that inspired Irving Berlin’s This Is the Army. Nearly died 3 times while filming The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Great-uncle of critic A. O. Scott. Had to ask John Huston how to play a drunk while filming The Misfits. Played Mr. Freeze on Batman.
57. Dana Andrews
Personal Life: (1909-1992) Born in Collins, Mississippi to a family with 13 children. Father was a Baptist minister. Moved and grew up in Huntsville, Texas. Attended Sam Houston State University where he studied business administration and moved to Los Angeles in 1931 to become a singer. Worked various jobs that included pumping gas. Employer paid for his studies in opera and theater school at the Pasadena Playhouse. Film career began in 1940. Married twice and had 4 children (1 to first wife Janet Murray and 3 to second wife Mary Todd). Married to second wife Mary Todd for 53 years. Suffered from alcoholism and managed to get sober in the 1970s. Near the end of his life he suffered from Alzheimer’s. Died of congestive heart failure and pneumonia at 88.
Famous for: American actor who was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 1940s and continued acting into the 1980s though in less prestigious roles. Appeared in 5 films with Gene Tierney. Notable roles are Joe Lilac from Ball of Fire, Donald Martin from The Ox-Bow Incident, Mark McPherson from Laura, Captain Fred Derry from The Best Years of Our Lives, Detective Sgt. Mark Dixon from Where the Sidewalk Ends, Edward Mobley from While the City Sleeps, Tom Garrett from Beyond Reasonable Doubt, John Holden from Night of the Demon, Alan Eaton from The Fear Makers, Scott Freeman from Airport 1975, and Red Ridingwood from The Last Tycoon.
Nominated for: Andrews was never nominated for an Oscar.
Most Crushing Loss: Being the only one from the 3 leads not being nominated for his performance in 1946 for The Best Years of Our Lives. Also not being nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1943 for The Ox-Bow Incident.
Reasons: Andrews was an alcoholic and by the 1950s his drinking was really starting to derail his career that it almost cost him his life on the highway. Then again, it might’ve been that he was just burned by the competition.
Trivia: In 1972, he appeared in a public service announcement on alcoholism. Older brother of Steve Forrest from S. W. A. T. and Dallas. President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1969-1970. Was friends with Burt Lancaster who suffered a paralyzing stroke while visiting him which took his life 2 years later. Also buddies with Vincent Price, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, Gene Tierney, Barbara Stanwyck, and Anne Bancroft.
58. Lee J. CobbPersonal Life: (1911-1976) Born Leo Jacob in the Bronx, New York City to a Jewish family of Russian and Romanian extraction. Father was a compositor for a foreign language newspaper. Studied at New York University and made his acting debut in 1934 before joining the Group Theatre in 1935. Married twice and had 2 children from each of his marriages. Died of a heart attack at 64.
Famous for: American actor who typically played arrogant, intimidating, and abrasive characters, but often had roles as respectable figures such as judges and police officers.
Nominated for: Cobb was nominated twice for Best Supporting Actor in 1954 for On the Waterfront and 1958 for The Brothers Karamazov. Notable roles are Mr. Bonaparte from Golden Boy, Dr. Dozous from The Song of Bernadette, Brian Kelly in Call Northside 777, Johnny Friendly from On the Waterfront, Judge Bernstein from The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Juror #3 from 12 Angry Men, Fyodor Karamazov from The Brothers Karamazov, Barak Ben Canaan from Exodus, and the Editor from MacKenna’s Gold.
Most Crushing Loss: Should’ve been nominated in 1957 for Best Supporting Actor in 12 Angry Men. Also should’ve won in 1955 for On the Waterfront.
Reasons: He was accused of being a Communist in 1951 and testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities which he refused until threatened with a blacklist 2 years later. Then he named 20 names as former members of the Communist Party USA. You can see why some of his peers might’ve been a bit uneasy on awarding him an Oscar.
Trivia: Played Willy Loman in the original Broadway production of Death of a Salesman. Served in the First Motion Picture Unit of the US Armed Forces during WWII. Buried in Los Angeles’ Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery. Died a day before Exodus co-star Sal Mineo was murdered.
59. Claude Rains
Personal Life: (1889-1967) Born in London. Said to grow up with a very serious Cockney accent and a speech impediment. Father was also an actor in stage and film. Made his stage debut at 11. Was discovered by Sir Herbert Beerborn Tree who paid for him to have the elocution lessons he needed to succeed as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he later taught. Served in WWI in which he was involved in a gas attack that made him nearly blind in his left eye for the rest of his life. Became a US citizen in 1939. Married 6 times and had a daughter to his 4th wife Frances Propper. Died from an abdominal hemorrhage in Laconia, New Hampshire at 77.
