Burgess Meredith

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Burgess Meredith
BurgessMeredithFeb1938.jpg
Meredith in February 1938
Born Oliver Burgess Meredith
(1907-11-16)November 16, 1907[1][2]
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Died September 9, 1997(1997-09-09) (aged 89)
Malibu, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Melanoma and Alzheimer's disease
Nationality American
Alma mater Amherst College (B.A., 1931)
Occupation Actor, director, producer, writer, singer, dancer, voice artist, comedian
Years active 1930–1996
Height Unspecified
Spouse(s) Helen Derby (1933–35)
Margaret Perry (1936–38)
Paulette Goddard (1944–49)
Kaja Sundsten (1950–97; his death); 2 children
Parents Dr. William George Meredith
Ida Beth (née Burgess)

Oliver Burgess Meredith (November 16, 1907[1][2] – September 9, 1997),[3] known professionally as Burgess Meredith, was an American actor in theatre, film, and television, who also worked as a director. Active for more than 6 decades,[4] Meredith has been called "a virtuosic actor"[1] who was "one of the most accomplished actors of the century".[5] A life member of The Actors Studio[6] by invitation,[7] he won several Emmys,[8] was the first male actor to win the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor twice, and was nominated for two Academy Awards.[8]

Early life[edit]

Meredith was born Oliver Burgess Meredith in Cleveland, Ohio on November 16, 1907, the son of Dr. William George Meredith, a Canadian-born physician, and Ida Beth (née Burgess).[1][2][9]

Meredith graduated from Hoosac School in 1926 and then attended Amherst College (class of 1931). He later served in the United States Army Air Forces in World War II, reaching the rank of captain. He was discharged in 1944 to work on the movie The Story of G.I. Joe, in which he starred as the popular war correspondent Ernie Pyle.[10]

Acting career[edit]

Theatre[edit]

in The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (1951)

In 1929, he became a member of Eva Le Gallienne's Civic Repertory Theatre company in New York City. Although best known to the larger world audience for his film and television work, Meredith was an influential actor and director for the stage. He made his Broadway debut as Peter in Le Gallienne's production of Romeo and Juliet (1930) and became a star in Maxwell Anderson's Winterset (1935), which became his film debut the following year. His early life and theatre work were the subject of a New Yorker profile.[11]

He garnered critical acclaim in the 1935 Broadway revival of The Barretts of Wimpole Street starring Katharine Cornell. She subsequently cast him in several of her later productions. Other Broadway roles included Van van Dorn in High Tor (1937), Liliom in Liliom (1940), Christy Mahon in The Playboy of the Western World (1946), and Adolphus Cusins Major Barbara (1957). He created the role of Erie Smith in the English-language premiere of Eugene O'Neill's Hughie at the Theater Royal in Bath, England in 1963. He played Hamlet in avant-garde theatrical and radio productions of the play.[12]

A distinguished theatre director, he won a Tony Award nomination for his 1974 Broadway staging of Ulysses in Nighttown, a theatrical adaptation of the "Nighttown" section of James Joyce's Ulysses. Meredith also shared a Special Tony Award with James Thurber for their collaboration on A Thurber Carnival (1960).[13]

Cinema[edit]

Meredith in Second Chorus
Burgess Meredith is The Rear Gunner (1943)

Early in his career, Meredith attracted favorable attention, especially for playing George in a 1939 adaptation of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and as war correspondent Ernie Pyle in The Story of G.I. Joe (1945). He was featured in many 1940s films, including three — Second Chorus (1940), Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) and On Our Merry Way (1948) — co-starring then-wife Paulette Goddard. He also played alongside Lana Turner in Madame X. However, as a result of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) investigation, Meredith was placed on the Hollywood blacklist, resulting in a seven-year absence from the screen.[citation needed]

