Frank Faylen

Active - 1936 - 1968  |   Born - Dec 8, 1907   |   Died - Aug 2, 1985   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Romance, Musical, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American actor Frank Faylen was born into a vaudeville act; as an infant, he was carried on stage by his parents, the song-and-dance team Ruf and Clark. Traveling with his parents from one engagement to another, Faylen somehow managed to complete his education at St. Joseph's Prep School in Kirkwood, Missouri. Turning pro at age 18, Faylen worked on stage until getting a Hollywood screen test in 1936. For the next nine years, Faylen played a succession of bit and minor roles, mostly for Warner Bros.; of these minuscule parts he would later say, "If you sneezed, you missed me." Better parts came his way during a brief stay at Hal Roach Studios in 1942 and 1943, but Faylen's breakthrough came at Paramount in 1945, where he was cast as Bim, the chillingly cynical male nurse at Bellevue's alcoholic ward in the Oscar-winning The Lost Weekend. Though the part lasted all of four minutes' screen time, Faylen was so effective in this unpleasant role that he became entrenched as a sadistic bully or cool villain in his subsequent films.

TV fans remember Faylen best for his more benign but still snarly role as grocery store proprietor Herbert T. Gillis on the 1959 sitcom Dobie Gillis. For the next four years, Faylen gained nationwide fame for such catch-phrases as "I was in World War II--the big one--with the good conduct medal!", and, in reference to his screen son Dobie Gillis, "I gotta kill that boy someday. I just gotta." Faylen worked sporadically in TV and films after Dobie Gillis was canceled in 1963, receiving critical plaudits for his small role as an Irish stage manager in the 1968 Barbra Streisand starrer Funny Girl. The actor also made an encore appearance as Herbert T. Gillis in a Dobie Gillis TV special of the 1970s, where his "good conduct medal" line received an ovation from the studio audience. Faylen was married to Carol Hughes, an actress best-recalled for her role as Dale Arden in the 1939 serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, and was the father of another actress, also named Carol.

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