Saturday, October 18, 2008

Favorite Classic Film Stars - EUGENE PALLETTE

Eugene Pallette was a great character actor who was born in Winfield, Kansas on July 8th, 1889. He was born into a theatrical family and toured the US with them and eventually following in his parents footsteps himself. He did work stints as both a streetcar conductor and a jockey before beginning his career in silent films in 1912 as a leading man. He worked with D.W. Griffith on such famous films as "The Birth of a Nation" (1915) and "Intolerance" (1916). At the time he made these films though he had a slim, athletic figure, a far cry from the portly build that would gain him fame later in his career. World War I interrupted his career and when he returned to the screen, he was a bit heavier, which made him better suited for his character actor roles. His trademarks were his squat stature, dark piercing eyes and above all, his gravelly. bullfrog voice.

After gaining a substantial amount of weight, Pallette's status as a recognizable character actor rose. In 1927 he signed on as a regular for Hal Roach Studios and was a reliable comic foil in several early Laurel and Hardy films before the advent of talkies. Sound was the second career boost for Pallette. His inimitable rasping gravel voice (described as "half an octave below anyone else in the cast") made him one of Hollywood's most sought after character actors in the 1930's and 1940's/

The typical Pallette role was the comically exasperated head of the family (as in "My Man Godfrey" and "The Lady Eve"), the cynical backroom sharpy (as in "Mr. Smith goes to Washington"), or the gruff detective. However, his best known role may be as Friar Tuck in "The Adventures of Robin Hood".

After World War II, Pallettes ultra-right wing political views fueled his "bomb" paranoia and he bought a property in Oregon which he turned into a well-stocked compound in case the Russians attacked. Many of his old Hollywood friends including Clark Gable visited him there (some came to hunt and fish), but the property was later sold.

With his weight eventually topping out at three hundred pounds Pallette was in poor health by his late fifties. He made fewer and fewer movies and for lesser studios. His final film, "Suspense" was released in 1946. He died on September 3rd, 1954 at the age of 65 of cancer. and is buried in Grenola, Kansas in an unmarked grave.

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