Today is the birthday of Grady Sutton (1906-1995). A native of Chatanoooga, Tennessee, Sutton specialized in mama’s boys, simpering sophomores, whiny sons-in-law, rubes in the big city, and doughy store clerks.
He started out in silents; one of his first roles was a bit part in Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman (1925). Lloyd would also use him in 1932’s Movie Crazy. In the early 1930s Hal Roach co-starred him in a series of comedy shorts with Mickey Daniels called The Boy Friends.
Sutton was a particular favorite of W.C. Fields, who employed him in the ensembles of The Pharmacist (1933), The Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935), You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (1939) and perhaps most memorably as Og Ogilvy in The Bank Dick (1940).
Other comic auteurs with whom Sutton worked included George Stevens (Alice Adams, 1935), Gregory La Cava (My Man Godfrey, 1936 and Stage Door, 1937), and Preston Sturges (The Great Moment, 1944). Other classics in which he appeared included Ziegfeld Follies (1945), The Show Off (1946), My Wild Irish Rose (1947), A Star is Born (1954) and White Christmas (1954).
Sutton continued to appear in film and television roles throughout the ensuing decades. Some last ones included I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968), Myra Breckenridge (1970), Support Your Local Sheriff (1971) and his very last one, Rock and Roll High School (1979) — he’s the School Board President.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc. To find out about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.