Charley Grapewin

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Charley Grapewin
Character comedian charles e grapewin.gif
In the New York Clipper, December 22, 1900
Born Charles Ellsworth Grapewin
(1869-12-20)20 December 1869
Xenia, Ohio, U.S.
Died 2 February 1956(1956-02-02) (aged 86)
Corona, California, U.S.
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery
Occupation Actor
Years active 1900–1956
Spouse(s) Anna Chance
(m.1896–1943; her death)
Grapewin in the 1902 silent film Chimmie Hicks at the races.

Charles Ellsworth Grapewin (December 20, 1869 – February 2, 1956), stage name Charley Grapewin, was an American vaudeville performer, writer and a stage and silent and sound actor, and comedian who was best known for portraying Aunt Em's husband, Uncle Henry in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's The Wizard of Oz (1939) as well as Grandpa Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and Jeeter Lester in Tobacco Road (1941).[1] He usually portrayed elderly folksy-type characters in a rustic setting, in all appearing in over 100 films. He was the oldest cast member of The Wizard of Oz.


Born in Xenia, Ohio, Charles Ellsworth Grapewin ran away from home to be a circus acrobat which led him to work as an aerialist and trapeze artist in a traveling circus before turning to acting. He traveled all over the world with the famous P. T. Barnum circus. Interestingly, Grapewin also appeared in the original 1903 Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz, 36 years before he would appear in the famous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film version.

After this he continued in theatre, on and offstage, for the next thirty years, starting with various stock companies, and wrote stage plays as a vehicle for himself. His sole Broadway theatre credit was the short-lived play It's Up to You John Henry in 1905.

Grapewin married actress Anna Chance (1875–1943) in 1896, and they remained a devoted couple until her death some 47 years later.[2] Two years after his first wife's death, Grapewin married Loretta McGowan Becker on Jan 10, 1945.[3]

Grapewin began in silent films at the turn of the twentieth century. His very first films were two "moving image shorts" made by Frederick S. Armitage and released in November 1900; Chimmie Hicks at the Races (also known as Above the Limit) and Chimmie Hicks and the Rum Omelet, both shot in September and October 1900 and released in November of that year.[4][5][6] During his long career, Grapewin appeared in more than one hundred films, including The Good Earth, The Grapes of Wrath, Tobacco Road, and in what is probably his best-remembered role: Uncle Henry in The Wizard of Oz. He also had a recurring role as Inspector Queen in the Ellery Queen film series of the early 1940s.

Grapewin died of natural causes in Corona, California at age 86, and his ashes are interred with his wife's in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California, at the Great Mausoleum's Columbarium of Inspiration.[1]

Partial filmography[edit]

Prior to The Wizard of Oz, Grapewin appeared in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Broadway Melody of 1938 with both Judy Garland (Oz's Dorothy) and Buddy Ebsen (Oz's original Tin Man). He also appeared with Garland in Listen, Darling.


  1. ^ a b "Charles Grapewin Is Dead at 86; Stage Comedian Scored in Movies; Portrayed Jeeter Lester in Film 'Tobacco Road,' Grampa in 'Grapes of Wrath' Was "Pop" in Three Pictures". New York Times. February 3, 1956. Retrieved 2014-01-23. Charles Grapewin, who acted the roles of Jeeter Lester in Tobacco Road and of Grampa in Grapes of Wrath in the movies, died today at his home in Corona. His age was 86. 
  2. ^ "Mrs. Charles Grapewin". New York Times. September 12, 1943. Retrieved 2007-08-21. Mrs. Anna Chance Grapewin, wife of the character actor, Charles Grapewin, died yesterday in the ... 
  3. ^ "Charles Grapewin Weds Divorcee," The Philadelphia Inquirer, 11 Jan 1945, page 9,[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Complete Index to World Film, Chimmie Hicks at the Races, accessed 02-19-2009
  5. ^ (Turkish) Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine., Chimmie Hicks and the Rum Omelet, accessed 02-19-2009
  6. ^ Chimmie Hicks at the Races Library of Congress Moving Image Collection, "Chimmie Hicks at the races / American Mutoscope and Biograph Company", accessed 02-19-2009

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