Burgess Meredith

Active - 1936 - 1997  |   Born - Nov 16, 1907 in Cleveland, Ohio, United States  |   Died - Sep 9, 1997   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Crime, Adventure, History

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Originally a newspaper reporter, Burgess Meredith came to the screen in 1936, repeating his stage role in Winterset, a part written for him by Maxwell Anderson. Meredith has had a long and varied film career, playing everything from George in Of Mice and Men (1939) to Sylvester Stallone's trainer in Rocky (1976). He received Oscar nominations for The Day of the Locust (1975) and Rocky. As comfortable with comedy as with drama, Meredith also appeared in Idiot's Delight (1939); Second Chorus (1940), with Fred Astaire; Diary of a Chambermaid (1942), which he also wrote and produced; The Story of G.I. Joe (1945); and Mine Own Executioner (1947). He also directed Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949). On television, he made countless guest appearances in dozens of dramatic and variety productions, including one of the first episodes of The Twilight Zone, the touching Time Enough at Last, and as host on the first episode of Your Show of Shows. He was a regular on Mr. Novak (1963-64) and Search (1972-73), hosted Those Amazing Animals (1981), co-starred with Sally Struthers in Gloria (1982-83), and made classic appearances as the Penguin on Batman (1966-68). He won an Emmy in 1977 for Tailgunner Joe and has done voiceover work for innumerable commercials, notably Volkswagen. Meredith made his final feature film appearance playing crusty Grandpa Gustafson in Grumpier Old Men (1995), the sequel to Grumpy Old Men (1993) in which he also appeared. In 1996, he played a role in the CD-rom video game Ripper. He was briefly married to Paulette Goddard in the 1940s. Meredith died in his Malibu home at the age of 88 on September 9, 1997.

Movie Highlights

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Factsheet

  • Starred on Broadway as Mio in Maxwell Anderson's 1935 play Winterset, and made his film debut a year later, playing the same character in the film adaptation.
  • Received critical acclaim for his performance as George in 1939's Of Mice and Men.
  • Was one of many performers accused of having un-American political views in the 1950s, and was blacklisted in Hollywood for a time.
  • His Penguin character in the 1960s Batman episodes was so well-received that the writer was said to have always had a script ready in case Meredith was available.
  • Was showing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease during filming of Grumpier Old Men and had to be coached through his lines.
  • Revealed in his 1994 memoir, So Far, So Good, that he suffered from a bipolar disorder, which caused him to have violent mood swings.