Jump to content

Eugene Pallette

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Eugene Pallette
Pallette in My Man Godfrey (1936)
Eugene William Pallette

(1889-07-08)July 8, 1889
DiedSeptember 3, 1954(1954-09-03) (aged 65)
Resting placeGreen Lawn Cemetery, Grenola, Kansas
Years active1910–1946
(m. 1912; div. 1920)
Marjorie Cagnacci
(m. 1932)

Eugene William Pallette (July 8, 1889 – September 3, 1954[citation needed]) was an American actor who worked in both the silent and sound eras, performing in more than 240 productions between 1913 and 1946.

After an early career as a slender leading man, Pallette became a stout character actor. He had a deep voice, which some critics have likened to the sound of a croaking frog,[1][2] and is probably best-remembered for comic character roles such as Alexander Bullock (Carole Lombard's character's father) in My Man Godfrey (1936), Friar Tuck in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and his similar role as Fray Felipe in The Mark of Zorro (1940). He also co-starred in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and Heaven Can Wait (1943).

Early life[edit]

Eugene Pallette was born in Winfield, Kansas, the son of William Baird Pallette and Elnora "Ella" Jackson. His parents had both been stage actors in their younger years, but by 1889 (the year of Pallette's birth) his father was working as an insurance salesman. His sister was Beulah L. Pallette.[3]

Pallette attended Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana. He also worked as a jockey, and did a stage act which included three horses.[citation needed]


Pallette began his acting career on the stage in stock company roles, appearing for a period of six years.[citation needed]

Silent films[edit]

Pallette began his silent film career as an extra and stunt man in 1910 or 1911. His first credited appearance was in the one-reel short western/drama The Fugitive (1913) which was directed by Wallace Reid for Flying "A" Studios at Santa Barbara. The up-and-coming actor was also splitting an apartment with actor Wallace Reid.[citation needed]

Pallette with May Allison in Fair and Warmer (1920)
Léon Bary, Pallette, Douglas Fairbanks and George Siegmann in The Three Musketeers (1921)

Quickly advancing to featured status, Pallette was cast in many westerns. He worked with D. W. Griffith on such films as The Birth of a Nation (1915), where he played two parts, one in blackface, and Intolerance (1916). He also played a Chinese role in Tod Browning's The Highbinders. At this time, Pallette had a slim, athletic figure, a far cry from his portly build later in his career. He starred as the slender sword-fighting swashbuckler Aramis in Douglas Fairbanks' 1921 version of The Three Musketeers, one of the great smash hits of the silent era. However, his girth had begun to get stockier, ending his ambitions of becoming a leading man. Discouraged, Pallette left Hollywood for the oil fields of Texas, where he both made and lost a sizable fortune of $140,000 (equivalent to $2,391,493 in 2023) in the same year. Eventually he returned to film work.

After gaining a great deal of weight, he became one of the screen's most recognizable character actors. In 1927, he signed as a regular for Hal Roach Studios and was a reliable comic foil in several early Laurel and Hardy movies. In later years, Pallette's weight may have topped out at more than 300 pounds (136 kg).[citation needed]

Sound films[edit]

The advent of the talkies proved to be the second major career boost for Pallette. In 1929 he appeared as "Honey" Wiggin in the 1929 talkie The Virginian. His inimitable rasping gravel voice (described as "half an octave below anyone else in the cast") made him one of Hollywood's most sought-after character actors in the 1930s and 1940s.

The typical Pallette role was gruff, aggravated and down to earth. He played the comically exasperated head of the family (e.g., My Man Godfrey, The Lady Eve, Heaven Can Wait), the cynical backroom sharpy (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), and the gruff police sergeant in five Philo Vance films including The Kennel Murder Case. Pallette thus appeared in more Philo Vance films than any of the ten actors who played the aristocratic lead role of Vance. Pallette's best-known role may be as Friar Tuck in The Adventures of Robin Hood; he made a similar appearance as Friar Felipe two years later in The Mark of Zorro.

