Franklin Pangborn

Active - 1926 - 1957  |   Born - Jan 23, 1893   |   Died - Jul 20, 1958   |   Genres - Comedy, Musical, Romance, Drama

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American actor Franklin Pangborn spent most of his theatrical days playing straight dramatic roles, but Hollywood saw things differently. From his debut film Exit Smiling (1926) to his final appearance in The Story of Mankind (1957), Pangborn was relegated to almost nothing but comedy roles. With his prissy voice and floor-walker demeanor, Pangborn was the perfect desk clerk, hotel manager, dressmaker, society secretary, or all-around busybody in well over 100 films. Except for a few supporting appearances in features and a series of Mack Sennett short subjects in the early 1930s, most of Pangborn's pre-1936 appearances were in bits or minor roles, but a brief turn as a snotty society scavenger-hunt scorekeeper in My Man Godfrey (1936) cemented his reputation as a surefire laugh-getter. The actor was a particular favorite of W.C. Fields, who saw to it that Pangborn was prominently cast in Fields' The Bank Dick (1940) (as hapless bank examiner J. Pinkerton Snoopington) and Never Give a Sucker An Even Break (1941). Occasionally, Pangborn longed for more dramatic roles, so to satisfy himself artistically he'd play non-comic parts for Edward Everett Horton's Los Angeles-based Majestic Theatre; Pangborn's appearance in Preston Sturges' Hail the Conquering Hero (1942) likewise permitted him a few straight, serious moments. When jobs became scarce in films for highly specialized character actors in the 1950s, Pangborn thrived on television, guesting on a number of comedy shows, including an appearance as a giggling serial-killer in a "Red Skelton Show" comedy sketch. One year before his death, Pangborn eased quietly into TV-trivia books by appearing as guest star (and guest announcer) on Jack Paar's very first "Tonight Show."

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