Leon Ames

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Leon Ames
Leon Ames in The Postman Always Rings Twice trailer.jpg
Born
Harry Wycoff

(1902-01-20)January 20, 1902
DiedOctober 12, 1993(1993-10-12) (aged 91)
Other namesLeon Waycoff
OccupationActor
Years active1931–1986
Spouse(s)
Christine Gossett
(m. 1938)
Children3
11th President of the Screen Actors Guild
In office
1957–1958
Preceded byWalter Pidgeon
Succeeded byHoward Keel

Leon Ames (born Harry Wycoff;[1][2] January 20, 1902 – October 12, 1993) was an American film and television actor. He is best remembered for playing father figures in such films as Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) with Judy Garland as one of his daughters, Little Women (1949), On Moonlight Bay (1951), and By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953). The fathers whom Ames portrayed were often somewhat stuffy and exasperated by the younger generation, but ultimately kind and understanding. Probably his best-known purely dramatic role was as DA Kyle Sackett in the crime film The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).

Early years[edit]

Leon Ames was born on January 20, 1902, in Portland, Indiana, son of Charles Elmer Wycoff and his wife Cora A. De Moss.[3] Some sources list his original last name as "Wykoff" or "Waycoff", and in his early films, he acted under the name Leon Waycoff. In 1935, Ames explained that he changed his name because Waycoff was often misspelled and mispronounced. Ames was his mother's maiden name.[4]

He attended Indiana University at Bloomington, and he served in World War I, first in field artillery and later in the flying corps.[5]

Stage[edit]

Ames' involvement with entertainment began when he worked as stage manager for the Charles K. Champlin Theatre Company. He ventured into acting with the group and progressed to having the lead in a production of Tomorrow and Tomorrow in Los Angeles.[6] He acted for three years with the Stuart Walker Stock Company in Cincinnati, Ohio.[5]

He debuted on Broadway in It Pays to Sin (1933). His other Broadway credits include Howie (1958), Winesburg, Ohio, (1958), Slightly Married (1943), The Russian People (1942), Little Darling (1942), Guest in the House (1942), The Land Is Bright (1941), The Male Animal (1940), Thirsty Soil (1937), A House in the Country (1937), and Bright Honor (1936).[7]

Film[edit]

Ames made his film debut in Quick Millions in 1931. Later, during the 1940s, he was under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Among his important roles at MGM is his 1944 portrayal of Mr. Smith in the studio's massive hit and subsequent classic Meet Me in St. Louis.

Ames also appears in a featured role in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), portraying the district attorney Kyle Sackett. He appears too in the Doris Day-Gordon MacRae film On Moonlight Bay (1951), in its sequel By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953), and in Peyton Place (1957). He performs the role of Samuel Eaton, Alfred Eaton's (Paul Newman) father, in From the Terrace (1960). In the 1961 Walt Disney comedy The Absent-Minded Professor, he is the college president Rufus Daggett and can be seen once again in that role in the film's 1963 sequel Son of Flubber. In 1970, he was cast as Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox in the action war film Tora! Tora! Tora! His last screen role is in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) in which he plays Kathleen Turner's character's grandfather Barney Alvorg.

Radio and television[edit]

Ames' first radio broadcast was in January 1942 on Grand Central Station.[8]

His television roles included leads in the adaptations of Life With Father (1953–55)[9]:604 and Father of the Bride (1961–62).[9]:336-337 His presence in the latter program was such that, after the show had been on the air a few months, Ames' role was increased because "'father, as played by veteran character actor Leon Ames became the dominant figure in the whole show."[10]

Ames had the title role of judge John Cooper in the syndicated series Frontier Judge[9]:370 and played Howard McMann in Bewitched.[9]

He joined the cast of Mister Ed (1963–66) as Wilbur Post's neighbor, retired Colonel Gordon Kirkwood,[9]:701 after the death of actor Larry Keating, who had played Post's original neighbor Roger Addison. Ames also appeared in episodes of the NBC anthology series The Barbara Stanwyck Show, and on the short-lived CBS legal dramaStorefront Lawyers.

Other professional activities[edit]

Ames was one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild in 1933.[2] He served as its president in 1957. During the 1960s, Ames owned several Ford dealerships in California.

Personal life[edit]

Ames was the father of Robert Fletcher, but abandoned his wife and their infant son around 1923.[11]

Ames wed actress Christine Gossett in 1938. The couple had a daughter, Shelley (b. 1940), and a son, Leon (b. 1943). Christine retired early acting to raise their family. They remained married until Ames' death in 1993.[12]

Ames supported Barry Goldwater in the 1964 United States presidential election.[13]

Kidnapping[edit]

On February 12, 1964, Ames and his wife were held hostage in their home as an intruder demanded $50,000 before he would free them. Ames called his business partner, who obtained the money from a bank and delivered it to the house as instructed. After inspecting the cash, the kidnapper left Ames in the house, bound with tape, and instructed Mrs. Ames to drive him in the couple's car. He also forced both the business partner and a guest in the Ames house into the trunk. Eventually, police (who had been alerted by the partner while he was picking up the money) surrounded the car and freed the hostages.[14]

Death[edit]

On October 12, 1993, Ames died in Laguna Beach, California, of complications after suffering a stroke. He was 91.[15] His gravesite is at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.[16]

Recognition[edit]

In 1980, after 50 years in show business, Leon Ames received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.[17]

Complete filmography[edit]

Partial television credits[edit]

My Three Sons (Season 9 episode 2- 1968) as Dr. Osborne

Andy Griffith Show ( season 7, episode 9 ) as Mr. Hampton

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-30. Retrieved 2011-07-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b Cameron-Wilson, James; Speed, F. Maurice (1994), Film Review 1994-5, Great Britain: Virgin Books, p. 162, ISBN 0-86369-842-5
  3. ^ "The Monthly Supplement: a current biographical reference service". A.N.Marquis Company. 5 February 2018 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "Name Change Causes Inquiry". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. February 21, 1935. p. 12. Retrieved February 5, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  5. ^ a b "Leon Waycoff, Former Kokomo Boy, Real Star In Tomorrow and Tomorrow". The Kokomo Tribune. Indiana, Kokomo. July 25, 1931. p. 3. Retrieved February 5, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  6. ^ Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 11–12. ISBN 9781557835512. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  7. ^ "Leon Ames". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 5 February 2018. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  8. ^ Lesser, Jerry (January 17, 1942). "Radio Talent: New York". Billboard. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d e Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. pp. 96–97. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  10. ^ Gray, M (March 3, 1962). "Father of Bride Dominant Figure". Simpson's Leader-Times. p. 10. Retrieved September 2, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  11. ^ Robert Fletcher: A Star Among Stars, Now Living in KC
  12. ^ Lentz, Harris M. III (2006). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2005: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. McFarland. p. 8. ISBN 9780786452101. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  13. ^ Critchlow, Donald T. (2013-10-21). When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics. ISBN 9781107650282.
  14. ^ Rieder, Ron (February 13, 1964). "Kidnap, Free Mrs. Leon Ames". The Van Nuys News. pp. 1, 18. Retrieved September 2, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  15. ^ Willis, John (1996). Theatre World 1993-1994. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 238. ISBN 9781557832368. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  16. ^ Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland. pp. 79–80. ISBN 9780786450190. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  17. ^ "("Leon Ames" search results)". Screen Actors Guild Award. Retrieved 5 February 2018.

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Katharine Hepburn
Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award
1980
Succeeded by
Danny Kaye