Famous for: British American actor whose career spanned for 46 years. Best known for being nominated for Best Supporting Actor 4 times but never won, a record he shares with Arthur Kennedy. Began his acting career on the London stage, moved to Broadway in the 1920s, and made his first film in 1933. Notable roles are the Invisible Man, Prince John from The Adventures of Robin Hood, Dr. Alexander Tower from Kings Row, Sen. Joseph Harrison Paine from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Don José Alvarez de Córdoba from The Sea Hawk, Mr. Jordan from Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Sir John Talbot from The Wolf Man, Dr. Jaquith from Now, Voyager, Captain Louis Renault from Casablanca, Captain Freycinet from Passage to Marseilles, Job Skeffington from Mr. Skeffington, Alex Sebastian from Notorious, and Mr. Dryden from Lawrence of Arabia.
Nominated for: Rains was nominated 4 times all for Best Supporting Actor consisting of: 1939 for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1942 for Casablanca, 1943 for Mr. Skeffington, and 1945 for Notorious.
Most Crushing Loss: I’d like to say he was robbed for playing possibly the nicest Nazi ever portrayed on film for 1946 yet, I don’t think anyone was going to beat Harold Russell in that race. Perhaps maybe his 1942 loss to Charles Coburn but then again, Coburn was fairly good, too. Just not as memorable as Claude Rains playing Renault.
Reasons: Well, being burned by the competition could apply to 1939, 1942, and 1945 since the nominees from the 1939 and 1942 came from movies we now consider classics. Not to mention, there was no way he’d win against Harold Russell in 1946. As for 1944, well, I haven’t seen Mr. Skeffington yet so I can’t say about that one.
Trivia: While at RADA as a teacher, his students included Sir John Gielgud and Sir Laurence Olivier. Gielgud would say of him many years later, “He was a great influence on me. I don’t know what happened to him. I think he failed and went to America.” During WWI, he served in the London Scottish regiment alongside Ronald Colman, Herbert Marshall, and Basil Rathbone as well as promoted from Private to Captain by the end. Bought the Stock Grange Farm in West Bradford Township, Pennsylvania in 1941 and would spend time between takes reading on agricultural techniques. However, he sold it when he and his 4th wife divorced in 1956.
60. Walter Pidgeon
Personal Life: (1897-1984) Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Father was a haberdasher. Studied law and drama at the University of New Brunswick, which was only interrupted by his WWI service in the 65th Royal Canadian Artillery where he’d only be crushed by two guns in an accident resulting in a 17 month stay at a military hospital and never saw action. After the war, worked as a bank runner in Boston while studying voice at the New England Conservatory of Music. Yet, he soon got tired with banking and moved to New York where he can prove he could act and sing to E. E. Clive. Made his Broadway debut in 1925. Married twice and had a daughter to first wife Edna Pickles. Married to second wife Ruth Walker for 47 years.
Famous for: Canadian American actor who starred in many films with a career spanning over 50 years. Made 9 movies with Greer Garson and did a number of silent films. When talkies came, he starred in some early Technicolor musicals. Notable roles are Mr. Gruffydd from How Green Was My Valley, Clem Miniver from Mrs. Miniver, Pierre Curie from Madame Curie, Major Augustus Parkington from Mrs. Parkington, William Sylvester Packett from Julia Misbehaves, Young Jolyon Forsyte from That Forsyte Woman, Harry Pebbel from The Bad and the Beautiful, Dr. Edward Morbius from Forbidden Planet, Florenz Ziegfeld from Funny Girl, Senate Majority Leader Robert “Bob” Munson from Advise & Consent, Casey from Harry in Your Pocket, and James Ellswirth from The Last Time I Saw Paris.
Nominated for: Pidgeon was nominated twice for Best Actor consisting of 1943 for Mrs. Miniver and 1944 for Madame Curie.
Most Crushing Loss: Not getting nominated for Best Supporting Actor for How Green Was My Valley. As far as I know this is one of the few films in which he uses an accent.
Reasons: I think this might have more to do with him being nominated for playing the husband to Greer Garson’s protagonist. Also for not talking like an English guy in Mrs. Miniver. Not to mention, you don’t give an Oscar to a guy named, “Pidgeon.”
Trivia: His first wife’s name was Pickles. Was a classically trained baritone. President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1952-1957. Hobbies included tending to his rose garden and playing bridge. Donated his body to UCLA Medical School for research and medical purposes.
There is one correction that begs to be made. Please check the caption under Janet Leigh’s photo: “…Leigh was so traumatized by the scene, she went to great lengths to avoid taking them for the rest of her life.” Yes, we know the word “them” stands for “showers” but because “showers” appears no where at all in the caption it makes for very strange and awkward reading.