Meredith was a favorite of director Otto Preminger, who cast him in Advise and Consent (1962), In Harm's Way (1965), Hurry Sundown (1967), Skidoo (1968), and Such Good Friends (1971). He was the Penguin in the Batman movie of 1966 based on the TV series, and in Stay Away Joe (1968) appeared as the father of Elvis Presley's character. In 1975, he received critical acclaim for his performance as Harry Greene in The Day of the Locust and received nominations for the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Academy Award for best supporting actor. Meredith then played Rocky Balboa's trainer, Mickey Goldmill, in the first three Rocky films (1976, 1979 and 1982). Even though his character died in the third Rocky film, he returned briefly in a flashback in the fifth film, Rocky V (1990). His portrayal in the first film earned him his second consecutive nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[14]

He portrayed J. G. Williams in The Last Chase. Meredith appeared in Ray Harryhausen's last stop-motion feature Clash of the Titans (1981), in a supporting role. Meredith appeared in Santa Claus: The Movie (1985). In his last years, he played Jack Lemmon's character's sex-crazed 95-year-old father in Grumpy Old Men (1993) and Grumpier Old Men (1995).

Meredith directed The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949) starring Charles Laughton, which was produced by Irving Allen. Meredith also was billed in a supporting role in this film. In 1970 he directed (as well as co-writing and playing a supporting role in) The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go, an espionage caper starring James Mason and Jeff Bridges.[14]

Television[edit]

Meredith as Henry Bemis in the Twilight Zone episode "Time Enough at Last"

Meredith appeared in four different starring roles in the acclaimed anthology TV series The Twilight Zone, tying him with Jack Klugman for the most appearances on the show in a starring role. In the famous "Time Enough at Last", a 1959 episode of The Twilight Zone, he played a milquetoast bank teller who only wants to be left alone with his books.

In "Mr. Dingle, the Strong," Meredith plays the title character, a timid weakling who, as the subject of a space alien's experiment on human nature, suddenly acquires superhuman strength. In "Printer's Devil", Meredith portrayed the Devil himself, and in "The Obsolete Man" he portrayed a librarian, sentenced to death in a future, dystopic totalitarian society. He would later play two more roles in Rod Serling's other anthology series Night Gallery. Meredith was the narrator for Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1983.[14]

Meredith appeared in various other television programs, including the role of Chris III in "Hooray, Hooray, the Circus Is Coming to Town" from The Eleventh Hour. He also guest starred in Breaking Point in the episode "Heart of Marble, Body of Stone."

He appeared in various western series, such as Rawhide (four times), The Virginian (twice), Wagon Train, Branded, The Wild Wild West, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, Laredo, Bonanza, and Daniel Boone. In 1963, he appeared as Vincent Marion in a 5-part episode of the last season of 77 Sunset Strip. He starred three times in Burke's Law (1963–1964).[14]

Meredith (left) as the Penguin

In the late 1960s, Meredith also portrayed the Penguin in Batman. His role as the Penguin was so well-received that the writers always had a script featuring the Penguin ready whenever Meredith was available. He and Cesar Romero's Joker are tied for number of appearances on the series.[citation needed]

From 1972-73, Meredith portrayed V. C. R. Cameron in Probe and in Search (the title was changed to avoid conflict with a program on PBS).[14]

He won an Emmy Award as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Drama Special for Tail Gunner Joe, a fictitious study of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy. Meredith was cast as Joseph Welch.[15]

Other work[edit]

Meredith performed voiceover work. He provided the narration for A Walk in the Sun. As a nod to his longtime association with The Twilight Zone, he served as narrator for the 1983 film based on the series. He was the TV commercial voice for Bulova Watches, Honda, Stokely-Van Camp, United Airlines, and Freakies breakfast cereal.[14]

Meredith supplied the narration for Korg: 70,000 B.C. and was the voice of Puff in the series of animated adaptations of the Peter, Paul, and Mary song Puff, the Magic Dragon. In the mid-1950s, he was one of four narrators of the NBC and syndicated public affairs program, The Big Story (1949–58), which focused on courageous journalists. In 1991, he narrated a track on the The Chieftains' album of traditional Christmas music and carols The Bells of Dublin.[14]

He acted in the Kenny G music video of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," which was released in 1997. He played the main character, a film operator at a film theater.[16]

