That Stock Company Guy, Dick Miller

July 12, 2019 | By

The term “stock company” generally refers to a group of actors who’ve appeared almost regularly in a particular filmmaker’s movies, sometimes spanning a decade or more.

Perhaps the best known example in classic films are the many unique faces – William Demarest, Eddie Bracken – who co-starred or sometimes starred in the works of that creative meteorite, writer-director-producer Preston Sturges (Christmas in July, The Miracle of Morgan Creek, Unfaithfully Yours).

1980s action maestros Richard Donner and producer Joel Silver would cast actress Mary Ellen Trainor in small parts in Goonies, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Scrooged – movies either involving both filmmakers, or Donner exclusively – whereas steady, prolific studio man Alfred Hitchcock might occasionally stick with a star for a few pictures (Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman) or work a second time with the odd character actor, but over 50 films, he never established his own repertory company.

Whether it was to work with a pal or as a good luck charm, Trainor’s recurrence in small roles wasn’t that different from Dick Miller, a prolific character actor who began as part of Roger Corman’s team of actors, and later popped up in almost ever Joe Dante film – Dante being a graduate of the Corman school, and a filmmaker who similarly (and rather quickly) developed his own stock company of actors, including Miller, Robert Picardo, Wendy Schaal, and more. (The ‘Burbs is especially company-packed.)

Several filmmakers in Elijah Drenner’s excellent and very funny documentary That Guy Dick Miller (2014) make note of the same oddity – whether Miller was a good luck charm and / or just ‘that guy’ whom everyone seemed to use because he was memorable in any part. Drenner interviewed a mass of actors, directors, producers, and some family members for this very affectionate portrait of what could be pegged as the Classic Character Actor who could and would often have a career much longer that a hot star; like Miller, these everyday faces with striking looks, distinctive dialogue delivery, and unique mannerisms added value and depth to any genre.

Drenner’s film is available in Canada via Indiecan on DVD, and comes loaded with significant extras, and the label also released a tangential doc I’ve wanted to see for ages, Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s the Fantastic Four (2015). When it arrives, I’ll have it paired with several related titles in August, and follow-up reviews to some early Miller films.

Thanks for reading,



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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