Less Famous Canadian Actors Are Better Than Their More Famous Countrymen

January 6, 2014

1. Dan Aykroyd

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A native of Ottawa, Dan stunned a lot of people with his performance in “Driving Miss Daisy,” a 1989 movie in which he played the grandson of “Miss Daisy,” who was played by Jessica Tandy. His dramatic performance earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.

Of course, he is also well known for his comedic performances in “Ghostbusters,” “Trading Places,” and other movies as well as his musical performance in “The Blues Brothers.”

2. Hume Cronyn

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A native of London, Ontario, Cronyn was married to Jessica Tandy, who is British by the way. Cronyn is probably best known for his performances in the 1980s “Cocoon” movies, but his Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination came from his 1944 performance in “The Seventh Cross,” a movie about Nazi concentration camps.

Spencer Tracy and Tandy were also in that film. Cronyn was married three times, once before his 52-year marriage to Tandy and at age 85 after she passed away.

3. Chief Dan George

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A native of North Vancouver, George was an actual chief — of the Tsleil-Waututh tribe in North Vancouver. He didn’t become an actor until he was 60 years old in 1960.

At age 71, he earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his 1970 performance as a tribal leader in “Little Big Man,” which starred Dustin Hoffman. George was a bus driver, construction worker, and longshoreman as well as a real chief before becoming an actor.

4. Graham Greene

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Like George, Greene was a native Canadian as opposed to being a descendant of people from Europe or anywhere else outside Canada. Greene was born on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario.

Like George, Greene also became known for playing a native North American. He was Kicking Bird in “Dances with Wolves” and received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his 1990 performance.

5. Walter Huston

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The Toronto native is the best Canadian actor ever if winning and being nominated for Oscars is the criteria. Walter is one of three Canadians to win an acting Oscar.

He won for his 1948 performance in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” which was directed by his son John. Walter was a supporting actor in that film. Humphrey Bogart was the star.

Bogie was nominated, but didn’t win. Walter earned three other nominations — Best Actor nominations for “Dodsworth” (1936) and “The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941) and a Supporting Actor nomination for “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (1942).

6. John Ireland

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The Vancouver native was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his 1949 role in “All the King’s Men,” which won the Oscar as the year’s best movie. He also had supporting roles in “Spartacus,” “My Darling Clementine,” and “Red River.”

Offscreen, he attained notoriety for reportedly dating much younger actresses such as Sue Lyon (Lolita), Tuesday Weld (she was 16; he was 45), and Natalie Wood.

7. Raymond Massey

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He earned a Best Actor nomination for playing an American president — Abe Lincoln in the 1940 film “Abe Lincoln in Illinois.” The Toronto native was in dozens of movies, but played a Canadian only once — in the 1941 movie “49th Parallel.” During World War I, he was in the Canadian Army, was severely wounded in France, and also was an Army instructor for American officers.

8. Walter Pidgeon

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Walter is the only Canadian to ever be nominated for Best Actor Oscars twice — for “Mrs. Miniver” in 1942 and for “Madame Curie” in 1943.

In 1941, the Saint John, New Brunswick, native starred in “How Green Was My Valley,” which won the Best Picture Oscar over “Citizen Kane,” which is regarded as perhaps the best movie ever. Walter was the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1952 to 1957.

9. Christopher Plummer

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The Toronto native is the third Canadian to win a best actor award — and also the oldest of any nationality. Christopher won the Oscar at age 82 for his performance in the 2011 movie “Beginners.” He was also nominated for his role in the 2009 movie “The Last Station.”

However, he may be best known for his role in the 1965 movie “The Sound of Music.” He’s also been nominated for several Emmy awards and was nominated for many critics’ awards for his role as TV broadcaster Mike Wallace in the 1999 movie “The Insider.”

10. Harold Russel

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The North Sydney, Nova Scotia, native, was the first Canadian to win an acting Oscar – and he was NOT a professional actor. The director of “The Best Years of Our Lives,” William Wyler, wanted an actor who was disabled because of World War II to play a disabled veteran struggling to adjust to post-war life and he saw Russell in a documentary on disabled soldiers.

“Best Years” beat out “It’s A Wonderful Life” as Best Picture. Harold and Haing Ngor (“The Killing Fields” in 1984) are the only amateurs to win acting Oscars. Both won Best Supporting Actors.