BBC commentator Dana Gioia described Pallette's onscreen appeal:

The mature Pallette character is a creature of provocative contradictions—tough-minded but indulgent, earthy but epicurean, relaxed but excitable. His grit and gravel voice sounds simultaneously tough and comic. ... Pallette uses his girth to create a common touch. Stuffed into a tuxedo that seems perpetually near bursting, he seems more down-to-earth than the stylish high society types who surround him.

Pallette was cast as the father of lead actress Jeanne Crain for the film In the Meantime, Darling (1944). Director Otto Preminger clashed with Pallette and claimed he was "an admirer of Hitler and convinced that Germany would win the war". Pallette refused to sit at the same table with black actor Clarence Muse in a scene set in a kitchen. "You're out of your mind, I won't sit next to a nigger," Pallette hissed at Preminger. Preminger furiously informed Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck, who fired Pallette. Although Pallette remains in scenes he already had filmed, the remainder of his role not yet shot was eliminated from the script.[4] However, a 1953 issue of the African-American magazine Jet listed Pallette as being among the attendees of a Hollywood banquet honoring the then "oldest Negro actress in the world", Madame Sul-Te-Wan.[5] For his part, Pallette always maintained that a medical problem with his throat ended his career.

In increasingly ill health by his late fifties, Pallette made fewer and fewer movies, and for lesser studios. His final movie, Suspense, was released in 1946.

Later life[edit]

Eugene Pallette's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 1946, convinced that there was going to be a "world blow-up" by atomic bombs, the hawkish Pallette received considerable publicity when he set up a "mountain fortress" on a 3,500-acre (14 km2) ranch near Imnaha, Oregon, as a hideaway from universal catastrophe. The "fortress" reportedly was stocked with a sizable herd of prize cattle, enormous supplies of food, and had its own canning plant and lumber mill.

When the "blow-up" he anticipated failed to materialize after two years, he began disposing of the Oregon ranch and returned to Los Angeles and his movie colony friends. He never appeared in another movie, however.

Eugene Pallette died at age 65 in 1954 from throat cancer at his apartment, 10835 Wilshire Boulevard, in Los Angeles.[6] His wife, Marjorie, and his sister, Beulah Phelps, were at his side. Private funeral services were conducted on Saturday, September 4, 1954, at the Armstrong Family Mortuary.[7] His cremated remains are interred in an unmarked grave behind the monument of his parents at Green Lawn Cemetery in Grenola, Kansas.[citation needed]

He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6702 Hollywood Boulevard for his contribution to motion pictures.[8]


