To six decades' worth of filmgoers, Kentucky-born character actor Charles B. Middleton was Ming the Merciless, the megalomaniac ruler of the planet Mongo in three 1930s serials based on Alex Raymond's comic strip Flash Gordon. Beginning his career in circuses and carnivals in the South, Middleton worked in vaudeville and stock companies before his 1927 entree into films. With his hatchet face, bad teeth, and rolling-toned voice, Middleton was ideally cast as stern judges, cruel orphanage officials, backwater sheriffs, and small town bigots. Outside of his extensive work in serials and Westerns, he was used to best advantage in the films of Laurel and Hardy and Will Rogers. In a far less villainous vein, Charles Middleton was cast as Tom Lincoln, father of the 16th president, in Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940); he also portrayed the Great Emancipator himself on several occasions -- while in 1937's Stand-In, Middleton was hilariously cast as an unsuccessful actor who dresses like Lincoln in hopes of landing a movie role.
by Hal Erickson biography