Jed Prouty: Keeping Up with the Joneses

A few words on familiar character actor Jed Prouty (Clarence Gordon Prouty, 1879-1956). A Boston native, Prouty broke into vaudeville and stock theatre as a teenager. There was a Jed Prouty Inn in Maine, founded in 1820; and it was also a stage character played by Richard Golden (1854-1909); Clarence’s professional name was clearly an homage.

From 1910 through 1922, Prouty appeared in ten Broadway shows, the longest running of which was the Klaw and Erlanger production Miss Springtime (1916-17). In 1919 he began appearing in silent films, the first of which was Sadie Love, with Billie Burke. Other notable ones from the silent era included Belasco’s The Girl of the Golden West (1923) and Ella Cinders (1926) with Colleen Moore.

It was in talkies that the sputtering, stout, comfortably ineffectual Prouty began to make an impression. He was best known for playing the father in the  “Jones Family” comedies with Spring Byington and Florence Roberts. 17 of these popular comedies were made between 1936 and 1940. You can also see him in such films as The Broadway Melody (1929), The Floradora Girl (1930), Hold ‘Em Jail (1932, with Wheeler and Woolsey), George White’s 1935 Scandals, Alibi Ike (1935 with Joe E. Brown), the original A Star is Born (1937), and The Gracie Allen Murder Case (1939).

After Mug Town (1942) with the Dead End Kids, he returned to Broadway to appear in Something for the Boys (1943-44), And Be My Love (1945), Too Hot for Maneuvers (1945) and Heads or Tails (1947). He made just three films after this, the last of which was the noir Guilty Bystander (1950) with Zachary Scott. Prouty also dabbled in TV on three occasions. His final credit was on a show called Short Short Dramas in 1952.

Prouty’s wife Marion Murray had died in late 1951 perhaps explaining the timing of his retirement. Murray was also an actress who had appeared in vaudeville, on Broadway and in Hollywood films like Paris Calling (1941) and The Pirate (1948).

To learn more about vaudeville, where Jed Prouty got his start, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on silent film, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube