MEANDERING THE MESQUITE: MOVIES' GREAT CHARACTER ACTORS  — Feminine Contributions To Hollywood

Agnes Moorhead

Part 2

Often overlooked, but clearly essential, are women who have filled the voids that make a movie watchable. Not talking about Liz Taylor, Meryl Streep or Kate Hepburn, who could carry a picture with their star power. It's the second billings that make it all work.

Here is my "A" list of female character actors.

Agnes Moorehead received four Oscar nominations in her career. One was her role in the blockbuster film "Citizen Kane.” Agnes moved on to fame on the small screen when she portrayed Liz Montgomery's witch mother in “Bewitched."

Beulah Bondi received two Oscar nominations during her 50-film longevity. Her best efforts were playing off of Jimmy Stewart, notably in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and "It's A Wonderful Life." Ms. Bondi also segued to TV and won an Emmy for her appearance in "The Waltons."

MEANDERING THE MESQUITE: MOVIES' GREAT CHARACTER ACTORS  — Feminine Contributions To Hollywood

Beulah Bondi in "Wagon Train" in 1961.

Ellen Corby acted in an astonishing 28 films in 1946 and 1947. She was nominated for an Oscar. Ellen moved on to TV as well, garnering three Emmys for her role in “The Waltons."

MEANDERING THE MESQUITE: MOVIES' GREAT CHARACTER ACTORS  — Feminine Contributions To Hollywood

Ellen Corby in "The Homecoming," Waltons, 1974.

Eve Arden made a career portraying a world-weary, wisecracking sidekick. She received an Oscar nomination for her acting in the classic Joan Crawford vehicle "Mildred Pierce." She also added spice to "Anatomy of a Murder" and "Grease." She won an Emmy for her TV portrayal in "Our Miss Brooks."

MEANDERING THE MESQUITE: MOVIES' GREAT CHARACTER ACTORS  — Feminine Contributions To Hollywood

Eve Arden in "Our Miss Brooks" in 954 on CBS.

Katy Jurado was a star of Mexican films before she hit Hollywood. Unquestionably, her part in "High Noon" was Oscar material. She was nominated for her performance in "Broken Lance." Off screen, her marriage to Ernest Borgnine ranked as Hollywood's most volatile, Katy also had an affair with western writer Louis L'Amour.

MEANDERING THE MESQUITE: MOVIES' GREAT CHARACTER ACTORS  — Feminine Contributions To Hollywood

Katy Jurado in a promotional picture of the film "San Antone" (1953).

Ruth Gordon displayed great talent throughout her long career. She won an Oscar, two Golden Globes, an Emmy, and was nominated for three Oscars for her writing. Ruth got her start in silent films, but her popularity reached a zenith in later years. Her part in the 1969 hit "Rosemary's Baby" won her the Oscar. When she was 73. Ruth hosted SNL at age 81.

Hattie McDaniel's parents were slaves. She made good use of the experience. She won Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Gone with the Wind," becoming the first African American to win an Oscar. She acted in 300 films. Interestingly, before Hollywood beckoned, she carved out a living writing songs.

MEANDERING THE MESQUITE: MOVIES' GREAT CHARACTER ACTORS  — Feminine Contributions To Hollywood

Hattie McDaniel in a studio publicity photograph.

Jane Darwell, a veteran actor in 170 films, won the Supporting Oscar for her poignant portrayal of Ma Joad in "The Grapes of Wrath.” In early Hollywood, Jane was a fixture. In 1934 she appeared in 24 films. Among her top flicks were "Gone with the Wind" and "The Oxbow Incident." Her last film was "Mary Poppins."

MEANDERING THE MESQUITE: MOVIES' GREAT CHARACTER ACTORS  — Feminine Contributions To Hollywood

Actress Jane Darwell in costume in 1945.

Marjorie Main received a nomination for an Oscar for her role in the "The Egg and I." This venerable actor was in 80 films, including "The Shepard of the Hills" and "Meet Me in St. Louis." Her lasting and highly recognizable efforts, however, centered on an extension of her role in the “The Egg and I.” The character was "Ma" Kettle. She appeared with Percy Kilbride ("Pa" Kettle) in 10 movies that were very popular.

Thelma Ritter stands out, big time. She was nominated for six Oscars, most by anyone in the field of Supporting Actresses. Her parts in "Miracle on 34th Street," "All about Eve," "Rear Window," "The Misfits" and "Birdman of Alcatraz" were classic. Reared in Brooklyn she effectively used her accent in most roles. Her career was cut short when she died in 1969 at 67 years.

As you have noticed, the columns devoted to supporting actors (male and female), are rooted in the past, as am I. Maybe the younger filmmakers will get the hint.

Scott Dyke is a Wyatt Earp historian, Western lecturer and researcher. He is a member of the Western Writers of America. He can be reached at: scottdyke65@gmail.com