Percy Helton

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Percy Helton
Percy Helton.jpg
Helton in Criss Cross (1949)
Born Percy Alfred Michel Helton
(1894-01-31)January 31, 1894
New York City, New York, USA
Died September 11, 1971(1971-09-11) (aged 77)
Hollywood, California, USA
Occupation character actor
Years active 1915–1970
Spouse(s) Edna Roberta Eustace

Percy Helton (January 31, 1894 – September 11, 1971) was an American stage, film, and television character actor.


A native of New York City, Percy Alfred Michel Helton[1] began acting at the age of two, appearing in vaudeville acts with his British-born father, Alfred "Alf" Helton (born William Alfred Michel).[2] By 1906 he was a cast member in the Broadway production of Clara Lipman's play Julie BonBon, which premiered that year on New Year's Day in the Lew M. Field Theater.[3] Helton would go on to perform in many other Broadway plays before joining the United States Army in World War I. Deployed to Europe during the war, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his duty with the 305th Field Artillery of the American Expeditionary Forces' 77th Division.[4]

Helton returned to acting and singing professionally after his discharge from the army. However, in one of his subsequent stage roles he was required to shout and scream his lines during much of the play. The resulting stress and damage to his vocal chords after repeated performances left him permanently hoarse, with a raspy falsetto voice and a breathy delivery.[5] That change in his voice altered Helton's career. He remained in acting but chiefly as a character actor in a wide range of films and television programs in the 1950s and 1960s. Among those programs were three guest appearances on Perry Mason, including the role of Asa Cooperman in the 1961 episode "The Case of the Pathetic Patient" and a pawn broker in the 1961 episode "The Case of the Torrid Tapestry." Some examples of the films in which he performed include Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Criss Cross (1949), The Set-Up (1949), Kiss Me Deadly (1955), and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). He is a particular favorite of film noir fans, having co-starred in several classics of the genre. It was his performance in one of those films, Wicked Woman (1953), where Helton reached perhaps the apex of his career in his characterization of "Charlie Borg." In that role he portrayed a foolish neighbor who gets lured to his possible doom by a devious waitress played by Beverly Michaels.

Personal life and death[edit]

Percy Helton married actress Edna Roberta Eustace on October 24, 1931. They had no children.[6][7] He died at age 77 at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital on September 11, 1971, the year of his final film appearance. His ashes are inurned at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Partial filmography[edit]

Television appearances[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Stars of Broadway #1024: Percy Helton," Travalanche. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  3. ^ Rollins, Scott. "Film and TV Trivia": Percy Helton. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  4. ^ Obituary, "Percy Helton, Actor in 200 Films, is Dead." The New York Times. September 14, 1971. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  5. ^ "Percy Helton," Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  6. ^ "Percy Helton," NNDB. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  7. ^ "JR" (2006). "You Know the Face But What's the Name?" "Character Actor Hall of Fame: Percy Helton." Online source devoted to biographical profiles and trivia relating principally to actors who are or were frequent supporting cast members in films and on television; December 5, 2006. Retrieved April 6, 2017.

External links[edit]