He can act: Ranking my best dramatic U.S. actors of all time

Danny Glover (at left) as Roger Murtaugh and Mel Gibson as Martin Riggs cook up a scheme to lure in the bad guys in “Lethal Weapon 4.” The only catch: Glover has to strip to his undies. Copyright by production studio and/or distributor..

On this day in 1943 one of the greatest movies in U.S. American history was copyrighted with “Casablanca.”

This film made Hollywood icons, including actor Humphrey Bogart. In 1994 “Casablanca” took home the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Writing Adapted Screenplay and Best Director for Michael Curtiz.

That year Paul Lukas took home the Best Actor Academy Award for “Watch on the Rhine” beating out some big names like Gary Cooper, Walter Pidgeon and the aforementioned Bogart.

The Golden Era of Hollywood produced many wonderful actress, directors, screenwriters, movies and actors.

As the 2020 award season approaches, the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony will be on Feb. 9 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Who will be crowned the best of the best of 2019?

Either Jonathan Pryce, Antonio Banderas, Leonardo DiCaprio, Adam Driver or Joaquin Phoenix will be added to the long list of Best Actor winners that night.

The Best Sellers’ List wants to take a moment to recognize some of the best American-born actors to ever grace the big screen. I am focusing on dramatic thespians for this countdown.

Here are the men who made my honorable mentions: Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Spencer Tracy, James Stewart, Harrison Ford, Sean Penn, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Tom Cruise, Robert Redford, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Cooper, Gene Hackman, Edward Norton, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Robert Duvall, Jeff Bridges, Humphrey Bogart, George C. Scott, John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Mel Gibson, Steve McQueen, James Dean, Robert Mitchum, Don Cheadle, Martin Sheen, Will Smith, John Goodman, Joe Pesci, Michael Douglas, Jon Voight, James Earl Jones, Johnny Depp, Joaquin Phoenix, Matthew McConaughey, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Dustin Hoffman and Charlton Heston.

10. Samuel L. Jackson
Oscars: 0

Versatile and memorable lines all day long. Best role was his performance in “A Time to Kill.”

9. Robert Downey Jr.
Oscars: 0

Has overcome demons of the industry to let his natural talent shine. Has carried the Marvel movies in recent decades and has great comedic timing in the midst of drama.

8. Al Pacino
Oscars: 1

He has been a part of epics and isn’t afraid to make fun of himself. His style is so unique that he has created a category of actor, “the Al Pacino type.” Please go check out him in movies from “The Godfather” to “Scarface” in order to “Say hello to my little friend.”

7. Denzel Washington
Oscars: 2

He has elevated himself from just the best black actor of his time to an ideal performer. Love him in historic films like “Glory” and “Malcolm X.” And today he displays his powerful skills in front of a camera in “The Equalizer.”

6. Jack Nicholson
Oscars: 3

He can handle this truth … Jack is fantastic. He is the definition of cool, but in “The Shining” Nicholson played the perfect crazy man. He was Johnny on the spot in that role and on the stand in “A Few Good Men.”

5. Kevin Spacey
Oscars: 2

To Spacey’s professional credit he is an actor of screen and stage, film director, producer, screenwriter and singer. He has great control of his voice and can take over a scene effortlessly. Some of his best performances outside of hiding some of his dirty real-life secrets came in “Se7en,” “American Beauty” and “The Usual Suspects.”

4. Gregory Peck
Oscars: 1

I was introduced to his amazing screen presence as a freshman at Raleigh-Egypt High School. My ninth-grade English teacher Mrs. Beck was excited to show us “To Kill a Mockingbird” after we finished reading the book.

She said don’t be worried about it being a black-and-white movie. Mr. Gregory Peck will bring color and life to the role of Atticus Finch. She was right. I felt his conviction with each line and even through his facial expressions. He brought the book to life for me. Every time I re-read Harper Lee’s classic, I visualize Mr. Peck.

3. Morgan Freeman
Oscars: 1

Dude played God.

2. Danny Glover
Oscars: 0

Danny Glover is the best American-born actor not to win an Academy Award. The reason he ranks this high on my countdown is for a three-year period. In 1985 I hated Glover for the way he brought Mister to life in the movie version of “The Color Purple.” He was brilliantly evil throughout the 2 hours and 34 minutes. Fast forward to 1987, I found myself rooting for Glover as Lt. Roger Murtaugh in “Lethal Weapon.” He was the perfect complement to Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs.

Whether it is action or drama, Glover can transform himself into the role and allow you to feel the proper emotion toward his character.

1. Tom Hanks
Oscars: 2

The greatest actor of my generation and lifetime is Thomas Jeffrey Hanks. This movie icon was born in Concord, Calif., and was destined for greatness after humble beginnings. Hanks starred in the ABC sitcom “Bosom Buddies” and later made a “Splash” in Hollywood with movies like “Bachelor Party.”

Then Hanks hit it “Big” and gained attention with some of the best leading men in Hollywood in “A League of Their Own.”

Then in 1993, Hanks elevated himself onto another tier with his Academy Award winning performance in “Philadelphia.” Hanks displayed his willingness to be physically dedicated to a role and his understanding of the character he’s playing.
Next up was 1994’s “Forrest Gump.” He carried that movie and the concept with his natural talent. The other list of his credits will give anybody a chance to say, “That’s my favorite Hanks movie.” When Hanks is on the set it’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to thomas@magicvalleypublishing.com.