Hartman with Fay Wray in The Pride of the Family (1953)
March 1, 1904|
San Francisco, California, U.S.
|Died||October 2, 1973
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Heart attack|
|Occupation||Actor of stage, film, and television|
Paul Hartman (March 1, 1904–October 2, 1973) was an American dancer, stage performer and television character actor.
Born in San Francisco, California, Hartman, like Fred Astaire, began performing as a dancer with his sister. In 1922, he teamed up with Grace Barrett for a long and successful dancing comedy vaudeville act that consisted of them both paying homage to and gently mocking the popular dances of the day, from ballet to swing. The two married in 1927.
Along with Grace, Paul made his Broadway debut in Ballyhoo of 1932 alongside Bob Hope, but the show was not a success. The two found success with Cole Porter's Red Hot and Blue a few years later, and continued to flourish on the Great White Way. The main premise of their act involved the crisp and witty Grace overwhelming the gangly, slackjawed Paul, intermittently cut with dance numbers and musical comedy routines.
The Hartmans' success led them to Hollywood, but Paul only saw limited success there, most prominently appearing alongside Frank Sinatra and Victor Borge in 1943's Higher and Higher. Upon the Hartmans' return to Broadway, they resolved to take charge and write their own revue. Their 1948 play, Angel in the Wings, was a smash success, and both Hartmans were named best lead performer at the first ever Tony Awards held that same year.
The two were then offered a sitcom on NBC, and The Hartmans (at Home) showed promise, but audiences rejected the show, which often featured canned scripts and little opportunity for the couple to show off their physical and musical abilities. Paul and Grace returned to Broadway, where they spent three years in a number of variety shows and revues.
Hartman's wife Grace was diagnosed with cancer in 1952. She died in 1955. Television and Hollywood had once again risen to the top of the entertainment world, and the convenience of television shooting and a quick paycheck lured Paul out to Los Angeles once more. Hartman began appearing in the 1953-1954 ABC situation comedy, The Pride of the Family, as Albie Morrison, the father and head of the household. Fay Wray, best known for King Kong, played his wife, Catherine, and Natalie Wood and Robert Hyatt played his children, Ann and Junior Morrison, respectively.
In 1957, Hartman returned one last time to Broadway, but then past fifty, he tired of the hectic stage life. He continued to play bit parts in movies and television throughout the rest of his life, most famously as handyman Emmett Clark on CBS's The Andy Griffith Show  and Mayberry R.F.D. In a nod to his earlier life, he is seen doing a dance routine at Howard Sprague's party in the Andy Griffith episode "The Wedding", and in the Mayberry, RFD, episode "All for Charity", he can be seen doing a soft shoe routine with costar Ken Berry. In addition, he had small parts on Petticoat Junction, Love, American Style, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Hazel, Ben Casey, The Twilight Zone, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Our Man Higgins, and Family Affair. He was cast in the 1960 film, Inherit the Wind. In 1967, he appeared with Robert Morse in the film version of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.