Lyle Talbot

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Lyle Talbot
Lyle Talbot in Havana Widows trailer.jpg
in the trailer for the film
Havana Widows (1933)
Born Lisle Henderson
(1902-02-08)February 8, 1902
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died March 2, 1996(1996-03-02) (aged 94)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Congestive heart failure
Resting place
Cremation
Years active 1931–1987
Spouse(s) Margaret Epple (1948-1989; her death); 4 children
Keven McClure (1946-1947; divorced)
Abigail Adams (1942-1942; annulled)
Marguerite Cramer (1937-1940; divorced
Elaine Melchior (1930-1930; divorced)

Lyle Talbot (February 8, 1902 – March 2, 1996) was an American actor on stage and screen, best known for his long career in film from 1931 to 1960 and for his frequent appearances on television in the 1950s and 1960s. He played Joe Randolph for ten years in the ABC situation comedy, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.[1]

He began his movie career under contract with Warner Brothers in the early days of sound film. He appeared in more than 150 films, first as a young matinée idol and later as a character actor and star of many B movies. He was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and later served on its board.[2] Talbot's long career as an actor is recounted in a book by his youngest daughter, The New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot, entitled The Entertainer: Movies, Magic and My Father's Twentieth Century (Riverhead Books 2012).[3]

Background[edit]

Born Lisle Henderson in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Talbot was reared in Brainard, Nebraska. He left home at 17, and began his career as a magician's assistant, becoming a leading actor in traveling tent shows in the American Midwest. He briefly established his own theater company in Memphis, Tennessee. He went to Hollywood in 1931, when the film industry began producing movies with sound and needed "actors who could talk". His screen test was watched and appreciated by studio head Darryl F. Zanuck and, even more so, by director William Wellman who immediately wanted to cast Talbot.[4]

Film and stage[edit]

Most notable among Talbot's film work were his appearances in Three on a Match and 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (both 1932). He played a star running back in "College Coach" (1933) with Pat O'Brien and Dick Powell, romanced opera singer Grace Moore in One Night of Love in 1934, and pursued Mae West in Go West, Young Man (1936). He would appear opposite Ann Dvorak, Carole Lombard, Barbara Stanwyck, Mary Astor, Ginger Rogers, and Shirley Temple during his career. Overall, he would appear in some 150 movies.[5]

Talbot's activism in SAG union affairs reportedly hurt his career.[6] Warner Bros. dropped him from its roster, and Talbot seldom received starring roles again. He became a capable character actor, playing affable neighbors or crafty villains with equal finesse. Talbot's supporting roles spanned the gamut, as he played cowboys, pirates, detectives, cops, surgeons, psychiatrists, soldiers, judges, newspaper editors, storekeepers, and boxers. In later years, he would claim to have never rejected a single role offered to him, including three now infamous Edward D. Wood, Jr., films: Glen or Glenda, Jail Bait and Plan 9 from Outer Space. Talbot worked with the Three Stooges in Gold Raiders, was the first actor to portray evil scientist Lex Luthor onscreen in 1950's Atom Man vs. Superman (wearing a rubber "bald cap"), played villains in four comedies with The Bowery Boys, and took the role of Commissioner Gordon in the 1949 serial Batman and Robin. His last film role was in 1960 in Sunrise at Campobello.[7]

Having started his career in the theater and later co-starred on Broadway in 1940-1941 in Separate Rooms, Talbot returned to the stage in the 1960s and 1970s, starring in national road company versions of Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker, Gore Vidal's The Best Man, Neil Simon's The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park, Arthur Sumner Long's play Never Too Late, and appearing as Captain Braddock in a 1967 revival of South Pacific (at Lincoln Center).[8]

Television[edit]

Talbot was a frequent presence on American television from the 1950s well into the 1970s. From 1955–66, he appeared in some seventy episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, as neighbor Joe Randolph. He had a recurring role (1955–58) as Robert Cummings's character's buddy from the Air Force, Paul Fonda, in numerous episodes of The Bob Cummings Show.

