Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Eugene Pallette, 1889-1954

Head shot of Eugene Pallette,

One of the phrases that I use a lot on this blog is "veteran character actor". That's because there were a bunch of these actors who appeared in movie after movie after movie, often playing similar characters. One of the best of them, Eugene Pallette, was born on this day in 1889. Pallette had appeared in silent movies in the 1910s, but didn't quite have the heft to be a true star, so he remade himself by gaining weight and, with the advent of talking pictures, became a heavyset, gravelly-voiced comic father figure, playing patriarchs or boss types. I've mentioned Pallette as Bette Davis' father in The Bride Came C.O.D., and as Gene Tierney's father in Heaven Can Wait. Perhaps his best-known father role is as the sane father in an otherwise insane family in My Man Godfrey.

Pallette was always in demand, making five dozen movies in the 1930s and another three dozen in the first half of the 1940s before retiring due to poor health. Although he played quite a few patriarchs, his role in My Man Godfrey might even be eclipsed by that of Friar Tuck in The Adventures of Robin Hood, in which Pallette's Tuck takes on Errol Flynn's Robin Hood in hand-to-hand combat and beats him.

Pallette never fails to delight, and is always worth watching whenever one of his multitude of films shows up on TCM.

No comments: