Friday, September 12, 2008
Welcome to the first posting of "In Character," my blog about Hollywood character actors. I've worked in film for a long time, but only recently have I really come to terms with my love of supporting players, particularly in classic Hollywood films. And now I'd like to start by writing about one of my favorites, Richard Gaines. Who, you might say? Allow me to explain.
I was watching "Double Indemnity" in a theater when it suddenly struck me; the guy who plays the head of the insurance office is, in fact, the same guy who plays the outrageous newspaper editor in "Ace in the Hole!" His performance in Ace in the Hole had struck me because it seemed so over-the-top, even for a Billy Wilder movie, yet still perfectly matched to the sensibilities of the film. I started looking up Richard Gaines to see what I could find out about him online.
Answer: nothing. Zip. Nada. Other than extensive IMDB credits, a listing on the Internet Broadway DataBase (playing Abe Lincoln!) and a few odd mentions here and there. He was a New York actor, and that's about all of substance.
Yet he caught my attention single-handedly in just two films. The more I watched, the more I started to love him. He's excellent as the stuffy suitor in "The More the Merrier," next to an unusually drab Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur. He has a brief but memorable role in "Brute Force" as a stern prison taskmaster. He even refuses to condescend to bad material, like his strangely moving turn in Flight to Mars.
He also has a penchant for historical figures; Abraham Lincoln on Broadway or George Washington in DeMille's tepid "Unconquered." His first screen role is as Patrick Henry in "The Howards of Virginia." This would lead me to believe that he may have been spotted by a casting agent on Broadway in "Abe Lincoln In Illinois" and was brought out to Hollywood to class up the joint, as it were. But this is just speculation.
Either way, I want people to be aware of Richard Gaines. He has a pretty decent range for a classic Hollywood supporting player (unlike, say, William Demarest who only played one part, but played it brilliantly). His high-powered, big-lunged newspaper editor in "Ace in the Hole" is miles away from the subtle dignity of Col. George Washington in "Unconquered," or the blustery, toupee-wearing fop Charles J. Pendergast in "The More the Merrier."
To celebrate Richard Gaines and inaugurate this blog, I've edited a special video that includes highlights from Mr. Gaines' wonderful career. Enjoy! And please post if you have any info on Richard Gaines!
-The More the Merrier (1943)
-Double Indemnity (1944)
-Brute Force (1947)
-Ace in the Hole (1951)