During the 1950s/60s Talbot acted in every genre from westerns to comedies to mysteries. He played Colonel Billings three times on the syndicated western series, The Adventures of Kit Carson (1951–1955), starring Bill Williams. He appeared four times as a judge on the syndicated western The Cisco Kid, starring Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo. He guest starred on Gene Autry's The Range Rider, starring Jock Mahoney and Dick Jones.[9]

From 1950–55, he was cast five times in different roles on the western, The Lone Ranger. In 1955, he appeared as Baylor in six episodes of the series, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe. From 1953–57, he was cast as different characters in four episodes of the anthology series, Lux Video Theatre.[9] In 1967, he played Colonel Blake three times on The Beverly Hillbillies, and also appeared three times (between 1965–71) on Green Acres, a The Beverly Hillbillies spinoff. On one episode of Green Acres Talbot played himself, as a senator, in a spoof on actors who became politicians.[9] In 1959, Talbot played Sheriff Clyde Chadwick in the episode "The Sanctuary" on Colt .45.[10]

Other guest appearances included Annie Oakley, It's a Great Life, The Public Defender, The Pride of the Family, Crossroads, Hey, Jeannie!, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, Broken Arrow, The Millionaire, Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Tales of Wells Fargo, Buckskin, Cimarron City, Angel, Hawaiian Eye, 77 Sunset Strip, Surfside 6, The Roaring 20s, The Restless Gun, Stagecoach West, The Red Skelton Show, The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, Topper, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, Laredo, Perry Mason, The Real McCoys, Rawhide, Wagon Train, Charlie's Angels, Newhart, The Dukes of Hazzard, St. Elsewhere, and Who's the Boss?.[9]

He appeared occasionally on television in his eighties and narrated two PBS biographies, The Case of Dashiell Hammett and World Without Walls about pioneering pilot Beryl Markham, both produced and written by his son, Stephen Talbot, formerly a recurring cast member, Gilbert Bates, on Leave It to Beaver, another series on which his father had also appeared. Talbot was the first live action actor to play two prominent DC Comics characters on-screen: the aforementioned Commissioner Gordon in Batman and Robin, and supervillain Lex Luthor in Atom Man vs. Superman (who at the time was simply known as Luthor). Talbot began a longstanding tradition of actors in these roles that were most recently filled by Gary Oldman and Kevin Spacey, respectively.[11]

Personal life[edit]

After several brief marriages and a number of romantic entanglements, Talbot in 1948 married for the fifth time, to a young singer and actress, Margaret "Paula" Epple; the couple had four children together and remained married for more than forty years until her death in 1989.[12][13]

Three of the four children became writers or journalists. Only Cynthia Talbot, the elder daughter, did not. She is a family physician and residency director in Portland, Oregon. One of Talbot's grandchildren, Caitlin Talbot, is an actress based in Los Angeles.[14]

Death[edit]

Talbot died in 1996 at his home in San Francisco, California, aged 94, from congestive heart failure. His remains were cremated and given to his family.

