The Missing Link Reviews

Quinlan's Illustrated Directory
of Film Character Actors

by David Quinlan. Batsford Books. Hardcover. 385 pages. 17.95

Quinlan's Illustrated Directory of Film Character ActorsOne of our favourite pastimes at The Missing Link is to see how many names we can put to the faces of those whose roles sometimes offer nothing more than a brief walk-on part, a few sentences, and then they're gone. On occasion it can be infuriating when the face is instantly recognisable, but the name is elusive and does not appear in the credits. This is where Quinlan's directory comes into its own. Here you will find a great majority of those who grace the screen with their presence and very often manage to steal the scene away from the starring players.

Many of these character actors and actresses established themselves in roles just as demanding as the leading players they frequently upstaged and could also find themselves gainfully employed  more often than many of their more famous counterparts. Their fortune could be made if they adhered to a particular stereotype, be it a nefarious villain, a femme fatale, a downtrodden loser, or an aristocratic silly-ass. However, for the actor, it would then become increasingly more difficult to break for their usual roles if their desire was to elevate themselves to the front ranks, particularly if their specific stereotype was part of their attraction.

Quinlan's revised and updated edition of this most valuable reference work boasts no less than 1,110 actors and actresses, the majority of whom found their careers spanning over several decades and in every genre possible. The filmographies are as complete as humanly possible with only a few minor inconsistencies which is only to be expected from a work of this magnitude, and includes the subject's work in shorts, television movies and as narrators. Each actor is listed with the date of their birth and death and a brief career study. Naturally most fans could probably think of maybe one favourite who hasn't made it into the book and personally I would have welcomed the entry of Gustav von Seyffertitz, Maude Eburne, Angelo Rossitto and John George who has the enjoyable habit of making his presence felt in the multitude of roles he seems to have notched up during the first half of this century.

Quinlan has also authored The Illustrated Directory of Film Stars, Film Comedy Actors, Film Directors and British Sound Films (1928-1959), all valuable reference works. I for one would dearly love to see Quinlan put together a directory of the talent that worked behind the cameras including editors, art directors, lighting and make-up personnel, although I clearly recognise that this would be a mammoth undertaking.

The Illustrated Directory of Character Actors is just one of Quinlan's essential works, and a book that I will refer to time and time again.

Available in the UK click here
Available in the US click here