Discussion – America’s Greatest Movie Actors

Posted: December 21, 2014
Marlon Brando in The Godfather” (1974)

Marlon Brando in The Godfather (1974)

ANGEL ON MY SHOULDER features the work of Paul Muni, whom Neal Gabler considers one of Hollywood’s greatest – and most under-appreciated – actors.

Who was this country’s greatest movie actor? Gabler names Paul Muni, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Stewart, Jimmy Cagney, Paul Newman, and Al Pacino among them – but thinks Marlon Brando stands alone.

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  • Sabio Pilloelo

    It’s so difficult to say that one particular actor/actress is the greatess of all time. I agree the Brando was a great actor, during the hight of his acting career. But so was Bogart, Dean, Caney and a few others. did you ever see Bogart in “The Treasure of Sierra Madre”? Brando took the Oscar from him in The Waterfront. and what about the ladies: Crawford, Standwyck, Davis, Trevor, Lupino, and quite a few others that were out there during Brando’s time. I do agree that some actors stand by themselves in their own league, and Brando is one of them.

  • rayban

    Marlon Brando does not stand alone – sorry, Mr. Gabler – but you are very susceptible to “hype”. Why not pick talented actors (like Burt Lancaster) who fulfilled all of their early promise?

  • Nikki

    Why are all the names being offered dramatic actors? My vote would be for Jack Lemmon, (“Mr. Roberts,” “Missing,” “Who’ll Save the Tiger?” “The Days of Wine and Roses,” “Some Like it Hot”). Comedic actors always get the short shift, even when they are also great dramatic actors. When comedy is so very hard to play, Lemmon made acting look easy – you could picture yourself knowing his characters, he made them so real. And he was a very good piano player to boot.

  • TomCat

    Jimmy Cagney, Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Robert Donat, Robert DiNero, Marlon Brando,Al Pacino, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable…Come on we’ve had the pleasure of seeing many GREATS. Let’s enjoy them. Don’t forget, they all have need tTHE storyline.

  • Jack Behr

    The classic movies came on and we watched them each Saturday. I doubt many people are tuning in now to see what Gabler has to say or for that matter logging on to see what Farr has to blog. They are indeed very susceptible to hype as a previous person posted here. Sadly, classic movies on Thirteen are becoming very old, even for an old guy like me. I much rather watch online streaming because at least I do not have to hear the same old anecdotes from Gabler. Too bad that Thirteen cannot come up with anything to salvage this once wonderful feature.

  • NiceGuyEddie

    How about De Niro in his prime (70s/80s). His performances in “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” are pretty hard to beat.

  • Iris V. Metzger

    What ? Am NOT that old, I select Charles Laughton.
    ‘Nuff said.

  • DouglasRoy

    Flynn as Custer, while ’40’s Hollywood fictionalized romanticism, is tops. The scene with Dehaviland (Libby), as they say their goodbye’s, both suspecting it’ll be the last, is one of the most moving. Though I suppose that would be a performance-portrayal best.

    Albeit with directing difficulties and deadline-editing, Brandos’ Rio opposite Maldens’ Dad Longworth in One Eyed Jacks, was Divine Will.

  • Leila

    My favorite actor is alan arkin because he was really the person in the film. Everyone ielse is themselves with another name.

  • Operasinger

    You left out Gregory Peck, Joseph Cotton, and Robert DeNiro, not to mention Humphry Bogart!

  • minpam

    Betty Davis,Elizabeth Taylor,Jack Nicholson, Samuel L. Jackson,Phillip S. Hoffman,
    Just to name a few of my picks

  • z2knees

    Laughton was undeniably a nonpareil, but because he was born in Yorkshire and was considered by anyone’s standards English, one would be hardpressed to say he was “America’s” greatest actor.

  • z2knees

    Brando of course would be in the running for the crown of this late night parlor wrangle, but I think a reassessment is in order here. Having seen Sayonara, The Godfather, Last Tango in Paris, and The Missouri Breaks recently (excellent Brando mixed with indifferent & indulgent Brando), and having read Peter Manso’s biography of the man, I’m not so sure I’d bestow the laurel of “America’s greatest movie actor” on him anymore. Besides, choose one? Damn near impossible. Off the top of my head, I’d reel off these guys who’d have to scrap it out in the celluloid schoolyard: Buster Keaton, James Stewart, James Cagney, Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Orson Welles, Jack Lemmon, Anthony Quinn, Henry Fonda, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Jon Voight, Robert DeNiro, Jeff Bridges, Gene Hackman, Denzel Washington, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and perhaps, William Holden. Looking forward to seeing what Oscar Isaac does in the next couple of decades.

  • John G

    Gary Oldman. The master of disguise. When you’re watching an actor perform, and can’t tell who it is, even when you are very familiar with his work, the actor has disappeared and the character is alive.

  • rebecca

    oh yes love jack..