Friday, November 19, 2010

Actors Who Remind Me of My Father

If you've been following this blog for a while (or at least have read my archives), you may remember a post I did called "An Ode to my Father". In the post I said:
I find that my interest in classic films stems mostly from my constant need to understand my father. The decades from the 1920s to the 1960s intrigue me the most because these are the years my dad lived through but also the decades of his life that I know little about. Watching these films and getting a taste of what those decades were like, I feel like I can better connect with him.
Something unique about my experience with classic films is that I see my father in many actors on screen. Perhaps it's familiarity but I think my dad's look is indistinctive. I've seen many men, mostly on TV and in film, share distinct characteristics with my father. One notable figure is Dan Rather, whom I always imagined as my television father when I was growing up. Rather's eyes, hair, the shape of his face and his build were all very similar to my dad's. And even though my mother and father were right next to me as we watched Dan Rather on the news every night, I always saw another version of him on screen.

This is a post I've been meaning to do for a long time: to round up all the classic film actors that remind me of my father and list the physical and non-physical attributes that create the similarities in my mind. I'm automatically endeared to these actors because of their resemblance to my dad. I like them even more if they happened to be talented actors with excellent films.

(image from Classic Film Scans)

Edward G. Robinson
It's mostly his hair style, the hunch of his back and his shorter height. His eyes, nose and mouth are almost exaggerated versions of my father's facial features. The suits Robinson wore fit him in a similar way that suits fit my dad: a little loose and a little long but still fitting to the frame.

Walter Matthau
It's the droopy jowls that do it. My father has a less exaggerated version of those same jowls. His thick dark hair and tan skin also remind me a bit of my dad.

Ernest Borgnine
My dad and Borgnine have similarly shaped heads, the same sort of hunch and similar builds. Their eyebrows today kind of match too. While their personalities are totally opposite from one another, Borgnine and my father share similar laughs.

Jack Lemmon
I can't quite point this one out except for the fact that my father's casual wear was very similar to what Jack Lemmon wore in numerous movies. Everytime I see Lemmon on screen I get a dad vibe from him.

John Garfield

My dad was a tough kid. He got into a fist fight with another kid and the fight resulted in my dad losing all hearing in one ear. My dad would also spend the summers by the seaport knitting fishnets for local fishermen. I like to think that when my dad was a teenager that he looked a bit like John Garfield. Sweet face with a tough edge.

Claude Rains

It doesn't hurt that Claude Rains played many fatherly type roles during his film career. His build, his eyes, his hair and more notably his chin remind me a lot of my father.

James Mason
I think James Mason's features remind me more of the men on my dad's side of the family than they do my dad specifically. It's mostly Mason's angular European face, thick hair, square face and gentile demeanor that remind me of the M. men.

George Sanders

The similarity isn't physical at all. I like to think my dad was like George Sanders when he lived in Europe. A well-dressed rogue, excellent at conversation and a bit elusive. Plus Sanders had some bad luck with the ladies and my dad did as well before he met my mother of course.

Glenn Ford

It is uncanny how similar Glenn Ford's face was to my fathers. The eyes, the nose, the mouth, the shape of the face, even the ears and the hair. It all works. I look at Glenn Ford and something within me calls out "dad?!".

Do any classic film stars remind you of your father or mother? Other family member? Friend? Acquaintance? Guy you saw on the subway? I'd love to hear your responses.


  1. I always thought of my grandfather as a cross between Clint Eastwood and James Stewart.

  2. What a wonderful post!

    Interestingly, most of these actors you've selected are the ones my mother (who is 81) still raves about. She and her sister had the biggest crush on James Mason.

    I can't watch anything with Carroll O'Connor without weeping for my dad. We buried him two years ago tomorrow.


  3. I can't think of classic film stars who remind me of either of my parents--maybe after I've had more coffee!--but I will say this is a beautiful post, one that I was fascinated to read & one that made me feel as tho I know you a bit better.

  4. What a beautiful post, with fabulous pictures. When you look at each actor in a row like this, there are distinct similarities that tie them all together.

    My mother in her younger days looked a lot like Julie Andrews. In fact when she worked at the studio making Thoroughly Modern Millie, people used to think she was Julie Andrews's stand-in all the time. I can't watch Julie Andrews without seeing my mother. Gene Barry looks a lot like my dad, particularly in War of the Worlds.

  5. What a fun an interesting post idea. I've never really thought about who in film reminds me of my father, but as a kid I always thought my grandfather was Walt Disney. My grandfather was also named Walt, had the same face, same floppy slicked back hair, and often wore a pencil thin mustache. Nice pics too.