Year Film Role Director Notes
1913 The Fugitive The Fugitive Short
Lost film
1913 When the Light Fades John Robertson Short
Lost film
1915 The Birth of a Nation Union Soldier D. W. Griffith Uncredited
1915 The Highbinders Hop Woo Tod Browning Short
Lost film
1915 The Story of a Story The Author Tod Browning Short
Lost film
1915 The Spell of the Poppy Manfredi Tod Browning Short
Lost film
1916 Sunshine Dad Alfred Evergreen Edward Dillon
1916 The Children in the House Arthur Vincent
1916 Going Straight Jimmy Briggs S.A. Franklin
1916 Hell-to-Pay Austin Harry Tracey Paul Powell Lost film
1916 Gretchen the Greenhorn Rodgers Sidney A. Franklin
1916 Intolerance Prosper Latour D. W. Griffith
1917 Each to His Kind Dick Larimer Edward LeSaint Lost film
1917 The Winning of Sally Temple Sir John Gorham George Melford
1917 The Bond Between Raoul Vaux Donald Crisp Lost film
1917 The Lonesome Chap George Rothwell Edward LeSaint Lost film
1917 The Marcellini Millions Mr. Murray Donald Crisp
1917 The World Apart Clyde Holt William Desmond Taylor Lost film
1917 The Heir of the Ages Larry Payne Edward LeSaint
1917 The Ghost House Spud Foster William C. deMille Lost film
1918 Madam Who? Lieutenant Conroy Reginald Barker Incomplete film
1918 His Robe of Honor Clifford Nordhoff Rex Ingram Lost film
1918 Tarzan of the Apes Scott Sidney
1918 A Man's Man Capt. Benevido Oscar Apfel Lost film
1918 The Turn of a Card Eddie Barrett Oscar Apfel Lost film
1918 Breakers Ahead Jim Hawley Charles Brabin Lost film
1918 Viviette Dick Ware Walter Edwards Lost film
1918 No Man's Land Sidney Dundas Will S. Davis
1919 Words and Music by - Gene Harris
1919 The Amateur Adventuress George Goodie Henry Otto Lost film
1919 Be a Little Sport Dick Nevins Scott Dunlap Lost film
1919 Fair and Warmer Billy Bartlett Henry Otto Lost film
1920 Alias Jimmy Valentine 'Red' Jocelyn Arthur D. Ripley Lost film
1920 Terror Island Guy Mourdant James Cruze Incomplete film
1920 Parlor, Bedroom and Bath Reggie Irving Edward Dillon Lost film
1920 Twin Beds Lloyd Ingraham Lost film
1921 Fine Feathers Bob Reynolds Fred Sittenham
1921 The Three Musketeers Aramis Fred Niblo
1922 Two Kinds of Women Old Carson Colin Campbell Lost film
1922 Without Compromise Tommy Ainsworth Emmett J. Flynn Lost film
1923 A Man's Man Captain Benevido Lost film
1923 To the Last Man Simm Bruce Victor Fleming
1923 Hell's Hole Pablo Emmett J. Flynn Lost film
1923 North of Hudson Bay Peter Dane John Ford
1923 The Ten Commandments Israelite Slave Cecil B. DeMille Uncredited
1924 The Wolf Man Pierre Edmund Mortimer Lost film
1924 The Galloping Fish Anti-Volstead Esquire Del Andrews uncredited
1924 Wandering Husbands Percy William Beaudine
1924 The Cyclone Rider Eddie Tom Buckingham
1924 Stupid, But Brave Banana King Roscoe Arbuckle Short
1925 The Light of Western Stars Stub William K. Howard Lost film
1925 Ranger of the Big Pines W.S. Van Dyke Lost film
1925 Wild Horse Mesa Melberne Townsman George B. Seitz Uncredited
1925 Without Mercy Simon Linke George Melford
1926 The Fighting Edge Simpson Henry Lehrman Lost film
1926 Rocking Moon Side Money George Melford Lost film
1926 The Volga Boatman Revolutionary Cecil B. DeMille Uncredited
1926 Whispering Canyon Harvey Hawes
1926 Mantrap E. Wesson Woodbury Victor Fleming
1926 You Never Know Women Party Guest William Wellman Uncredited
1926 Desert Valley Deputy Scott R. Dunlap
1927 Should Men Walk Home? Detective, Intelligence Bureau Leo McCarey Short
1927 Enemies of Society Barney Mulholland Ralph Ince
1927 Fluttering Hearts Motorcycle Cop James Parrott Short
1927 Sugar Daddies Hardy Look-alike Leo McCarey Short
1927 The Second Hundred Years Dinner Host Fred Guiol Short; uncredited
1927 Chicago Rodney Casley Frank Urson
1927 The Battle of the Century Insurance agent Clyde Bruckman Short; uncredited
1928 Lights of New York Gene Bryan Foy
1928 The Good-Bye Kiss The Captain Mack Sennett Lost film
1928 Out of the Ruins Volange John Francis Dillon Lost film
1928 The Red Mark Sergeo James Cruze
1928 His Private Life Henri Bérgere Frank Tuttle Lost film
1928 The Swell Head Bryan Foy[9] Short
1929 The Canary Murder Case Sgt. Ernest Heath Malcolm St. Clair
1929 The Dummy Madison Robert Milton
1929 The Studio Murder Mystery Detective Lieutenant Dirk Frank Tuttle
1929 The Greene Murder Case Sgt. Ernest Heath Frank Tuttle
1929 The Virginian 'Honey' Wiggin Victor Fleming
1929 The Love Parade War Minister Ernst Lubitsch
1929 Pointed Heels Joe Carrington A. Edward Sutherland
1930 The Kibitzer Klaus Edward Sloman
1930 Slightly Scarlet Sylvester Corbett Edwin H. Knopf
1930 Men Are Like That Traffic Cop Frank Tuttle
1930 The Benson Murder Case Sgt. Ernest Heath Frank Tuttle
1930 Paramount on Parade Sergeant Heath Edmund Goulding and 10 other directors Murder Will Out
1930 The Border Legion Bunco Davis Otto Brower