Meredith's last role before his death was the portrayal of both Hamilton Wofford and Covington Wofford characters in the 1996 video game Ripper by Take-Two Interactive.[citation needed] Meredith was considered to play Penguin's father in the 1992 Tim Burton film Batman Returns but illness prevented him from it and that role was taken by Paul Reubens.[17]

Personal life[edit]

In 1994, Meredith published his autobiography, So Far, So Good. In the book he confessed that he suffered from violent mood swings caused by cyclothymia, a form of Bipolar disorder.[2]

Meredith was married four times. Two of his wives were actresses, Margaret Perry and Paulette Goddard; Goddard suffered a miscarriage in 1944. His last marriage (to Kaja Sundsten) lasted 46 years, and produced two children, Jonathon (a musician) and Tala (a painter).[14]

Death[edit]

Meredith died from complications of Alzheimer's disease and melanoma on September 9, 1997, aged 89, at his Malibu home. Friend Adam West spoke briefly at his memorial service. His remains were cremated.

Awards and honors[edit]

Meredith was twice nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, in 1976 for Rocky, and in 1977 for The Day of the Locust, for which he also received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture. That performance brought him a BAFTA Award nomination.[18]

Meredith won a Primetime Emmy Award for Supporting Actor in 1977 for Tail Gunner Joe, and was nominated for the same award the next year for The Last Hurrah. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films three times, in 1978, 1979 and 1982, and won the last two times, for Magic and Clash of the Titans.[18]

In 1962, Meredith won a Best Supporting Actor award from the National Board of Review, for Advise & Consent, and in 1985 he was nominated for a CableAce Award for his performance in Answers[18]

For his contributions to the motion picture industry, Meredith has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For his onstage contributions, he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[19]

Filmography[edit]

Television[edit]

References[edit]

Notes:

  1. ^ a b c d "Burgess Meredith, 89, Who Was at Ease Playing Good Guys and Villains, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Burgess Meredith obituary". CNN. September 10, 1997. 
  3. ^ "Burgess Meredith dies at 89". CNN. 1997-09-10. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  4. ^ "24 X 7". Infoplease.com. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  5. ^ "Lakewood Lore - Burgess Meredith". Lkwdpl.org. 1997-09-10. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  6. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 279. ISBN 0-02-542650-8. 
  7. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Strasberg Takes Over: 1951-1955". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 278. ISBN 0-02-542650-8. "Aside from the original Robert Lewis group and those who came in with Mann and Meisner and were asked to remain, such individuals as Roscoe Lee Browne, Dane Clark, Tamra Daykarhanova, Rita Gam, Burgess Meredith, Sidney Poitier, Paula Strasberg, Anna Mizrahi Strasberg, and Franchot Tone have been voted directly into membership by the Studio's directorate or by Strasberg himself. In the early sixties, several actors who performed with The Actors Studio Theatre were similarly admitted" 
  8. ^ a b "Overview for Burgess Meredith". Tcm.com. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  9. ^ Burgess Meredith genealogy by Robert Battle, hosted at freepages.rootsweb
  10. ^ "The Story of G.I. Joe". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved September 16, 2011. 
  11. ^ Wolcott Gibbs (April 3, 1937). "Profiles". The New Yorker. pp. 26–37. Retrieved February 18, 2014. 
  12. ^ Prideaux, Tom (1964). "Everything's Up to Date in Elsinore". Life 56 (17) (TimeLife, Inc.). p. 96. Retrieved September 16, 2011. 
  13. ^ Burgess Meredith at the Internet Broadway Database
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h Burgess Meredith at the Internet Movie Database
  15. ^ Sanford, Bruce (2004). Libel and Privacy. Aspen Publishers. pp. 4–58. ISBN 0-7355-5297-5. 
  16. ^ "Working Miracles". Billboard. December 10, 1994. Retrieved 2013-02-22. 
  17. ^ "Batman Returns". Tcm.com. Retrieved 2013-02-22. 
  18. ^ a b c "Burgess Meredith: Awards", imdb.com; accessed July 1, 2014.
  19. ^ "Theater Hall of Fame members". 
  20. ^ <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0580565/?ref_=fn_nm_nm_1>

External links[edit]