Ernest Truex

Active - 1913 - 1965  |   Born - Sep 19, 1890   |   Died - Jun 26, 1973   |   Genres - Comedy, Musical, Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American actor Ernest Truex fulfilled the dream of many a performer by playing Hamlet--at age six, in a kiddie talent show. A professional from adolescence onward, Truex appeared in several plays produced by the legendary David Belasco, including a "character juvenile" in The Good Little Devil, in which he supported Mary Pickford. Good Little Devil served as Truex's film debut in 1914, though it would be at least fifteen years and numerous plays later before he'd tackle the movies on a fulltime basis. During the '20s, Truex gained so much popularity in light domestic comedies that several writers concocted vehicles especially for him. Usually cast in wistful, milquetoast roles, Truex in real life was fiercely competitive, much to the chagrin of directors and writers who had to fight tooth and nail to keep Truex from hogging every scene he was in. Talking pictures allowed Truex a few leading roles, as in the first version of the comedy melodrama Whistling in the Dark (1933) (a role played in the remake by Red Skelton), but soon found his weight was more effectively felt in supporting parts. Many of these recycled his "downtrodden little man" routine, with such spectacular exceptions as The Warrior's Husband (1933), in which he played an outrageously campy "nance," and Roadblock (1939), where the actor went against the mild-mannered grain to play a scheming, demonic gang boss. Truex continued his stage work in the '30s and '40s, notably as the "back to the farm" homeowner in Kaufman and Hart'sGeorge Washington Slept Here (Jack Benny did the movie version). Becoming slightly more precious as he got older, Truex portrayed any number of "sly grandpop" roles in the '50s, with television providing fresh new outlets for the actor's talent. He had recurring roles in such sitcoms as Mr. Peepers, Jamie, Pete and Gladys; a potential long-lasting 1958 stint as a hotel manager on The Ann Sothern Show came to an abrupt end because Ms. Sothern, some say, was a tad intolerant of inveterate scene stealers. Like many veteran performers, Ernest Truex was given ample opportunity to shine on Rod Serling's anthology Twilight Zone, first as a prescient peddler in the 1959 episode "What You Need," then more memorably as a nursing home resident desperate to recapture his youth in 1962's "Kick the Can." Ernest Truex was married to actress Sylvia Field, herself an early-'60s TV favorite as Mrs. Wilson on Dennis the Menace.

Movie Highlights

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