Hollywood's favorite "dear old dad," Leon Ames began his stage career as a sleek, dreamy-eyed matinee idol in 1925. He was still billing himself under his real name, Leon Waycoff, when he entered films in 1931. His best early leading role was as the poet-hero of the stylish terror piece Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932). In 1933, Ames was one of the founding members of the Screen Actors Guild, gaining a reputation amongst producers as a political firebrand--which may have been why his roles diminished in size during the next few years (Ironically, when Ames was president of the SAG, his conservatism and willingness to meet management halfway incurred the wrath of the union's more liberal wing). Ames played many a murderer and caddish "other man" before he was felicitously cast as the kindly, slightly befuddled patriarch in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944). He would play essentially this same character throughout the rest of his career, starring on such TV series as Life With Father (1952-54) and Father of the Bride (1961). When, in 1963, he replaced the late Larry Keating in the role of Alan Young's neighbor on Mr. Ed, Ames' fans were astounded: his character had no children at all! Off screen, the actor was the owner of a successful, high profile Los Angeles automobile dealership. In 1963, he was the unwilling focus of newspaper headlines when his wife was kidnapped and held for ransom. In one of his last films, 1983's Testament, Leon Ames was reunited with his Life With Father co-star Lurene Tuttle.
by Hal Erickson biography