Henry Travers

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For the New Zealand naturalist, see Henry H. Travers.
Henry Travers
HenryTraversTheBellsofSaintMarysTrailerScreenshot1945.jpg
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, in addition 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 beginning 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 again 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 on Broadway in over 30 plays. However, his last play on Broadway You Can't Take It With You was his most famous, where he acted in over 380 performances in two years. In the oscar-winnig movie You Can't Take It With You, Lionel Barrymore played the role which Travers represented on the Broadway.

Like many other theatre actors, he made his first movie only with the advent of sound films. His first was Reunion in Vienna in 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 men. He often portrayed doctors, judges and fathers of the main figures in 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 in Mrs. Miniver. He received an Oscar-nomination for this appearance.

However, his most famous role was as 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 character from a suicide and shows him how wonderful his life really is. Though the film was a financial flop, it later became a Christmas classic and one of the most beloved films in American cinema. Travers retired in 1949 after his supporting role in The Girl From Jones Beach. Overall, he acted in 52 films.

Personal life[edit]

His first wife was actress Amy Forrest-Rhodes (1881-1954). They were married until Amy's death in 1954. Despite his old age, Travers married for a second time to Ann G. Morse (1899-1983) who was a nurse.

After several years in retirement Travers died due to Arteriosclerosis in 1965, at the age of 91. 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

References[edit]

  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]