Born in Michigan, Edward Ellis made his screen debut in Chicago at the age of nine. By the time he was 17, Ellis was an accomplished enough actor to take on the role of Simon Legree in a touring company of Uncle Tom's Cabin. His film career flourished in the 1930s, when Ellis was seen in such plum roles as the elderly convict pal of Paul Muni in I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932) and the alcoholic ex-judge in Winterset (1936). In 1934's The Thin Man it was Ellis, who played the role of the film's murder victim. He also starred in a handful of RKO programmers, notably Remember (1936) and A Man Betrayed (1939).