Henry Travers

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For the New Zealand naturalist, see Henry H. Travers.
Henry Travers
Travers in The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)
Born Travers John Heagerty
(1874-03-05)5 March 1874
Prudhoe, Northumberland, England, United Kingdom United Kingdom
Died 18 October 1965(1965-10-18) (aged 91)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1894–1949
Spouse(s) Amy Forrest-Rhodes (?-1954) (her death)
Ann G. More (second marriage)

Henry Travers (5 March 1874 – 18 October 1965) was an English veteran film and theatre actor. His most famous role was the angel Clarence Odbody in the 1946 film classic It's a Wonderful Life, besides that he was also Oscar-nominated for his role in Mrs. Miniver. Travers specialized on portraying slightly bumbling but friendly and loveable old men.

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Travers was born Travers John Heagerty in Prudhoe, Northumberland, and was the son of Daniel Heagerty, a doctor. Travers grew up in Berwick-upon-Tweed, and many biographies wrongly report him as being born there.[1] The Travers family lived in Prudhoe for a couple of years, before moving from Woodburn, on the A68 road near Corsenside, Northumberland, in about 1866, to Tweedmouth, Berwick-upon-Tweed, in about 1876. Initially he trained as an architect at Berwick before taking to the stage under the name Henry Travers.

Acting career[edit]

Travers played character roles almost from the begin of his acting career in 1894, often figures who were much older than himself.[2] He made his Broadway debut in 1901, but returned to England. Travers finally went to the United States in 1917 after a long and successful theatre career in his homeland. He played frequently from November 1917 until December 1938 at the Broadway in over 30 plays. However, his last play on the Broadway You Can't Take It With You was his most famous. He played in You Can't Take It With You in over 380 performances in two years and the oscar-winnig movie You Can't Take It With You was made, where Lionel Barrymore played the role which Travers represented on the Broadway.

Like many other theatre actors he made his first film not until the advent of sound film. His first film was Reunion in Vienna from 1933. In the same year he played the father of Gloria Stuart in the horror classic The Invisible Man. Travers specialized on portraying slightly wry and bumbling but friendly and loveable old mans. He often portrayed doctors, judges and fathers of the main figures in bigger supporting roles. He played with Greer Garson in Random Harvest (1942) and with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary's (1945). Alfred Hitchcock used Travers as a Comic relief in Shadow of a Doubt (1943), where he played a bank clerk with a passion for comic magazines. The character actor also portrayed the postman Mr. Ballard with a love for roses who finally wins the annual flower show in his village shortly before dying in a bombardment. He got an Oscar-nomination for this appearance.

However, his most famous role was James Stewart's somewhat befuddeled but kind-hearted guardian angel Clarence Odbody in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946), who saves Stewart's figure from a suicide and shows him how wonderful his life really is. The film was a financial flop in 1946, but turned into a Christmas classic and one of the most loved films in American cinema. It's a Wonderful Life was already one of his last films, because he retired in 1949 after his supporting role in The Girl From Jones Beach. He made overall 52 films.

Personal life[edit]

His first wife was actress Amy Forrest-Rhodes (1881-1954), the couple was married until Amy's death in 1954. Despite his old age Travers seemingly married a second time after Amys death; namely with the nurse Ann G. Morse (1899-1983). After several years in retirement he died in 1965 at Arteriosclerosis, aged 91 years. He is buried with his second wife in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.

Selected filmography[edit]

Travers in his most memorable role, as Clarence Odbody in It's a Wonderful Life


  1. ^ GRO Register of Births, Marriages and Death and 1881 Census for England & Wales
  2. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/movies/person/71634/Henry-Travers

External links[edit]