Charles Middleton (actor)
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Middleton in 1922
October 3, 1874|
Elizabethtown, Kentucky, U.S.
|Died||April 22, 1949
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Film, stage actor|
Charles B. Middleton (October 3, 1874 – April 22, 1949) was an American stage and film actor. During a film career that began at age 46 and lasted almost 30 years, Charles Middleton appeared in nearly two hundred films as well as numerous plays. He is perhaps best remembered for his role as the villainous emperor Ming the Merciless in the three Flash Gordon serials made between 1936 and 1940.
Middleton's career as a character actor came into full flower with the advent of sound movies. His ominous baritone voice was perfect for villainous roles, and he became an excellent foil for comedy stars Harold Lloyd, Eddie Cantor, Wheeler & Woolsey, and Laurel and Hardy.
He was then cast in Warner Bros.' 1931 film Safe in Hell (directed by William Wellman), and in Warners' 1932 hit The Strange Love of Molly Louvain opposite Ann Dvorak and Richard Cromwell. In Pack Up Your Troubles, he was the villainous welfare association officer, the foil of Laurel & Hardy. Middleton also appeared as "the district attorney" in Cecil B. DeMille's 1933 film This Day and Age. He appeared opposite The Marx Brothers in Duck Soup (also 1933), as the stern prosecutor of Freedonia. He also played Sheriff Ike Vallon, the official who tries to arrest Julie La Verne (Helen Morgan) and her husband for being illegally married, in Universal Pictures' classic 1936 screen version of the musical Show Boat.
Middleton's granite-hard features resembled those of Abraham Lincoln. He played Lincoln in a public-service short subject, The Road Is Open Again, appeared in a rare comic role as an actor exasperated at being typecast as Lincoln in the 1937 comedy Stand-In, and played Lincoln's father in the film version of Robert E. Sherwood's Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940).
Middleton was also featured in many serial adventures from 1935 to 1947. He is most famous for his villainous role as Ming the Merciless, the evil adversary of Buster Crabbe in the three Flash Gordon serials: Flash Gordon (1936), Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938), and 1940's Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. The first Flash Gordon serial has the honor of having been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. Middleton was also featured in such serials as Dick Tracy Returns, where he played evil mastermind Pa Stark, Daredevils of the Red Circle, and Jack Armstrong. He also played Buck Peters in the 1935 movie Hopalong Cassidy Enters which was the first entry in the long-running series.
- The Miracle Woman (1931)
- Breach of Promise (1932)
- Hell's Highway (1932)
- The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932)
- The Sign of the Cross (1932) as Tyros
- Pack Up Your Troubles (1932) as The Welfare Association Officer
- This Day and Age (1933) as a district attorney
- Duck Soup (1933) as The Prosecutor
- Red Morning (1934)
- Square Shooter (1935)
- Show Boat (1936) as Ike Vallon
- A Son Comes Home (1936)
- Stand-In (1937)
- The Road is Open Again (1937) (short subject)
- Conquest (1937) as Sergeant at Elba (uncredited)
- The Oklahoma Kid (1939) as Alec Martin
- Jesse James (1939)
- Gone with the Wind (1939) as Man With Stove Pipe Hat in Charge of Convict Workers (uncredited)
- Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940) as Tom Lincoln
- Virginia City (1940) as Jefferson Davis
- Brigham Young (1940) as Mob Member (uncredited)
- The Grapes of Wrath (1940) as Leader
- The Mystery of Marie Roget (1942)
- Batman (1943) (uncredited)
- Strangler of the Swamp (1946)
- Jiggs and Maggie in Court (1948)
- The Last Bandit (1949)
- Kinnard, Roy; Crnkovich, Tony; Vitone, R.J. (2008). The Flash Gordon Serials, 1936 - 1940: A Heavily Illustrated Guide (Reprint of the illustrated casebound ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-7864-3470-1. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
- Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland. p. 140. ISBN 9780786409839. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
- Cline, William C. (2000). Serials-ly Speaking : Essays on Cliffhangers. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. pp. 127–128. ISBN 0-7864-0918-5. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
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