Amiable, effervescent leading lady, in Hollywood from 1929 but virtually unknown until she very touchingly played a waif opposite second husband Charles Chaplin in "Modern Times" (1936). Goddard was o...
What is an ensemble cast? How many actors constitute one? There aren’t any guidelines that determine what qualifies as a true ensemble, but if anyone can offer some insight it would be Woody Allen, who has been getting great groups of actors together for decades now. From Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters to Melinda and Melinda and You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, he’s always had a keen eye for casting and the stars continue to line up to work with the iconic auteur.
With the home entertainment release of his latest, fore mentioned film at hand, I thought it’d be apt to honor some of the coolest ensemble casts ever assembled. Keep in mind: this isn’t a list of the best films featuring an ensemble cast. It’s about the best rosters of talent roped in for a single production.
This under-appreciated Tony Scott action spectacle was polarizing to audiences because of its ultra-violent approach, particularly toward women. But Patricia Arquette proved herself to be one tough chick, able to take a beating a give it back in equal measure. Together with her beau-to-be Christian Slater, she embarks on an odyssey to free herself from pimp Gary Oldman and, later, his criminal overlord Christopher Walken, all while L.A. detectives Tom Sizemore and Chris Penn are hot on the trail of drugs and blood. With bonus appearances by Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Michael Rapaport and more, True Romance is a twisted web of cameos and special roles filled by some of the coolest actors of the time.
The Thin Red Line
WWII films have a long history of stellar casts comprised of legions of screen legends. This 1998 genre entry continues that grand tradition with enough A-listers to make five separate movies. George Clooney, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Adrien Brody, Miranda Otto, John Cusack, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, Nick Stahl, Elias Koteas and Jim Caviezel all appear in the prestigious picture at one point or another – a logistic achievement in and of itself.
This sweet rom-com gets me every time. Not just because of the cheerful dialogue and warm and fuzzy relationships, but also because of the charming cast of characters played by Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert, Rodrigo Santoro, Shannon Elizabeth, Andrew Lincoln, Denise Richards and the adorable Thomas Sangster. Together, there are around eight revolving, relatable romances in the film, but we wouldn’t have cared about any of them if not for the lovable cast.
In telling this sprawling tale about the intersecting lives of a handful of Angelenos, director Paul Haggis needed an international cast to represent the diverse population of the City of Angels. He got it with Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Esposito, Shaun Toub, Daniel Dae Kim, Matt Dillon, Loretta Devine, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Keith David, Ryan Phillippe, Michael Pena, Tony Danza and Thandie Newton. Though Dillon was the only actor recognized by the Academy at awards time, the triumph of the film belongs to its eclectic cast.
The Magnificent Seven
Akira Kurasawa’s epic Seven Samurai was practically begging for a Hollywood adaptation when it was released in 1954. By 1960, director John Sturges had made it a reality with a pack of screen idols including the dashing Yul Brynner, the inimitable Eli Wallach, the ultra-cool Steve McQueen, the bad-ass Charles Bronson, the slick Robert Vaughn, the cool James Coburn and the “newbie” Horst Buchholz. The septuplet of stars had a great deal of chemistry that made their on-screen antics all the more enjoyable to watch, and fifty years later their work on this classic film has become the stuff of movie mythology.
The star power packed into these popular motion pictures is astonishing. With Hollywood heavyweights like George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt leading an army of talent - young and old - including Don Cheadle, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, Andy Garcia, Carl Reiner, Eddie Jemison, Elliot Gould, Casey Affleck and Julia Roberts, there's no shortage of charisma throughout the film. You may be wondering why I chose Oceans Twelve over the 2001 remake of the 1960 original; it's because this hit heist pic also features the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Albert Finney, Robbie Coltrane, Jared Harris, Vincent Cassel and Bruce Willis in appearances big and small. Not too shabby for a sequel...
Forget the awful 2008 remake. I implore you to give the original a chance. It’s a virtual who’s who of top Hollywood talent of the era. The premise is simple by today’s standards, but in 1939 its empowering themes were ahead of its time. Some of best actresses to ever grace the silver screen, including Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Joan Fontaine, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Lucile Watson and Marjorie Main delivered the message. All of the above are Oscar winners or nominees, making this cast of female performers one of the most celebrated of all time.
