Grant Withers

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Grant Withers
GrantWithers0.jpg
Withers (c. 1930)
Born Granville G. Withers
(1905-01-17)January 17, 1905
Pueblo, Colorado, U.S.
Died March 27, 1959(1959-03-27) (aged 54)
North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Suicide
Resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Occupation Actor
Years active 1925–1959
Spouse(s) Shirley Paschal (? – ?)
Loretta Young (1930–1931) (annulled)
Gladys Joyce Walsh (1933–?)
Estelita Rodriguez (1953–1955)

Grant Withers (January 17, 1905 – March 27, 1959) was an American film actor. With early beginnings in the silent era, Withers moved into talkies establishing himself with a list of headlined features as a young and handsome male lead. As his career progressed, his importance diminished, but he did manage a 10-year contract at Republic Pictures.

His friendships with both John Ford and John Wayne secured him a spot in nine of Wayne's films, but later roles dwindled to supporting parts, mainly as villains in B-movies, serials, and finally television.

Early life and career[edit]

Born Granville G. Withers in Pueblo, Colorado, Withers worked as an oil company salesman and newspaper reporter before breaking into films near the end of the silent era. His more than 30-year acting career took off in the late 1920s, while in his twenties, his hairy-chested rugged good looks made him the leading man over such rising talent as James Cagney, who made his film debut in the Withers feature Sinners' Holiday (1930), also starring Joan Blondell and released by Warner Brothers.

Taller than John Wayne and just as tough, yet capable of sensitivity, it was his early roles for Warner Bros. that brought him his highest accolades. Withers' early work had him opposite such major talent as W. C. Fields, Buster Keaton, Boris Karloff, Mae West, and Shirley Temple. Appearing in The Red-Haired Alibi (1932) with Temple, he played the role of her first on-screen parent.

Starring roles in major pictures later dwindled to supporting parts, mainly as villains in B-movies and serials. Notable exceptions included a 12-part Jungle Jim movie serial (1937), starring Withers and released by Universal Pictures, and the recurring role of the brash police Captain Bill Street in the Monogram Pictures series Mr. Wong, starring Boris Karloff, beginning in 1938. He was under a Republic Pictures contract from February 1944 through April 1954. Withers' credits at Republic total about sixty films from 1937 to 1957.

After 1940, he was a character actor and a popular Western tough guy. He took numerous supporting roles in television as his demand in films waned. He guest starred as baseball Coach Whitey Martin the 1956 episode "The Comeback" of the religion anthology series, Crossroads. He was cast as Gus Andrews and Miles Breck, respectively, in two episodes, "The time for All Good Men" (1957) and "King of the Frontier" (1958), on the ABC western series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, starring Hugh O'Brian.[1]

In 1958, Withers portrayed the wealthy rancher Sam Barton in the episode "The Return of Dr. Thackeray" of CBS's Have Gun-Will Travel. In the segment, lead character Paladin, played by Richard Boone, come to the assistance of a physician friend, portrayed by June Lockhart. Dr. Thackeray diagnoses a cook with smallpox and worries that the disease will infect the ranch hands when Barton refuses to permit his men to be vaccinated. Singer Johnny Western, who performed the Have Gun-Will Travel theme song, appeared in this episode as an angry gunslinger. Withers also appeared in two other Have Gun – Will Travel episodes.[2] That year he played Charles Stewart Brent, owner of the Brent Building in Los Angeles where Perry Mason had his office, and the defendant in the Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Gilded Lily."

In 1959, shortly before his death, Withers was cast in the episode "Feeling His Oats" of the NBC children's western series, Fury, starring Peter Graves and Bobby Diamond. He also appeared that year as Sheriff Charlie Clayton in the episode "A Matter of Friendship" in John Bromfield's crime drama, U.S. Marshal. His last role, also in 1959, was as Ed Martin in "The Ringer" of the Rory Calhoun western series, The Texan.[1]

In total, Withers appeared in some two hundred film and television roles.[1]

Personal life[edit]

In 1930, at twenty-six, he eloped to Yuma, Arizona, with 17-year-old actress Loretta Young. The marriage was widely reported and ended in annulment in 1931. The annulment took place just as their second movie together, ironically titled Too Young to Marry, was released. He was also married to Gladys Joyce Walsh.

Some of Withers' later screen appearances were arranged through the auspices of his friends John Ford and John Wayne. He appeared in nine movies with John Wayne, including Fort Apache (1948) and Rio Grande (1950).

Wayne was best man at Withers' fifth marriage,[3] to 24-year-old Cuban-born actress Estelita Rodriguez (Rio Bravo) in January 1953 in Reno, Nevada. They too resided in the San Fernando Valley on Woodcliff Avenue in Sherman Oaks, California. Estelita began a nightclub singing career at the end of her Republic contract. The marriage was not a happy one. They divorced in 1955.[3] A noticeable weight gain is apparent in his films as his career progresses. In later years, back problems were one of his health issues.

Death[edit]

With failing health, Withers committed suicide by overdosing on barbiturates on March 27, 1959. Withers left a suicide note that read, "Please forgive me, my family. I was so unhappy. It's better this way."[3]

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Role
1928 Bringing Up Father Dennis
1930 Sinners' Holiday
1931 Other Men's Women Bill White
1935 The Fighting Marines Cpl. Larry Lawrence
1935 The Test
1936 The Arizona Raiders Monroe Adams
1937 Jungle Jim – Serial Jim 'Jungle Jim' Bradley
1937 Bill Cracks Down "Tons" Walker
1938 Mr. Wong – Mr. Wong, Detective Capt. William 'Bill' Street
1939 Boy's Reformatory Doctor Owens
1939 Mr. Wong – Mr. Wong in Chinatown Capt. William 'Bill' Street
1939 Daughter of the Tong Ralph Dickson
1940 Mr. Wong – Fatal Hour Capt. William 'Bill' Street
1940 Mr. Wong – Doomed to Die Capt. William 'Bill' Street
1940 Mr. Wong – Phantom of Chinatown

Capt. William 'Bill' Street

1944 The Fighting Seabees Whanger Spreckles
1944 The Yellow Rose of Texas Express Agent Lucas
1946 My Darling Clementine Ike Clanton
1948 Fort Apache Silas Meacham
1948 Wake of the Red Witch Capt. Wilde Youngeur
1950 Bells of Coronado Craig Bennett
1950 Rio Grande Deputy Marshal
1952 Tropical Heat Wave Norman James
1955 Lady Godiva of Coventry Pendar

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Grant Withers". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  2. ^ Hal Erickson, "Return of Dr. Thackeray", All Movie Guide
  3. ^ a b c Various Sources. "Estelita Rodriguez". Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 

External links[edit]