Harry Davenport was descended from a long and illustrious line of stage actors who could trace their heritage to famed 18th-century Irish thespian Jack Johnson. Davenport made his own stage bow at the age of five, racking up a list of theatrical credits that eventually would fill two pages of Equity magazine. He started his film career at the age of 48, co-starring with Rose Tapley as "Mr. and Mrs. Jarr" in a series of silent comedy shorts. He also directed several silent features in the pre-World War I era. Most of his film activity was in the sound era, with such rich characterizations as Dr. Mead in Gone With the Wind (1939) and Louis XI in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) to his credit. He also essayed a few leading film roles, notably as a lovable hermit in the 1946 PRC programmer The Enchanted Forest. At the time of his final screen performance in Frank Capra's Riding High (1950), much was made in the press of the fact that this film represented Davenport's seventy-eighth year in show business. Married twice, Harry Davenport was the father of actors Arthur Rankin and Dorothy Davenport.