Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Unsung Mr. Litel

You can only watch classic films and TV for so long before you encounter busy character actor John Litel (1892-1972). The Internet Movie Database credits him with more than 200 roles, in a list that's almost certainly incomplete. Producers and casting directors knew Litel was the man to call if you needed a stern courtroom judge, a fearless military leader, or a stuffy career politician. He was also a great choice to play a firm but loving dad, as he did in the 1930s Nancy Drew movie series, and in Paramount's Henry Aldrich pictures of the 1940s.

Although Litel appeared in some genuine classics -- Jezebel, Dust Be My Destiny -- he also has a resume knee-deep in low budget and B movies. I'm not denigrating his work by pointing that out. In fact, I'm inclined to be impressed by anyone who can deliver such smoothly competent performances as he did, even under the most trying of circumstances. To me, John Litel represents the consummate professional. Judging from the sheer length of his credits list, I'm far from the only one who thought so.

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