Ned Sparks

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Ned Sparks
in the Gold Diggers of 1933 trailer
Born Edward Arthur Sparkman
(1883-11-19)November 19, 1883
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Died April 3, 1957(1957-04-03) (aged 73)
Victorville, California, US
Occupation Actor
Years active 1912[1]-1956
Spouse(s) Mercedes Cabalerro (1931-1936)

Ned Sparks (November 19, 1883 – April 3, 1957) was a Canadian-born character actor of the American stage and screen. Sparks was known for his deadpan expression and deep, gravelly voice.

Life and career[edit]

Born Edward Arthur Sparkman in Guelph, Ontario, Sparks left home at age 16 and attempted to work as a gold prospector on the Klondike Gold Rush. After running out of money, he won a spot as a singer on a traveling musical company's tour. At age 19, he returned to Canada and briefly attended a Toronto seminary. After leaving the seminary, he worked for the railroad and worked in theater in Toronto. In 1907, he left Toronto for New York City to try his hand in the Broadway theatre,[2] where he appeared in his first show in 1912.[1]

While working on Broadway, Sparks developed his trademark deadpan expression while portraying the role of a desk clerk in the play Little Miss Brown. His success on the stage soon caught the attention of MGM's Louis B. Mayer who signed Sparks to a six picture deal. Sparks began appearing in numerous silent films before finally making his "talkie" debut in the 1928 film The Big Noise.[3]

In the 1930s, Sparks became known for portraying dour-faced, sarcastic, cigar-chomping characters. He became so associated with the type that, in 1936, The New York Times reported that Sparks had his face insured for USD$100,000 with Lloyd's of London. The market agreed to pay the sum to any photographer who could capture Sparks smiling (Sparks later admitted that the story was a publicity stunt and he was only insured for $10,000).[4] Sparks was also caricatured in cartoons including the Jack-in-the-Box character in the Disney short Broken Toys (1935), and the jester in Mother Goose Goes Hollywood (1938),[5] a hermit crab in both Tex Avery's Fresh Fish (1939) Bob Clampett's Goofy Groceries (1941), a chicken in Bob Clampett's Slap Happy Pappy (1940) and brief unnamed appearances as himself in Friz Freleng's Warner Brothers cartoon Malibu Beach Party (1940), and Tex Avery's Hollywood Steps Out (1940).

Sparks appeared in ten stage productions on Broadway[1] and over 80 films. He retired from films in 1947.


On April 3, 1957, Sparks died of an intestinal blockage in Victorville, California.[6]

Partial filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Other notes
1915 The Little Miss Brown Night clerk
1919 A Virtuous Vamp Mr. Bell
1920 Good References Peter Stearns
1922 The Bond Boy Cyrus Morgan
1923 Easter Bonnets
1924 The Law Forbids Clyde Vernon
1925 The Only Thing Gibson Alternative title: Four Flaming Days
1926 The Hidden Way Mulligan
1927 The Small Bachelor J. Hamilton Beamish
1928 On to Reno Herbert Holmes
1928 The Magnificent Flirt Tim
1929 The Canary Murder Case Tony Sheel
1929 Nothing But the Truth Clarence van Dyke
1929 Love Comes Along Happy
1930 The Devil's Holiday Charlie Thorne
1931 Iron Man Riley
1932 The Miracle Man Harry Evans Credited as Ned A. Sparks
1932 Blessed Event George Moxley
1932 The Crusader
1933 42nd Street Barry
1933 Gold Diggers of 1933 Barney Hopkins
1933 Going Hollywood Mr. Bert Conroy, Director Alternative title: Cinderella's Fella
1933 Alice in Wonderland The Caterpillar
1933 Lady for a Day Happy McGuire
1934 Hi, Nellie! Shammy
1934 Servants' Entrance Hjalmar Gnu
1934 Imitation of Life Elmer Smith
1935 George White's 1935 Scandals Elmer White
1937 One in a Million Daniel "Danny" Simpson
1937 Wake Up and Live Steve Cluskey
1937 This Way Please
1938 Hawaii Calls Strings
1939 The Star Maker Speed King
1941 For Beauty's Sake Jonathan B. Sweet
1947 Magic Town Ike


  1. ^ a b c Ned Sparks at the Internet Broadway Database
  2. ^ Foster (2003), pp.971-972
  3. ^ Foster (2003). pp.973, 977
  4. ^ Foster (2003), p.980
  5. ^ Lucas, Ralph. "Ned Sparks". Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  6. ^ "Milestones". Time. 1957-04-15. Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  • Foster, Charles (2003). Once Upon a Time in Paradise: Canadians in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Dundurn Press Ltd. ISBN 1-55002-464-7. 

External links[edit]