George Bancroft

Active - 1921 - 1942  |   Born - Sep 30, 1882   |   Died - Oct 2, 1956   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Western

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Biography by AllMovie

A graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, 6'2," 195-pound George Bancroft briefly served in the Navy before entering show business as a theater manager. He worked in a minstrel show for a time then tried his luck (which turned out to be very good indeed) on Broadway. In 1921, he made his first film appearance, but it wasn't until his standout performance as likeable reprobate Jack Slade in James Cruze's Pony Express (1925) that Paramount Pictures executives began grooming him for stardom. He was especially effective in the ultra-stylish gangster pictures of Josef Von Sternberg, notably Underworld (1977) (as outlaw-with-a-heart Bull Weed) and Thunderbolt (which earned him a 1929 Academy Award nomination). Budd Schulberg, son of Paramount executive B. P. Schulberg, recalled in his autobiography Moving Pictures how fame and fortune inflated Bancroft's ego to monumental proportions. Schulberg particularly treasured the moment when the actor refused to obey his director's orders that he fall down after being shot by the villain, explaining, "One bullet can't kill Bancroft!" When his particular screen "type" became commonplace in the early '30s, Bancroft's stardom faded. By the middle of the decade, he was reduced to character roles, though some of them (the editor in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, the sheriff in Stagecoach, and the title character's father in Young Tom Edison) represent his best work in talkies. George Bancroft retired in 1942 to become a rancher, a profession he pursued until his death 14 years later.

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