Canadian-born Gene Lockhart made his first stage appearance at age 6; as a teenager, he appeared in comedy sketches with another fledgling performer, Beatrice Lillie. Lockhart's first Broadway production was 1916's Riviera. His later credits on the Great White Way included Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesmen, in which Lockhart replaced Lee J. Cobb in the role of Willy Loman. In between acting assignments, Lockhart taught stage technique at the Juilliard School of Music. A prolific writer, Lockhart turned out a number of magazine articles and song lyrics, and contributed several routines to the Broadway revue Bunk of 1926, in which he also starred.
After a false start in 1922, Lockhart launched his film career in 1934. His most familiar screen characterization was that of the cowardly criminal who cringed and snivelled upon being caught; he also showed up in several historical films as small-town stuffed shirts and bigoted disbelievers in scientific progress. When not trafficking in petty villainy, Lockhart was quite adept at roles calling for whimsy and confusion, notably Bob Cratchit in the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol and the beleaguered judge in A Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Extending his activities to television, Lockhart starred in the 1955 "dramedy" series His Honor, Homer Bell. Gene Lockhart was the husband of character actress Kathleen Lockhart, the father of leading lady June Lockhart, and the grandfather of 1980s ingenue Anne Lockhart.