James Gleason

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the politician, see James P. Gleason.
Do not confuse with people named James Gleeson
James Gleason
James Gleason in Meet John Doe trailer.jpg
in Meet John Doe (1941)
Born (1882-05-23)May 23, 1882
New York City, U.S.
Died April 12, 1959(1959-04-12) (aged 76)
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
Years active 1914–59
Spouse(s) Lucille Gleason (1905-1947) (her death)
Children Russell Gleason (son)

James Austin Gleason (May 23, 1882 – April 12, 1959) was an American actor born in New York City. He was also a playwright and screenwriter.[1]


He was born to William L. Gleason(1850-1909) and Mina Crolius(1858-1931).[2][3] Coming from theatrical stock, as a schoolboy he made stage appearances while on holiday. He began earning his living at the age of thirteen, being a messenger boy, printer's devil, assistant in an electrical store and a lift boy. He enlisted in the United States Army at age 16 and served 3 years in the Philippines.

On discharge, he began his stage career, later taking it up professionally. He played in London for two years and following his return to the United States, he began in films by writing dialogue for "comedies". He also wrote several plays. When World War I broke out Gleason reenlisted in the United States Army and served during the war to its end. His first film acting was in the film The Count of Ten (1927) by Universal. In 1931, he co-starred with Robert Armstrong in the radio sitcom Gleason and Armstrong.

Balding and slender with a craggy voice and a master of the double-take, Gleason portrayed tough but warm-hearted characters, usually with a New York background. He appeared in several movies with his wife Lucille.

Gleason co-wrote The Broadway Melody, the second film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and had a small uncredited role in it. Gleason also co-wrote and briefly appeared as a hot dog vendor in the 1934 Janet Gaynor vehicle Change of Heart. He played a milk cart driver who gives lessons in marriage to Judy Garland and Robert Walker in the 1945 film The Clock, while Lucille played his wife. In the same year, he played the bartender in the film adaptation of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. He is seen every Christmas time when the Frank Capra classic "Meet John Doe" is shown; he was the cynical, "hard boiled" editor brought in to pump up the newspaper that ran with the "John Doe" story. By the end of the film he was the voice telling Gary Cooper what was really going on.

Gleason also is remembered for playing police inspector Oscar Piper in a series of six Hildegarde Withers mystery films during the 1930s, starting with The Penguin Pool Murder.

He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as boxing manager Max 'Pop' Corkle in the 1941 film Here Comes Mr. Jordan.

Gleason also appeared on television, including several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the Reed Hadley legal drama The Public Defender, ABC's The Real McCoys, and the Christmas 1957 episode of John Payne's The Restless Gun on NBC. In "The Child" Gleason and Anthony Caruso played Roman Catholic priests who run an orphanage. Dan Blocker, just launching his acting career, also guest starred in the episode.[4]


James and Lucille Gleason had a son, actor Russell Gleason. On December 26, 1945, the younger Gleason was in New York City awaiting deployment to Europe with his regiment, when he fell out of a fourth story window in the Hotel Sutton, which the army had commandeered to house the troops, resulting in his death. Reports varied, some saying the fall was accidental, while others stating it was a suicide.[5][6] Russell's most prominent role had been as Muller in the Academy Award-winning version of All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). Russell Gleason was married to Cynthia Lindsay, a former Busby Berkeley chorus girl who later wrote a biography of family friend Boris Karloff.[6]

James Gleason was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Partial filmography[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
1929 The Broadway Melody Uncredited role Co-writer
1930 Puttin' on the Ritz James "Jimmy" Tierney Also credited with writing dialogue
The Matrimonial Bed Gustave Corton
1931 A Free Soul Eddie
Beyond Victory Jim Mobley
Suicide Fleet Skeets
1932 Lady and Gent Pin Streaver
The Penguin Pool Murder Police Inspector Oscar Piper
1933 Mister Mugg Comedy short
1934 Murder on the Blackboard Inspector Oscar Piper
Change of Heart Hot Dog Vendor Also credited as screenwriter
1935 Murder on a Honeymoon Inspector Oscar Piper
West Point of the Air Joe "Bags"
1936 The Ex-Mrs. Bradford Inspector Corrigan
Yours for the Asking Saratoga
1938 Army Girl
1941 Meet John Doe Henry Connell
Affectionately Yours
Here Comes Mr. Jordan Max Corkle Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Babes on Broadway Thornton Reed
1942 Tales of Manhattan "Father" Joe
1942 The Falcon Takes Over Inspector Michael O'Hara
1942 My Gal Sal Pat Hawley
1943 A Guy Named Joe "Nails" Kilpatrick Crash dive
1944 Once Upon a Time McGillicuddy, aka the "Moke"
The Keys of the Kingdom Reverend Dr. Wilbur Fiske
Arsenic and Old Lace Police Lieutenant Rooney
1945 Captain Eddie Tom Clark
This Man's Navy Jimmy Shannon
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Bartender
The Clock Milk Cart Driver
1946 The Hoodlum Saint Snarp
1947 Down to Earth Max Corkle
The Bishop's Wife Sylvester
Tycoon Pop Mathews
1948 Smart Woman Sam Corkle
The Dude Goes West Sam Briggs
1949 Miss Grant Takes Richmond Mr. Gleason
1950 Key to the City Sergeant Hogan
The Yellow Cab Man Mickey Corkins
Riding High Racing Secretary
The Jackpot Harry Summers
1951 I'll See You in My Dreams Fred Townsend
Two Gals and a Guy Max Howard
1952 We're Not Married! Duffy
What Price Glory? General Cokely
1954 Suddenly Peter "Pop" Benson
1955 The Night of the Hunter Birdie Steptoe
1957 Loving You Carl Meade
1958 The Last Hurrah "Cuke" Gillen


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, April 15, 1959, page 159.
  2. ^ Mina Gleason; findagrave.com Retrieved July 19, 2015
  3. ^ Mina Crolius Gleason, Mother of actor James Gleason Retrieved July 19, 2015
  4. ^ "The Child," The Restless Gun, DVD, Timeless Media Group
  5. ^ "Russell Gleason". Find a Grave. Archived from the original on October 22, 2014. Retrieved October 22, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Russell Gleason Pics". All Star Pics. Archived from the original on September 1, 2014. 

External links[edit]