Part 6: The Players

Lesser Knowns

Who are these so-called 'Lesser Known Players'? If you can identify any of them you are likely an afficionado of old movies yourself. These players never became big stars despite playing lead roles. Some made many films, others made few, but they one thing in common. Big fame eluded them.

Robert Armstrong
It is easy to remember Carl Denham in King Kong(1933). Despite a raft of movies in the 30s and 40s and T.V. appearances in the 50s, Robert Armstrong is not well known today.
Richard Barthelmess
Appeared in some fine films such as The Dawn Patrol(1930), Heroes for Sale(1933), and Only Angels Have Wings(1939). Anyone remember him?
George Brent
George Brent played the antithesis of flamboyance. His roles were still well performed including 42nd Street(1933), Baby Face(1933), Jezebel(1938), Dark Victory(1939), The Old Maid(1939), and The Rains Came(1939).
Frances Drake
She was at her best in Mad Love(1935) with Peter Lorre, however, those big eyes never helped her reach big fame. In 1939 she married into the English aristocracy, and so didn't need to continue acting.
Ann Dvorak
She seemed to have the ability to promise more and warrant tougher roles after films like Three on a Match(1932) and Scarface(1932). However, Warner Brothers failed to use her talents well enough to make her a bigger success.
Frances Farmer
She made a good start to films in the 30s, most notably in Come and Get It(1936). However, it appeared that the wild happenings in her personal life overshadowed her career.
Nan Grey
She had the appeal of the girl-next-door and appeared in several good movies but rarely in the spotlight. Three Smart Girls(1936), Dracula's Daughter(1936), and Tower of London(1939) were most notable.
Elissa Landi
She arrived from Europe and produced memorable films like Yellow Ticket(1931), Sign of the Cross(1932), and Enter Madame(1935). However, her promising career then fizzled out.
David Manners
We may best remember him for his work in the horror classics like Dracula(1931), The Mummy(1932), and The Black Cat(1934). However, there were other appearances in drama and comedy such as A Bill of Divorcement(1932) and Roman Scandals(1933). Eventually he became disinterested and left films.
Chester Morris
How could this actor be forgotten after winning an academy award and later starring with Jean Harlow in Red-Headed Woman(1932)? While he wasn't destined for greatness, he was destined to be Boston Blackie.
Anita Page
Her career showed great promise in the early stages after The Broadway Melody(1929). Free and Easy(1930), Our Blushing Brides(1930), and Skyscraper Souls(1932) all showed promise, however, she always claimed that her unwillingness to join the casting couch cost her much bigger stardom.
Gene Raymond
His career developed from being a weak-kneed sidekick in Red Dust(1932) to charismatic leads in Zoo in Budapest(1933), and Flying Down to Rio(1933). Nothing too notable happened for the rest of the decade.
Dorothy Sebastian
She went from Joan Crawford's shadow straight into oblivion. See Our Blushing Brides(1930).
Anna Sten
After Nana(1934) what happened? Her early success in Europe could not be repeated in America.
Gloria Stuart
Good starring vehicles were not offered to this beautiful lady in the thirties even with her classic cheeks. I remember her for films like Air Mail(1932), The Invisible Man(1933), Roman Scandals(1933), Gold Diggers of 1935(1935), and The Three Musketeers(1939). Younger folks will revere her as Old Rose in Titanic(1997).
Estelle Taylor
After some good work in silents I would have expected more than what we saw in the 1930s. See her beauty in The Unholy Garden(1931).
Lee Tracy
Anyone remember this charismatic comedian in films like Blessed Event(1932), Bombshell(1933), and Advice to the Lovelorn(1933)?
Helen Twelvetrees
None of her roles evoke strong memories, in fact most were rather insipid. The best film worth a peek is State's Attorney(1931) with John Barrymore.
Anna May Wong
Despite her talent and beauty, this American-born actress was held back from starring roles. She was enjoyable in some like Shanghai Express(1932), however the morals of the time disapproved of miscegenation, and so she was relegated to European efforts or B movies. It is a pity she didn't get more challenging opportunities.

Back to the introduction
Some of the FORGOTTEN STARS of the 1930s
Some of the great CHARACTER ACTORS/ACTRESSES from the 1930s<--next
Map of this website