Friday, October 15, 2010

Jane Darwell, 1879-1967

Jane Darwell (center) in The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

"Veteran character actress" is one of those terms I throw around quite a bit, largely because I think the supporting players back in the studio system days really helped make the pictures great. Today marks the birth anniversary of one of them, Jane Darwell, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1940 for her portrayal of Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath.

Darwell doesn't show up all that much on TCM, largely because she did a lot of her work over at Fox, including The Grapes of Wrath. I don't remember her as a nurse in Five of a Kind, the wife of the Justice of the Peace in We're Not Married!, or in The Ox-Bow Incident, but watch her and there she is. Surprisingly, I haven't done a full-length post on The Devil and Daniel Webster, in which Darwell plays the protagonist's mother. But all of these performances show once again how the character actors had a broad range and provided all sorts of value to the movies in which they appeared.

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