  6. Funny you should bring this up... My father died a couple of years ago, and since I started my film blog (the link should be in my name), I've found myself writing about my father quite a bit, even though I never planned it. Some of my appreciation for film in general came from him, and I've come to like talking about him through my blog. It sounds like your father may have been from the same generation as mine.

    I always see my father in Ossie Davis.

  7. This is such a brilliant, interesting post! It really got me thinking...and I actually can't think of anyone that reminds me of my father. But Donald O'Connor and Fred Astaire just scream 'GRANDA!' to me!

  8. Rob - Clint Eastwood and Jimmy Stewart shared some facial features and the hair was very similar. I can just envision your grandfather.

    Kat - Thank you for your kind words and I'm so sorry about your father. :-(

    John - Thanks! I like to think this blog is my way of sharing my personality with people through a classic film filter.

    Dkoren - Thanks for stopping by! Oh wow. Julie Andrews. What a fabulous connection. :-) I'm not familiar with Gene Barry, will have to Google Image the name.

    Robby - Wow. His name was Walt AND he looked like Walt Disney? Woah!

    Rich - Thanks for stopping by. I'll check out your blog. Sorry to hear about your dad. :-(

    Niamhy - But Donald O'Connor and Fred Astaire look so different!

  9. What a sweet, thoughful post! And thank you for using photos from Classic Film Scans, I've been hoping they'd come in handy!! :)

    I've never really thought about which actors remind me of my parents, but John Wayne is the spitting image of my grandfather, especially when he was older. He was also my grandfather's favorite actor as a kid, and throughout his life, so he kind of modeled himself after him too.. they walked the same and had the same slow way of speaking. I think it's why I love the movie The Shootist so much.. it's like watching him on screen, he looks SO much like my grandfather!

    And for my dad, I tend to associate his personality with certain characters more than his looks, since he doesn't really look like any movie stars, I think. But characters like Atticus Finch, very up-right, smart, morally heroic people, remind me of my dad. I probably over-idealize him a bit but that's definitely his personality. His office is papered with posters of his idols Gandhi, MLK and Einstein so I think I'm on the right track ;-)

    Also, my dad's dad looked a lot like Irving Thalberg, but I don't know if that counts lol :)

  10. What a wonderful post! I love the photo of your father.

    If I had to pick an actor it would actually be Jimmy Stewart, but it reminds me of my mother and not my father. As I grew up I knew he was her favorite and I'll always be reminded of her when watching any of his movies.

    As for my dad it's more music that does it with him. He was such a rocker and even in a band, but I know very little about that time in his life.

  11. There's definitely actors & actresses that I especially like because they remind me of the real life people I love.

    One actor that reminds me of my dad is Spencer Tracy. And because of that I kinda think of Katharine Hepburn in a motherly way (although my mom is way less harsh/headstrong and looked more like Natalie Wood when she was younger). Something about Robert Morse (minus the front tooth space) reminds me of the pictures of my dad in his younger years too. (Maybe it's just the 60's clothing.)

    My husband is a bit like Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve (not quite as clueless, but something about that big smile...) and my one grandpa reminded me a bit of Gene Kelly while the other was more Fred Astaire.

    It's fun spotting little traits of the people you love in movie people, isn't it? :-)

  12. Such a lovely post, Raquel. Your father would be proud.

    At any rate, the one actor who reminds me the most of my father is Andy Griffith, particularly in his role as Sheriff Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show. Oh, my father was a farmer rather than a sheriff, but he had a similar sense of humour and a mischevious streak, but at the same time he was very intelligent and full of folksy wisdom. They didn't look a whole a lot like, beyond having similar hair. Jimmy Stewart reminds me a bit of my dad in some roles too. And they had similar builds--very slender. Of course, their politics were entirely different--Dad was a die hard Democrat (I guess that gave him something in common with Henry Fonda...).

  13. Great post - by the response i suggest you hit a sentimental nerve. Like you, i've seen my dad in a number of actors, from features to mannerisms, sometimes just to imaginary wishes.
    My dad could be Lloyd Bridges, with that sunbeaten face and glistening blonde-red hair; the actor who played Mr Swenson on Little House on the Prairie looked even more like him in his middle and later years, short, more full of a few good meals. Eddie Albert brings to mind some nuances of my father, elements of his features like his eyes and smile, Glenn Ford was not at all like my dad in looks, but he has similar mannerisms, that almost quiet stoic nature that is bred in solitary, farmer types.
    Thanks again for starting this topic - my dad's been gone 20 years but i still find memories of him surfacing, keeping me warm. We can all use those positive feelings...


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