Photo of Gillingwater from Film Star Who's Who on the Screen (1938)
August 2, 1870|
Louisiana, Missouri, US
|Died||November 1, 1939
Beverly Hills, California, US
Claude Benton Gillingwater (August 2, 1870 – November 1, 1939) was an American stage and screen actor. He first appeared on the stage then in 92 films between 1918 and 1939.
Gillingwater was born in Louisiana, Missouri. Though he studied law, he preferred not to follow in his father's footsteps as a lawyer. He became a traveller for a wholesale firm, selling vinegar. While thus engaged he seized the opportunity of filling a vacancy in a small theatrical company with David Belasco. Eight years later, Mary Pickford saw him acting and secured him for her picture, Little Lord Fauntleroy which started off his film career.
A founding member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (1927), he advanced into the talking era of films with equal verve, although his roles were, more often than not, token grouches. In later years, Gillingwater played a few more curmudgeonly character roles. Some of his more distinctive parts came with the films A Tale of Two Cities (1935) (as Jarvis Lorry), Mississippi (1935) and The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936). He proved to be an excellent crabapple foil for 20th Century-Fox moppet star Shirley Temple in Poor Little Rich Girl (1936) and subsequently appeared in two more of her pictures - Just Around the Corner (1938) and Little Miss Broadway (1938).
Later years and death
A serious accident while filming Florida Special (1936) (he fell from a platform and injured his back) damaged his health and threatened his career. The "Florida Special" accident on the set at Paramount Studios in February 1936, left him never fully recovered. This, along with the April 22, 1937 death by heart attack of his long-time wife Carlyn, left him depressed.
On November 1, 1939, a housekeeper found Gillingwater dead on a chair inside a closet of his Beverly Hills, California home from a self-inflicted bullet wound to the chest. A suicide note stated he was worried about his failing health, and possibly becoming an invalid. He did not want to become a burden to anyone, so he chose to take his own life. The death of the 69 year old actor was ruled a suicide. His son, Claude Gillingwater, Jr., was also an actor.
Gillingwater's cremated remains were interred the Columbarium of Prayer, Niche 10628, in The Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.
- Little Lord Fauntleroy (1921)
- Three Wise Fools (1923)
- Tiger Rose (1923)
- We Moderns (1925)
- 45 Minutes from Hollywood (1926)
- That's My Baby (1926)
- Barbed Wire (1927)
- Stark Mad (1929)
- The Great Divide (1929)
- So Long Letty (1929)
- Gold Dust Gertie (1931)
- City Limits (1934)
- In Love with Life (1934)
- A Tale of Two Cities (1935)
- The Woman in Red (1935)
- Poor Little Rich Girl (1936)
- The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)
- A Thief in Paradise (1936)
- Can This Be Dixie? (1937)
- Conquest (1937)
- A Yank at Oxford (1938)
- There Goes My Heart (1938)
- Just Around the Corner (1938)
- Little Miss Broadway (1938)
- "Gillingwater's Death Shocks Film Community". Spokane Daily Chronicle. AP. November 2, 1939. p. 17. Retrieved September 11, 2011.
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