“Hey, Aren’t You That Guy?” The Beach has lots of character…and character actors. Their faces are familiar, but their names may escape you. They are working actors, not movie stars. You may pass them on Queen Street and wonder if you went to high school with them. You are as likely to see them on stage or TV as on the big screen. You may spot Peter Keleghan and Leah Pinsent and think: Weren’t they on Murdoch Mysteries? Isn’t he that guy on Seinfeld?
One of my favourite unsung character actors was Eric Christmas (1916-2000) who performed in everything from Macbeth to Seinfeld…not that there’s anything wrong with that! Shakespeare’s plays were the popular entertainment of their day.
The Christmas family immigrated to Canada from England in 1948. While finding radio work for the CBC, Christmas ran The Gift Shop on Kingston Road in Scarborough. In 1953 the family moved to Victoria Park Avenue north of Queen Street. Christmas was a classically trained actor who got deadpan laughs on Wayne and Shuster and played many roles during 12 seasons at the Stratford Festival.
Actors go where the work is, a tough profession on marriage. By 1962 his wife Patricia and their three children had moved to Beech Avenue. Stephen Christmas (1947-1993) was my chemistry partner at Malvern C.I. At the age of 5, Stephen was diagnosed with a rare bloodclotting disorder which was first named Christmas Disease, now known as Haemophilia B.
Like so many Canadian actors, Eric Christmas was drawn to California where he made his mark as judges, senators and priests (Harold and Maude, 1971). He was often the serious authority figure who didn’t ‘know’ he was in a comedy.
On one Seinfeld episode, the diminutive Mr. Haarwood (Christmas) admires Kramer’s “impressive Raymond Massey-like physique.” He played the butler to Warren Beatty’s gangster in Bugsy (1991) which won two Oscars. Throughout his long career, from King Lear to Porky’s (1982), there were, as the saying goes, no small roles, only small actors.
Has any other Beacher acted in an Academy Award-winning film? Our own Katie Boland has a scene with Joaquin Phoenix in The Master (2012). Gloria Reuben (from Guildwood Village) has her “role of a lifetime” in Lincoln (2012). Scarborough’s Michael Wincott plays a killer in Hitchcock (2012). The Oscar host, Seth MacFarlane, wanted North York’s Laura Vandervoort to lose her Canadian ‘accent’ for Ted (2012). (For the record, we don’t say ‘a-boot’). We’ll find out all ‘about’ the winners on Feb. 24.
Quiz: Match up the Toronto-born supporting actor with the Oscar-winning film (answers follow):
1. Jayne Eastwood (b. 1946)
2. Michael lronside (b. 1950)
3. Raymond Massey (1896-1983)
4. Michael Wincott (b. 1958)
5. Catherine O’Hara (b. 1951)
6. Walter Huston (1883-1950)
7. Allison Pill (b.1985)
8. Heather Menzies-Urich (b. 1949)
9. Cynthia Dale (b. 1961)
10. John Colicos (1928-2000)
11. Donald Harron (b. 1924)
12. Larry D. Mann (b.1922)
__ a) Beetlejuice (1988)
__ b) The Hospital (1971)
__ c) Moonstruck (1987)
__ d) Chicago (2002)
__ e) The Sound of Music (1965)
__ f) Midnight in Paris (2011)
__ g) Top Gun (1986)
__ h) East of Eden (1955)
__ i) Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)
__ j) Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
__ k) The Sting (1973)
__ l) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
1. Jayne Eastwood – Chicago
2. Michael lronside – Top Gun
3. Raymond Massey – East of Eden
4. Michael Wincott – Born on the Fourth of July
5. Catherine O’Hara – Beetlejuice
6. Walter Huston – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
7. Allison Pill – Midnight in Paris
8. Heather Menzies-Urich – The Sound of Music
9. Cynthia Dale – Moonstruck
10. John Colicos – Anne of the Thousand Days
11. Donald Harron – The Hospital
12. Larry D. Mann – The Sting