Thomas Mitchell, Jack Warden, Ben Johnson, Lee J. Cobb and Elisha Cook Jr. were some famous character actors in old black-and-white movies. Others included Eugene Pallette, known for his frog-like voice, and Edward Everett Horton, who often played foppish men in comedies with Fred Astaire.
Thomas Mitchell is perhaps the most famous character actor from the classic Hollywood era. A first-generation American from an Irish immigrant family, Mitchell often played characters of Irish descent who were overly attached to the bottle. His first major role was in the 1937 Frank Capra film "Lost Horizon." That same year he received an Oscar nomination for "The Hurricane," and won the Oscar two years later for his performance as an alcoholic doctor in the John Ford western "Stagecoach." His other classic film credits include "Only Angels Have Wings," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Gone with the Wind" and "It's a Wonderful Life."
Ben Johnson, an Oscar winner in 1971 for "The Last Picture Show," was a cowboy and rodeo rider who arrived in Hollywood in the 1940s. Johnson appeared uncredited in many westerns throughout the decade, and began taking larger roles in later westerns, including "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," "Wagon Master" and "Rio Grande."
Elisha Cook Jr. was an actor who came onto the scene in the 1930s. Because of his short stature, studios such as Warner Bros. often relegated him to character actor roles. He appeared most famously in crime films such as "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Big Sleep."