Clarence H. Wilson

Active - 1929 - 1941  |   Born - Nov 17, 1876 in Cincinnati, OH  |   Died - Oct 5, 1941 in Hollywood, CA  |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Romance, Musical, Crime

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Evidently weaned on a diet of pickles and vinegar, wizened screen sourpuss Clarence H. Wilson grimaced and glowered his way through over 100 films from 1920 until his death in 1941. Clarence Hummel Wilson was born in Cincinnati, OH. He began his 46-year acting career in Philadelphia in 1895, in a stock company, and spent years touring the United States and Canada in various road shows. On stage in New York, he later played supporting roles to such stars as James K. Hackett, Virginia Harned, Marguerite Clark, Amelia Bingham, Charles Cherry, and Wilton Lackaye. He entered motion pictures in 1920 and ultimately moved to Hollywood. With the coming of sound, his bald, mustachioed, stoop-shouldered persona, topped by a distinctive and annoying high, whining voice, and coupled with his broad approach to acting, made him an ideal villain. Wilson, whose slightly squinty yet hovering gaze seemed to invoke bad fortune upon whomever it landed, played dozens of irascible judges, taciturn coroners, impatient landlords, flat-footed process servers, angry school superintendents, miserly businessmen, and cold-hearted orphanage officials. Whenever he smiled, which wasn't often, one could almost hear the creak of underused facial muscles. Though he generally played bits, he was occasionally afforded such larger roles as the drunken sideshow-impresario father of heroine Helen Mack in Son of Kong (1933), with his pathetic trained animal act. He was the perfect over-the-top villain, a nastier male equivalent to Margaret Hamilton, and indispensable to comedy films, in which he served brilliantly as the humorless foil of such funmakers as W.C. Fields, Wheeler & Woolsey, Charley Chase, and especially the Our Gang kids. Although he appeared in such major films as the 1931 version of The Front Page (playing the corrupt sheriff) and the aforementioned Son of Kong, Wilson's most prominent screen roles for modern audiences were in a pair of short subjects in the Our Gang series of films: first as Mr. Crutch, the greedy orphanage manager who is undone when a pair of adults get transformed into children by a magical lamp in Shrimps for a Day (1934); and, at the other end of the series' history, as nasty schoolboard chairman Alonzo K. Pratt in Come Back, Miss Pipps (1941), his penultimate film release.

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