Friday, February 27, 2015

character counts: roland young

character counts - This is a new recurring feature devoted to those familiar faces - Hollywood's invaluable character actors, addressing them by their names.  Which too few of us know, even dedicated cinéphiles. 

First up, the endearing Roland Young, who played patrician gents (often inebriated) in screwball comedies and is best known as Mr. Topper from ... "Topper," Norman Z. McLeod's 1937 hit (and its assorted sequels). 

Cosmo Topper.

Young had a beguiling smile (and smiling eyes) and, when he talked, he barely opened his mouth, so that much of what he said usually came out as a relaxed, kinda spacey mumble, as if he was conversing with himself. 

Jerry Seinfeld would defintely tag him a low talker.

Given that and his diminutive demeanor, the teeny-tiny autograph just above Young's right shoulder in the photo below is most appropriate.

My favorite Young performance?  As George, the Earl of Burnstead (yes!), in Leo McCarey's ever-wonderful "Ruggles of Red Gap" (1935).

A hyper-elegant actor, a super-sophisticate.  If he were alive today, he'd be the face of Tom Ford.

12 comments:

Nicolas said...


Nice little tribute to a reliable player. I've always been taken by how reserved Young seemed and yet, in his own way, he was a lively, dexterous actor, stylistically “modern.”

wwolfe said...

You beat me to singling out "Ruggles of Red Gap," so I'll mention his work in "The Philadelphia Story." As I was re-watching this movie recently, it struck me for the first time that a big reason why I care about Katherine Hepburn's not-particularly-likable Tracy is the fact that Roland Young's character likes her. As soon as he appears and starts cracking wise with Tracy (in the most droll and understated way possible, of course), I find myself thinking, "Well, if that guy likes her, she must be OK."

Marvin said...

Great idea!

Alex said...

Young's contribution to my pleasure in watching old movies is infinite.

Seth Putterman said...

I read somewhere that, during the advent of talkies, Harry Warner asked his brother, Jack, “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” Well, I for one loved the sound of Roland Young's voice and that of his co-star in "Ruggles," Mary Boland. To paraphrase a famous quote, "They don't have voices like that anymore."

Robert Dempsy said...

Thanks for the tribute, Joe. The name Roland Young brings back vintage movie moments that remain transcendent. Thank God for film, which keeps performers like Young alive forever - for generations to see and enjoy.

Norman said...

One of Young's virtues, not mentioned here, was that he was very funny, effortlessly so.

michael hare said...

The quintessential gentleman/doofus!

Alice said...

I always thought that Young represented the wealthy man as pure fantasy.

vienna said...

Having known Roland only from his comedy roles, I got a lovely surprise when I caught him in two films in which he wasn't his usual comedy character. He's a wise and good friend to Franchot Tone and Loretta Young in The Unguarded Hour (1936), and he plays an ex silent film star turned Hollywood talent scout in Stardust(1940).
He was excellent in both.
But back to comedy, I must check out a You Tube video of a 1933 film Roland Starred in with Lillian Gish, His Double Life ( later remade as Holy Matrimony).
Look forward to more of your postings on the unforgettable character stars of Hollywood.

joe baltake said...

Thanks, Vienna! Your feedback means a lot. BTW, if I haven't said it before, your site rocks. Everyone should check out Vienna's site, Vienna's Classic Hollywood:

https://dancinglady39.wordpress.com/

Silver said...

Hi Joe,

Finally have some time to comment on Roland Young whom I enjoy and adore. Any time I find his name listed in a movie's cast, I either watch or record it.

Young was delightful in many roles with his bemused expression, droll observations and air of bewilderment about life.

After searching, I found the name of an early film, in B&W, I especially liked. It was The Bishop Murder Case, a mystery starring Basil Rathbone. Young was so endearing in it, I was hoping he would not be the guilty party: he wasn't.

Such a charming actor. I'm very glad you highlighted his nearly effervescent career. I loved him in The Philadelphia Story, Ruggles of Red Gap, and, naturally, as Cosmo Topper. But there were many other films in which he added grace, humor, and considerable charm.