Monday, January 19, 2015

Harry Davenport, 1866-1949

Harry Davenport in The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

Today marks the birth anniversary of actor Harry Davenport, who became an extremely busy character actor late in life. Davenport. Davenport, like many, started his career on stage, simply because there wasn't a film career to be had back in 1890. He did make some silent movies during a period when he couldn't get work on the stage, but returned to the stage once roles were available. Davenport made a few talkies in the early 1930s, but it wasn't until he was 70 that he really became active in Hollywood, making some 100 movies in the final dozen years of his life.

Already being elderly by this time, Davenport played a lot of roles that seemed right for the older man, notably elderly small-town doctors in the days when small towns all seemed to have one doctor who had been working there all his life and who was beloved by the townsfolk. Probably the most famous of the doctors would be Dr. Meade in Gone With the Wind.

There were also a lot of grandfathers (Meet Me in St. Louis) and judges (You Can't Take It With You), but perhaps my two favorite Davenport roles are as Joel McCrea's boss in Foreign Correspondent, where he tells McCrea Europe needs a "fresh, unused mind", and "someone who doesn't know the difference between an ism and a kangaroo"; the other would be as the lone prospector living in the ghost town where James Cagney and Bette Davis wind up in The Bride Came COD, a movie I thought I'd done a full-length post on but really haven't.

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