Sunday, January 17, 2016

Born Today January 17: Grant Withers

1904 or 1905-1959

Born Granville G. Withers in Pueblo, Colorado; the actual year of his birth differs in various sources.  Apparently he had always wanted to break into movies; but worked as an oil company salesman and as a newspaper reporter before breaking into films in the well into the 1920's.  His first appearance in film came in 1925 with a bit part in a comedy short featuring the, by then, overdone theme of The Vamp entitled So Long Bill.  By 1926 he had steady work.  For an actor with no stage training or appearances, he is rare example of someone who successfully made the transition to talking roles with no formal training.  His first sound film came in 1929.  The Greyhound Limited was one of those films that had both a silent version and full talking version, with sound by Western Electric with Vitaphone technology.  The film that he made next was his first in mono.  Saturday's Children also had sound provided by Western Electric with the soundtrack and sound effects on one track and the mono talking sequences on another; this film, too, had a silent alternative version.  His following film The Divine Lady (1929), reverted back to the partial silent sound mix, with the dialog being silent and the soundtrack and effects manufactured with the Western Electric Apparatus.  Madonna of Avenue A (1929) was his first full sound film, with the sound mix being Vitaphone. It was directed by Michael Curtiz, who would go on to direct Casablanca. His last film in the 1920's was Tiger Rose (1929), a Canadian Mounty adventure film.  He continued to work right up to the time of his death in 1959 at the age of 55 or 54.  On the 27th of March he committed suicide in North Hollywood by taking a deliberate overdose of barbiturates and left a short suicide note apologizing to his family.  He had increasingly been suffering from serious health issues, including horrible back pain that kept getting worse.  He is interred at the Great Mausoleum at the famous Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Glendale.  In all, he appeared in over 200 films.

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