1930 Let's Go Native Deputy Sheriff 'Careful' Cuthbert Leo McCarey
1930 The Sea God Square Deal McCarthy George Abbott
1930 Follow Thru J.C. Effingham Lloyd Corrigan
1930 The Santa Fe Trail Doc Brady Edwin H. Knopf
1930 Playboy of Paris Pierre Bourdin Ludwig Berger
1930 Sea Legs Hyacinth Nitouche Victor Heerman
1931 Fighting Caravans Seth Otto Brower and David Burton
1931 It Pays to Advertise Cyrus Martin Frank Tuttle
1931 The Stolen Jools Reporter #1 William C. McGann Short
1931 Gun Smoke Stub Wallack Edward Sloman
1931 Dude Ranch Judd/Black Jed Frank Tuttle
1931 Huckleberry Finn Duke of Bridgewater Norman Taurog
1931 Girls About Town Benjamin Thomas George Cukor
1932 Shanghai Express Sam Salt Josef von Sternberg
1932 Dancers in the Dark Gus David Burton
1932 Strangers of the Evening Detective Brubacher H. Bruce Humberstone
1932 Thunder Below Bill Horner Richard Wallace
1932 Tom Brown of Culver Deaf Diner William Wyler uncredited
1932 The Night Mayor Hymie Shane Benjamin Stoloff
1932 Wild Girl Yuba Bill Raoul Walsh
1932 The Half-Naked Truth Achilles Gregory La Cava
1933 Hell Below Chief Torpedo Man Jack Conway
1933 Made on Broadway Mike Terwilliger Harry Beaumont
1933 Storm at Daybreak Janos Richard Boleslawski
1933 Shanghai Madness Lobo Lonergan John G. Blystone
1933 The Kennel Murder Case Detective Heath Michael Curtiz
1933 From Headquarters Sgt. Boggs William Dieterle
1933 Mr. Skitch Cliff Merriweather James Cruze
1934 Cross Country Cruise Willy Bronson Edward Buzzell
1934 Caravan Gypsy Chief Erik Charell
1934 I've Got Your Number Joe Flood Ray Enright
1934 Strictly Dynamite Sourwood Elliott_Nugent| (unbilled)
1934 Friends of Mr. Sweeney Wynn Rixey Edward Ludwig
1934 The Dragon Murder Case Sgt. Heath H. Bruce Humberstone
1934 One Exciting Adventure Kleinsilber Ernst L. Frank
1934 Something Simple Conventionaire Short; uncredited
1935 Bordertown Charlie Roark Archie Mayo
1935 All the King's Horses Conrad Q. Conley Frank Tuttle
1935 Baby Face Harrington Uncle Henry Raoul Walsh
1935 Black Sheep Col. Upton Calhoun Belcher Allan Dwan
1935 Steamboat Round the Bend Sheriff Rufe Jeffers John Ford
1935 The Ghost Goes West Mr. Joe Martin René Clair
1936 The Golden Arrow Mr. Meyers Alfred E. Green
1936 My Man Godfrey Alexander Bullock Gregory La Cava
1936 Dishonour Bright Busby Tom Walls
1936 The Luckiest Girl in the World Campbell Duncan Edward Buzzell
1936 Easy to Take Dr. Reginald Kraft aka Doc Glenn Tryon
1936 Stowaway The Colonel William A. Seiter
1937 Clarence Mr. Wheeler George Archainbaud
1937 The Crime Nobody Saw 'Babe' Lawton Charles Barton
1937 She Had to Eat Raymond Q. Nash Malcolm St. Clair
1937 Topper Casey Norman Z. McLeod
1937 One Hundred Men and a Girl John R. Frost Henry Koster
1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood Friar Tuck Michael Curtiz and William Keighley
1938 There Goes My Heart Editor Norman Z. McLeod
1939 Wife, Husband and Friend Mike Craig Gregory Ratoff
1939 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Chick McGann Frank Capra
1940 It's a Date James Clinton William A. Seiter
1940 Young Tom Edison Mr. Nelson Norman Taurog
1940 It's a Date Gov. Allen William A. Seiter
1940 Sandy Is a Lady P.J. Barnett Charles Lamont
1940 He Stayed for Breakfast Maurice Duval Alexander Hall
1940 A Little Bit of Heaven Herrington Andrew Marton
1940 The Mark of Zorro Fray Felipe Rouben Mamoulian
1941 Ride, Kelly, Ride Duke Martin Norman Foster
1941 The Lady Eve Mr. Pike Preston Sturges
1941 The Bride Came C.O.D. Lucius K. Winfield William Keighley
1941 World Premiere Gregory Martin Ted Tetzlaff
1941 Unfinished Business Elmer Gregory La Cava
1941 Swamp Water Sheriff Jeb McKane Jean Renoir
1941 Appointment for Love George Hastings William A. Seiter
1942 The Male Animal Ed Keller Elliott Nugent
1942 Almost Married Doctor Dobson Charles Lamont
1942 Are Husbands Necessary? Bunker Norman Taurog
1942 Lady in a Jam Mr. John Billingsley Gregory La Cava
1942 Tales of Manhattan Luther Julien Duvivier
1942 The Big Street Nicely Nicely Johnson Irving Reis
1942 The Forest Rangers Howard Huston George Marshall
1942 Silver Queen Steve Adams Lloyd Bacon
1943 It Ain't Hay Gregory Warner Erle C. Kenton
1943 Slightly Dangerous Durstin Buster Keaton
1943 Heaven Can Wait E.F. Strabel Ernst Lubitsch
1943 The Kansan Tom Waggoner George Archainbaud
1943 The Gang's All Here Andrew Mason Sr. Busby Berkeley
1944 Pin Up Girl Barney Briggs H. Bruce Humberstone
1944 Sensations of 1945 Gus Crane Andrew Stone
1944 Step Lively Simon Jenkins Tim Whelan
1944 In the Meantime, Darling Henry B. Preston Otto Preminger
1944 Heavenly Days Senator Bigbee Howard Estabrook
1944 Lake Placid Serenade Carl Cermak Steve Sekely
1945 The Cheaters James C. Pidgeon Joseph Kane
1946 Deadline at Dawn Man In Crowd Harold Clurman uncredited
1946 In Old Sacramento Sheriff Jim Wales Joseph Kane
1946 Suspense Harry Wheeler Frank Tuttle


