Lee Phelps was a longtime resident of Culver City, California, the home of several film studios, including MGM and Hal Roach. Whenever the call went out for street extras, Phelps was always available; his Irish face and shiny pate can be easily spotted in such silent 2-reelers as Laurel and Hardy's Putting Pants on Phillip. Phelps was active in films from 1921 through 1953, often in anonymous bit or atmosphere parts, usually playing a cop or a delivery man. Lee Phelps has found his way into several TV movie-compilation specials thanks to his participation in two famous films of the early '30s: Phelps played the cowering speakeasy owner slapped around by Jimmy Cagney in The Public Enemy (1931), and also portrayed the waterfront waiter to whom Greta Garbo delivers her first talking-picture line ("Gif me a viskey, baby...etc.") in Anna Christie (1930).
photo credit: Warner Brothers
by Hal Erickson biography