Feel free to add your own favourites in the comments. I will try to focus on lesser know actors in my selections, at least most of the time.
Despite emigrating to America, British actor Ronald Colman was very much the archetypal British gentleman. He enjoyed a long career as a Hollywood star, though he started out as a stage actor after being wounded during service in WW1. He was soon appearing in silent films, and was one of those who found it easy to continue their success once sound came along. He starred in many cinema classics, including ‘A Tale Of two Cities’ (1935), ‘Lost Horizon’ (1937), and ‘The Prisoner Of Zenda’ (1937). In 1947, he won the Oscar for Best Actor, in ‘A Double Life’. His distinctive thin moustache gave his name to the style. When my Dad grew a similar one, in the 1950s, my grandmother asked him, “Who do you think you are, Ronald Coleman?”. He died in 1958, at the age of 67.
Scottish actor Brian Cox will be a familiar face, even if you are not sure you know the name. As well as working with The Royal Shakespeare Company, Cox has appeared in many film blockbusters, and was even the original Hannibal Lecter, in ‘Manhunter’ (1986). He has also appeared in two films of The Bourne Trilogy, as well as in ‘Braveheart’ (1995), and ‘Rob Roy’ (1995). Despite his Scottish roots and accent, Cox also specialises in playing Americans and Russians. He was in ‘Zodiac’ (2007), and RED (2010). Many of his roles are as villains, or authority figures, and he has played historical characters too, like Agamemnon in ‘Troy'(2004), and Churchill in the 2017 film of the same name. Although he has not always made the best choices with his roles, his talent is obvious, and the twinkle in his eye is unforgettable.
Julie Christie is an actress who seemed to epitomise the spirit of London in the 1960s, when she gained high praise for her role in ‘Darling’ (1965). Despite that, she is mainly famous for roles in costume dramas like ‘Doctor Zhivago’ (1965), ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’ (1967), and ‘The Go-Between’ (1971). In 1973, she starred opposite Donald Sutherland in the marvellous thriller, ‘Don’t Look Now’. But she seemed to shun fame, turning down numerous roles, and withdrawing from the limelight. Despite later appearances in films like ‘Troy’ (2004), and a Harry Potter film in the same year, she was little noticed again until her award winning role in ‘Away From Her’ (2006). Now 78 years old, she lives a relatively quiet life, though is active as a supporter of many charitable causes.
Although he has only been around since the 1980s, American John Cusack has been in some films that I have enjoyed a great deal, including one of my all-time favourites, ‘The Grifters’ (1990). Starting out in teen films and Disney dramas, he soon made the move to leading adult roles, including ‘True Colors’ (1991), ‘City Hall’ (1996), ‘Grosse Point Blank’ (1997), and ‘Con Air’ (1997). He has a likable, easygoing demeanour in many roles, and a natural flair for comedy too. But it is in serious films like ‘Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil’ (1997), the war film ‘The Thin Red Line'(1998), and ‘The Raven’ (2012) where his acting ability really emerges. Still just 51 years old, he is working constantly, and is a producer as well as an actor.
My last choice today is a British actor who has enjoyed a long career on stage, screen and television. Sir Tom Courtenay rose to fame when he starred in British new wave films of the 1960s, the gritty dramas that opened doors to actors with regional accents, and ordinary looks. He starred in the title role of ‘Billy Liar’ on stage, before going on to reprise that role in the 1963 film version. Highly acclaimed for ‘The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner’ (1962), that earned him roles in big-budget films such as ‘Doctor Zhivago’ (1965) and ‘The Night Of The Generals’ (1967). In the film adaptation of ‘The Dresser’ (1983), he won the Golden Globe for his portrayal of Norman. Since then, he has never stopped working, receiving more awards for ’45 Years’ (2015), and most recently starring in ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ (2018), which he made at the age of 81.