Partial filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Other notes
1932 Love Is a Racket Edw. Griswold 'Eddie' Shaw Alternative title: Such Things Happen
Three on a Match Michael Loftus
No More Orchids Tony Gauge
20,000 Years in Sing Sing Bud Saunders
1933 Ladies They Talk About
The Life of Jimmy Dolan Doc Woods
Mary Stevens, M.D. Don
A Shriek in the Night Ted Kord
Havana Widows
1934 Mandalay Dr. Gregory Burton
Heat Lightning Jeff
Registered Nurse Dr. Greg Connolly
Fog Over Frisco Spencer Carlton
The Dragon Murder Case Dale Leland
1935 Red Hot Tires Wallace Storm
Oil for the Lamps of China Jim
Page Miss Glory Slattery of the Express
The Case of the Lucky Legs Dr. Bob Doray
1937 Second Honeymoon Robert "Bob" Benton
1939 Second Fiddle Willie Hogger
1940 He Married His Wife Paul Hunter
1944 The Falcon Out West Tex Irwin
Gambler's Choice Yellow Gloves Weldon
Sensations of 1945 Randall
1946 Chick Carter, Detective Chick Carter
1948 Appointment with Murder Fred Muller
1949 Batman and Robin Commissioner Jim Gordon
She Shoulda Said No! Police Captain Hayes
1950 Dick Tracy B.R. Ayne aka The Brain TV, 7 episodes
Atom Man vs. Superman Luthor/The Atom Man
Lucky Losers Bruce McDermott
1950–1954 The Cisco Kid Various roles TV, 4 episodes
1950–1956 The Lone Ranger Various roles TV, 5 episodes
1951 Gold Raiders Taggert Alternative title: The Stooges Go West
1951–1956 The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok Various roles TV, 4 episodes
1952 Untamed Women Col. Loring
Death Valley Days TV, 1 episode
1953 Glen or Glenda Insp. Warren
The Roy Rogers Show John Zachary TV, 1 episode
1954 Gunfighters of the Northwest Inspector Wheeler
Tobor the Great An Admiral
1954–1958 December Bride Bill Monahan TV, 6 episodes
1955 Hallmark Hall of Fame TV, 1 episode
Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe Baylor TV, 6 episodes
Sudden Danger Harry Woodruff
1955–1959 The Bob Cummings Show Paul Fonda TV, 4 episodes
1956 Navy Log Captain Morgan TV, 1 episode
The Millionaire Joe Price TV, 1 episode
1956–1966 The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet Joe Randolph TV, 71 episodes (2 uncredited)
1957 Science Fiction Theatre General Dothan TV, 1 episode
Tales of Wells Fargo Reporter TV, 1 episode
1958 M Squad Paul Crowley TV, 1 episode
Leave It to Beaver Charles "Chuck" Dennison TV, 2 episodes
1958–1959 The Restless Gun Various roles TV, 2 episodes
1959 Plan 9 from Outer Space General Roberts
The Ann Sothern Show Finletter TV, 1 episode
1960 Surfside 6 Alan Crandell TV, 1 episode
Hawaiian Eye George Wallace TV, 1 episode
1960 The DuPont Show with June Allyson Mr. Anders CBS-TV, 1 episode, "The Trench Coat"
Richard Diamond, Private Detective "The Lovely Fraud"
1961 Mister Ed George Hausner TV, 1 episode
Lawman Orville Luster TV, 1 episode
1962 Make Room for Daddy TV, 1 episode
Dennis the Menace Mayor TV, 1 episode
1962–1967 The Beverly Hillbillies Colonel Blake TV, 4 episodes
1963 Arrest and Trial Phil Paige TV, 1 episode
The Lucy Show TV, 1 episode
1964 77 Sunset Strip Tatum TV, 1 episode
Petticoat Junction Mr. Cheever TV, 1 episode
1965 Run for Your Life Steven Blakely TV, 1 episode
The Smothers Brothers Show Marty Miller TV, 1 episode
1965–1966 Laredo Various roles TV, 2 episodes
1968 Dragnet William Joseph Cornelius TV, 1 episode
1969 Green Acres Senator Lyle Talbot TV, 1 episode
1970 Here's Lucy Various roles TV, 2 episodes
1972 O'Hara, U.S. Treasury Art Prescott TV, 1 episode
1973 Adam-12 Avery Dawson TV, 1 episode
1979 Charlie's Angels Mills TV, 1 episode
1984 The Dukes of Hazzard Carter Stewart TV, 1 episode
St. Elsewhere Johnny Barnes TV, 1 episode
1985 227 Harold TV, 1 episode
1986 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Mr. Fletcher TV, 1 episode
Who's the Boss? Ralph TV, 1 episode
1987 Newhart Cousin Ned TV, 1 episode

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
None
Actors portraying Lex Luthor
1950
for Atom Man vs. Superman
Succeeded by
Gene Hackman
for Superman, Superman II and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace