I became curious about actor Minor Watson (1889-1965) when I noticed him playing vaudeville mogul Edward Albee in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). This was not his only dalliance with such-like bio-pics and show biz pictures: he’s Branch Rickey in The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), and John Ringling North in Trapeze (1956) with Burt Lancaster, and in the Jim Corbett bio Gentleman Jim (1942) with Errol Flynn, he plays the apprently fictional boxing club owner Buck Ware.
A Wisconsin native, Watson started out in silent pictures at Chicago-based Essanay Studios in 1913. He was in nine pictures with Essanay through 1914, and then tried his luck on the stage. It took him eight years to make it to Broadway, but once he got there he was on its stages constantly between 1922 and 1936 through a dozen and a half productions, though his biggest success there came a decade later when he returned to appear in Lindsay-Crouse’s State of the Union (1945-47). Though he was a valued film veteran by that point, Frank Capra replaced him in the 1948 film version with Adolphe Menjou, a much bigger marquee name.
Watson’s career in talkies began in 1931, and his over 100 credits include roles in Sinclair Lewis’s Babbit (1934), Belasco’s Rose of the Rancho (1936), Dead End (1937, as the rich guy who gets robbed of his watch), Boys Town (1938), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939), Maisie (1939), Angels Wash Their Faces (1939), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940), Western Union (1940), Kiss the Boys Goodbye (1941), They Died With Their Boots On (1941), Kings Row (1942), Woman of the Year (1942), Guadalcanal Diary (1943), God is My Co-Pilot (1945), A Bell for Adano (1945), Edna Ferber’s Saratoga Trunk (1945), Red Skelton’s A Southern Yankee (1948), and My Son John (1952). His last screen credit was a guest shot on the TV show Cavalcade of America in 1956.
To learn more about show business, 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.
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