Character actor James Gleason usually played tough-talking, world-weary guys with a secret heart-of-gold. He is easily recognized for his tendency to talk out of the side of his mouth. Gleason's parents were actors, and after serving in the Spanish-American War, Gleason joined their stock company in Oakland, California. His career was interrupted by service in World War I, following which he began to appear on Broadway. He debuted onscreen in 1922, but didn't begin to appear regularly in films until 1928. Meanwhile, during the '20s he also wrote a number of plays and musicals, several of which were later made into films. In the early sound era, Gleason collaborated on numerous scripts as a screenwriter or dialogue specialist; he also directed one film, Hot Tip (1935). As an actor, he appeared in character roles in over 150 films, playing a wide range of hard-boiled (and often semi-comic) urban characters, including detectives, reporters, marine sergeants, gamblers, fight managers, and heroes' pals. In a series of films in the '30s, he had a recurring lead role as slow-witted police inspector Oscar Piper. James Gleason was married to actress Lucille Webster Gleason; their son was actor Russell Gleason.
photo credit: Warner Brothers
by Rovi biography