James Gleason

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James Gleason
James Gleason in Meet John Doe trailer.jpg
in Meet John Doe (1941)
Born(1882-05-23)May 23, 1882
New York City, U.S.
DiedApril 12, 1959(1959-04-12) (aged 76)
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
Years active1914–59
Spouse(s)Lucille Gleason (1905-1947) (her death)
ChildrenRussell Gleason (son)
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For the politician, see James P. Gleason.
Do not confuse with people named James Gleeson
James Gleason
James Gleason in Meet John Doe trailer.jpg
in Meet John Doe (1941)
Born(1882-05-23)May 23, 1882
New York City, U.S.
DiedApril 12, 1959(1959-04-12) (aged 76)
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
Years active1914–59
Spouse(s)Lucille Gleason (1905-1947) (her death)
ChildrenRussell Gleason (son)

James Austin Gleason (May 23, 1882 – April 12, 1959) was an American actor born in New York City. He was also a playwright and screenwriter.[1]


Coming from theatrical stock, as a schoolboy he made stage appearances while on holiday. He began earning his living at the age of thirteen, being a messenger boy, printer's devil, assistant in an electrical store and a lift boy. He enlisted in the United States Army at age 16 and served 3 years in the Philippines.

On discharge, he began his stage career, later taking it up professionally. He played in London for two years and following his return to the United States, he began in films by writing dialogue for "comedies". He also wrote several plays. His first film acting was in the film The Count of Ten (1927) by Universal. In 1931, he co-starred with Robert Armstrong in the radio sitcom Gleason and Armstrong.

Balding and slender with a craggy voice and a master of the double-take, Gleason portrayed tough but warm-hearted characters, usually with a New York background. He appeared in several movies with his wife Lucille.

Gleason co-wrote The Broadway Melody, the second film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and had a small uncredited role in it. Gleason also co-wrote and briefly appeared as a hot dog vendor in the 1934 Janet Gaynor vehicle Change of Heart. He played a milk cart driver who gives lessons in marriage to Judy Garland and Robert Walker in the 1945 film The Clock, while Lucille played his wife. In the same year, he played the bartender in the film adaptation of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. He is seen every Christmas time when the Frank Capra classic " Meet John Doe" is shown; he was the cynical, " hard boiled" editor brought in to pump up the newspaper that ran with the " John Doe" story. By the end of the film he was the voice telling Gary Cooper what was really going on.

Gleason also is remembered for playing police inspector Oscar Piper in a series of six Hildegarde Withers mystery films during the 1930s, starting with The Penguin Pool Murder.

He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as boxing manager Max 'Pop' Corkle in the 1941 film Here Comes Mr. Jordan.

Gleason also appeared on television, including several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the Reed Hadley legal drama The Public Defender, ABC's The Real McCoys, and the Christmas 1957 episode of John Payne's The Restless Gun on NBC. In "The Child" Gleason and Anthony Caruso played Roman Catholic priests who run an orphanage. Dan Blocker, just launching his acting career, also guest starred in the episode.[2]


James and Lucille Gleason had a son, actor Russell Gleason. On December 26, 1945, the younger Gleason was in New York City awaiting deployment to Europe with his regiment, when he fell out of a fourth story window in the Hotel Sutton, which the army had commandeered to house the troops, resulting in his death. Reports varied, some saying the fall was accidental, while others stating it was a suicide.[3][4] Russell's most prominent role had been as Muller in the Academy Award-winning version of All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). Russell Gleason was married to Cynthia Lindsay, a former Busby Berkeley chorus girl who later wrote a biography of family friend Boris Karloff.[4]

James Gleason was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Partial filmography[edit]

1929The Broadway MelodyUncredited roleCo-writer
1930Puttin' on the RitzJames "Jimmy" TierneyAlso credited with writing dialogue
The Matrimonial BedGustave Corton
1931A Free SoulEddie
Beyond VictoryJim Mobley
Suicide Fleet
1932Lady and GentPin Streaver
The Penguin Pool MurderPolice Inspector Oscar Piper
1933Mister MuggComedy short
1934Murder on the BlackboardInspector Oscar Piper
Change of HeartHot Dog VendorAlso credited as screenwriter
1935Murder on a HoneymoonInspector Oscar Piper
West Point of the AirJoe "Bags"
1936The Ex-Mrs. BradfordInspector Corrigan
Yours for the AskingSaratoga
1938Army Girl
1941Meet John DoeHenry Connell
Affectionately Yours
Here Comes Mr. JordanMax CorkleNominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Babes on BroadwayThornton Reed
1942Tales of Manhattan"Father" Joe
1942The Falcon Takes OverInspector Michael O'Hara
1942My Gal SalPat Hawley
1943A Guy Named Joe"Nails" KilpatrickCrash dive
1944Once Upon a TimeMcGillicuddy, aka the "Moke"
The Keys of the KingdomReverend Dr. Wilbur Fiske
Arsenic and Old LacePolice Lieutenant Rooney
1945Captain EddieTom Clark
This Man's NavyJimmy Shannon
A Tree Grows in BrooklynBartender
The ClockMilk Cart Driver
1946The Hoodlum SaintSnarp
1947Down to EarthMax Corkle
The Bishop's WifeSylvester
TycoonPop Mathews
1948Smart WomanSam Corkle
The Dude Goes WestSam Briggs
1949Miss Grant Takes RichmondMr. Gleason
1950Key to the CitySergeant Hogan
The Yellow Cab ManMickey Corkins
Riding HighRacing Secretary
The JackpotHarry Summers
1951I'll See You in My DreamsFred Townsend
Two Gals and a GuyMax Howard
1952We're Not Married!Duffy
What Price Glory?General Cokely
1954SuddenlyPeter "Pop" Benson
1955The Night of the HunterBirdie Steptoe
1957Loving YouCarl Meade
1958The Last Hurrah"Cuke" Gillen


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, April 15, 1959, page 159.
  2. ^ "The Child," The Restless Gun, DVD, Timeless Media Group
  3. ^ "Russell Gleason". Find a Grave. Archived from the original on October 22, 2014. Retrieved October 22, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Russell Gleason Pics". All Star Pics. Archived from the original on September 1, 2014. 

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