Charles Bickford. Wow. I first became aware of him in “The Virginian”; my late mother pretty much had the cable box stuck on the Western channel, so I was exposed to, like or not, just about every episode of that show. Not as tall as John Anderson but craggier by far, his career was wide and varied. Here’s the link to his Wikipedia entry:
I can very much relate to Mr. Bickford in the sense that he discovered that being a character player, rather than a star, was more to his liking; and it is definitely more interesting to watch him play a variety of supporting roles instead of seeing him typecast as a tough leading man over and over, with only the name of the characters varying. And that certainly would’ve been his fate had the scars from being mauled by a lion while filming “East of Java” not affected his looks to the point were he wasn’t considered leading-man material any longer. All the better for him AND us fans!
For me, it was seeing him in two films: “Johnny Belinda” (1948) as the grandfather of the titular character of the film, Black Mac Donald. When he finally realizes his deaf-mute daughter can actually think and reason and communicate, not just recognize marks on paper, whatever gruffness he’s got melts away in the wonder of that discovery. The second role is about as far away as one can get from Cape Breton Island – it takes place in Hollywood, CA, and of course I’m typing about “A Star is Born” the 1954 remake (and the best remake of the Janet Gaynor/Fredric March vehicle of the same name from 1937, which was itself a remake of “What Price Hollywood?” released in 1932 and starring Constance Bennett and Lowell Sherman). Mr. Bickford plays Oliver Niles, the studio head who has to deal with Norman Maine, and whose sympathy with Mrs. Maine is so well-portrayed by him. And it’s also a treat to see him dressed in business attire ; no padding needed on those shoulders, I’ll wager!
And now, it’s time for my mid-day swoon – thanks for reading!