American actor Stuart Erwin attended the University of California at Berkeley. After stage experience in Los Angeles, Erwin made his earliest screen appearances in silent films, notably a classic two-reel comedy for Hal Roach, A Pair of Tights (1928), in which Erwin and Edgar Kennedy played roles evidently written for Laurel and Hardy (a generous portion of this film appears in the 1960 compilation When Comedy Was King). After his first talking picture, Happy Days (1930), Erwin found himself typed as the vague, ingenuous young man who always seemed to have the cards stacked against him. Contrary to popular belief, Erwin's screen character did get the girl on occasion; in The Big Broadcast (1932), for example, Erwin not only won Leila Hyams away from Bing Crosby, but he was also billed above Crosby in the opening credits.
The actor was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as a rustic football hero in Pigskin Parade (1936), which also served as the screen debut for Judy Garland (as Erwin's kid sister). In 1942, Erwin made his Broadway bow in the title role of Mr. Sycamore, an odd little failure wherein he played a man who turned into a tree! When TV came in, Erwin made the most of it, co-starring with his wife June Collyeron a sitcom titled The Stu Erwin Show (aka The Trouble With Father). From 1950-55, Erwin played one "Stuart Erwin," a small-town high-school principal; among the supporting cast, in the role of his youngest daughter, was Sheila James, later the memorable Zelda Gilroy on TV's Dobie Gillis. Still very active in the 1960s, Erwin appeared in a few Disney pictures and as a circus advance man on the 1963 TV series The Greatest Show on Earth.