Friday, February 12, 2016

Born Today February 12: Wallace Ford (Not So Silent Edition)


Born Samuel Jones Grundy in Bolton, England into a working class family; at the age of 3 he was placed with an aunt and uncle because his family low fortunes would not allow them to keep children.  They in turn could not keep him and several other children; so they were placed in an orphanage.  At the age of 7, he got caught up in a program by the British Empire to help populate the Canadian territories.  They did this by shipping orphans from the UK to foster homes in the wilderness there.  He was adopted into a family in Manitoba, but they did not treat him well and he subsequently ran away several times.  He was then passed from foster home to foster home, until he ran away permanently at the age of 11 and joined a touring vaudeville act called "The Winnipeg Kiddies."  This is where is acting career began.  In 1914, when he was 16, he and another kid around the same age named Wallace Ford, decided to travel south, illegally, to the US to seek their fortunes.  Ford, however, was killed when he fell from the train they were hitching a ride on, and was run over by it's wheels.  Gundy then decided to assume his companions name; this is where is came by his stage name.  In the US, he served in the Calvary during World War I and continued in vaudeville.  In 1919, he landed a role in major play in Chicago that wound up being a packed house success; the play then made a successful debut on Broadway.  He then went on to star in many successful Broadway productions throughout the 1920's; after which he made his way out to Hollywood.  His film debut came in 1929 with a bit part in an early talkie, Married in Hollywood; even the poster touted "All Talking."  It wasn't very long before he got noticed.  By 1931, he was in a film with Clark Gable and Joan Crawford:  Possessed.  In 1932, he got a role in a very early film noir starring Jean Harlow:  The Beast of the City.  He had the staring role Tod Browning's infamous Freaks, also in 1932.  By the 1940's he had transformed into a character actor who would go on to make appearances on television--with one notable performance on The Andy Griffith Show.  His last role came in 1965 in A Patch of Blue, as "Ole' Pa."  Following the death of the wife in 1966, to whom he had been married since 1922, he checked himself into living facility for retired actors of film and television; the facility included a hospital.  He died there a few months later of heart failure.  He is buried in an unmarked grave at Holy Cross Cemetery.

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