in Meet John Doe (1941)
May 23, 1882|
New York City, U.S.
|Died||April 12, 1959
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Lucille Gleason (1905-1947) (her death)|
|Children||Russell Gleason (son)|
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 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.
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. 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to James Gleason.|
- James Gleason at the Internet Movie Database
- James Gleason at the Internet Broadway Database
- James Gleason at Find a Grave