There are many subsets in the world of movies. Best Performance by a Chimpanzee is one (the immortal Cheetah, in “Tarzan and His Mate,” is the clear winner there). Worst Performance by Someone Trying to Throw a Baseball is another. The 10 Lamest Depictions of Jesus. Five Most Disruptive Examples of Speeding Up the Film. You get the idea.
One subset I got to thinking about the other day (a rainy one) is which actors had the good fortune to appear in the best movies. I mean, if you take the best five movies an actor ever performed in, how do those five stack up against everyone else’s top five? I did a little research and came up with the following ranking of my own top group – with a surprising winner (whose acting I don’t even really like very much). Maybe you can think of someone whose top five should be on the list, too. Maybe you can suggest two to fill out my Top 10. Remember, it’s not necessarily a recognition of superior acting, it’s all about the quality of the movies they were in. (And I will have to do actresses next.)
2. Jimmy Stewart: It’s a Wonderful Life, Vertigo, The Philadelphia Story, The Shop Around the Corner, Anatomy of a Murder.
3. Cary Grant: Notorious, His Girl Friday, The Philadelphia Story, North by Northwest, Bringing Up Baby.
4. Robert Duvall: The Godfather (I and II), Apocalypse Now, MASH, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lonesome Dove (TV).
5. Dustin Hoffman: The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy, Tootsie, All the President’s Men, Kramer Vs. Kramer.
6. Henry Fonda: Grapes of Wrath, The Lady Eve, My Darling Clementine, 12 Angry Men, Fort Apache.
7. Jack Nicholson: Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining, Reds, 5 Easy Pieces.
8. Claude Rains: The Invisible Man, Now, Voyager, Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Notorious.