I’m not sure if Francis Ford Coppola knew what he was onto when he picked his rag-tag group of actors for this kick-ass 1983 film. After all, most of the actors were relatively unknown and untested at the time (save for C. Thomas Howell, who had just starred in Steven Spielberg's E.T.), but that quickly changed in the years following its release. Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane and Tom Cruise all appeared in the acclaimed teen drama, leaving behind one hell of a legacy.
The candid footage will screen during the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ presentation of Hollywood Home Movies II: Treasures from the Academy Film Archive on 17 October (09) at the Linwood Dunn Theater.
The event is already sold out.
A spokesperson for the Academy says, "The Academy Film Archive houses a wide variety of such films and will present a selection of excerpts including footage of Marlene Dietrich, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Judy Garland, Paulette Goddard, Betty Grable, Alfred Hitchcock, Harpo Marx, Edward G. Robinson, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Stewart, Esther Williams and Loretta Young."
Hollywood Home Movies II is being presented in conjunction with Home Movie Day, an annual international celebration of amateur films and filmmaking.
Played last starring roles in "The Charge of the Lancers" and "The Stranger Came Home"
Achieved star status in the late 1930s in such films as "Dramatic School", "The Young in Heart" (both 1938), "The Women" and "The Cat and the Canary" (both 1939)
Roach contract bought by Charles Chaplin
Formed Monterey Pictures (with John Steinbeck)
Signed contract with Roach Studios
Stage debut as chorine with Ziegfeld revue; billed for a time as "Peaches"
First of three films with director Cecil B. DeMille, "Northwest Mounted Police"
Signed contract with Paramount
Stardom faded in the late 1940s; left Paramount after "Bride of Vengeance", in which she played Lucretia Borgia
Appeared as Chaplin's leading lady in "Modern Times"
Appeared as an extra or in bit roles in films including Chaplin's "City Lights" (1931) and such Eddie Cantor musical vehicles as "The Kid from Spain" (1932) and "Kid Millions" (1934)
One-shot return to films, in a supporting role in the Italian production, "Time of Indifference", based on the Alberto Moravia novel
Stage acting debut in "The Unconquerable Male"
Amiable, effervescent leading lady, in Hollywood from 1929 but virtually unknown until she very touchingly played a waif opposite second husband Charles Chaplin in "Modern Times" (1936). Goddard was one of the final contenders for the much sought-after role of Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind" (1939) but ultimately lost out to Vivien Leigh. (One story has it that a possible scandal surrounding her marital status with Chaplin may have kept her from getting the role.) Goddard, an extremely pretty and vivacious brunette, nevertheless became a popular favorite in comedy and period melodrama, remaining a top star at Paramount throughout the 1940s. She is best known as part of George Cukor's all-star distaff ensemble in the riotous "The Women" (1939) and as Bob Hope's co-star in the enjoyable horror comedies "The Cat and the Canary" (1939) and "The Ghost Breakers" (1940).
Besides the Chaplin and Cukor films, probably Goddard's finest performance is to be found in Mitchell Leisen's nicely judged and handsomely designed reworking of the "Pygmalion" myth, "Kitty" (1945). She also appeared in several films opposite her third husband, actor Burgess Meredith, including Jean Renoir's striking and offbeat "The Diary of a Chambermaid" (1946). After making several poor films in the later 40s, Goddard found that her star status had slipped; she and Paramount parted company in 1949 and she continued on for another five years in low-budget fare including "Babes in Bagdad" (1952) and "Vice Squad" (1953). A sharp-witted and alert woman reportedly much admired by H.G. Wells and other intellectuals, Goddard wed her last spouse, novelist Erich Maria Remarque, in the 50s, a union that would last until his death. She made her final screen appearance, following a ten-year absence, in the Italian production "A Time of Indifference" (1964).
At the time of her death, various newspapers reported that the year of Goddard's birth was quite possibly earlier than 1911, in fact possibly as far back as 1904.
In her later years Goddard endowed a scholarship fund for students in film production and cinema studies at New York University, and upon her death it was announced that she had left the university upwards of $30 million. A staircase in NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and one of the university's dormitories were named in her honor, although for a number of years her name was misspelled "Godard" on the staircase.
During the infamous days of the blacklist in Hollywood in the late 40s, Goddard maintained her famous sharp wit. Asked if she feared the paranoid gossip which was ruining so many careers, she reportedly replied, "If anyone calls me a Communist, I'll hit them over the head with my diamond bracelets." (Story related in the "New York Times" obituary, 1990)