Frank Cady: The Face of Rurality
Today is the birthday of character actor Frank Cady (1915-2012). Cady was a distant cousin of mine through my maternal grandmother Ruth Cady. While he grew up in California and Oregon, his roots can be traced to the same New England Ur-Cadys.
Frank Cady specialized in a sort of generic American rurality, usually cast as things like storekeepers and small town burghers, but with a folksy persona that was such that you could place his character in a setting in any part of America, North, South, East or West, and it would ring true. He is best known for a single character: storekeep Sam Drucker, which he played on no less than three 1960s’ situation comedies: Petticoat Junction, Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies. Prior to that, he was Doc Williams on Ozzie and Harriet (1953-1964). He pretty much seemed to always be playing a variation on the same character: he’s a tourist in Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole (1951), Eileen Heckart’s sad sack husband in The Bad Seed (1956), and the mayor in The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964). As you can imagine, he was in tons of westerns, both film and television. He has walk-ons in Hitchcock’s Rear Window and North by Northwest! After his sit coms wrapped, he had some decent roles in mainstream movies like Zandy’s Bride (1974) and Hearts of the West (1975). His last screen credit was in — of course — Return to Green Acres (1990).
Interestingly, despite his rural persona, Cady was a highly trained and well experienced professional. He studied drama, both undergrad and grad, at Stanford University and later taught there. He also served an apprenticeship at the Westminster Theatre in London in the late 1930s. He could probably play King Lear — but who’d want to see that? Actually…me! Sam Drucker playin’ Shakespeare — are you kiddin’? I want a seat down front!
For more on show biz history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.