  1. ^ Rowan, Terry (2016). Character-Based Film Series Part 1. lulu.com. p. 157. ISBN 9781365021282.
  2. ^ Sikov, Ed (1989). Screwball: Hollywood's Madcap Romantic Comedies. New York City: Crown Publishers. p. 138. ISBN 978-0517573020.
  3. ^ Gordon, Roger L. (2018). Supporting Actors in Motion Pictures. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Dorrance Publishing Company. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-4809-4499-2.
  4. ^ Fujiwara, Chris (2009). The World and Its Double: The Life and Work of Otto Preminger. New York City: Macmillan Publishers. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-86547-995-1.
  5. ^ "Eugene Pallette – Brief Biography with Additional Trivia". July 8, 2013.
  6. ^ California Death Index, Name: Eugene William Pallette, Birth Date: 07-08-1889, Mother's Maiden Name: Jackson, Father's Last: Pallette, Sex: Male, Birth Place: Kansas, Death Place: Los Angeles (19), Death Date: 09-03-1954, Age: 65 yrs.
  7. ^ "Pioneer Film Actor Eugene Pallette Dies". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. September 4, 1954. p. A1.
  8. ^ "Eugene Pallette". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on February 19, 2014. Retrieved October 23, 2022.
  9. ^ Love 1977, p. 153

Works cited[edit]

  • Love, Bessie (1977). From Hollywood with Love: An Autobiography of Bessie Love. London: Elm Tree Books. OCLC 734075937.

Further reading[edit]

  • Alistair, Rupert (2018). "Eugene Pallette". The Name Below the Title : 65 Classic Movie Character Actors from Hollywood's Golden Age (softcover) (First ed.). Great Britain: Independently published. pp. 208–211. ISBN 978-1-7200-3837-5.

External links[edit]