Dick Elliott: “Why Don’t You Kiss Her?

The 60 year professional career of character actor Dick Elliott (1886-1961) may be neatly divided into two distinct halves: 1) the first three decades, about which very little is known, but which began early in the 20th century, wherein he played in regional stock theatre starting in his home state of Massachusetts; and 2) the well-documented second half, in which the short, rotund man was cast in nearly 400 bit roles in film and then television, often as judges and mayors, police chiefs, traveling salesmen, and sometimes train conductors or doormen. He occasionally got decent-sized supporting roles, although bit parts with a line of two, or none at all, were more the norm, and sometimes he worked as an uncredited extra..

Elliott’s screen career began in 1933. One of his first roles was in the Mack Sennett short Please (1933) starring Bing Crosby, Mary Kornman, and Vernon Dent. Comedy shorts weren’t his main line, but he was in nearly two dozen of them over the years, including Shivers (1934) with Harry Langdon, Sprucin’ Up (1935) with Our Gang, Wife Decoy (1945) with Hugh Herbert and Christine McIntyre, and several others with the likes of Leon Errol, Edgar Kennedy, and Sterling Holloway.

The features Elliott appeared in enjoy wider recognition. They include Annie Oakley (1935, as Ned Buntline); Silly Billies (1936) with Wheeler and Woolsey; Go West Young Man (1936) and Every Day’s a Holiday (1937) with Mae West; Little Miss Broadway (1938) with Shirley Temple; The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939); The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939); Frontier Marshall (1939); Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939); Pack Up Your Troubles (1939) with the Ritz Brothers and Jane Withers; Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940); Li’l Abner (1940, as Marryin’ Sam); Melody Ranch (1940) with Gene Autry and Jimmy Durante; A Night at Earl Carroll’s (1940); My Favorite Blonde (1942) and The Paleface (1948) with Bob Hope; Show Business (1944) with Eddie Cantor; Goin’ to Town (1944) with Lum and Abner; Christmas in Connecticut (1945); The Kid from Brooklyn (1946); It’s a Wonderful Life (1946, as the man on the porch who says, “Why don’t you kiss her instead of talking her to death?!”); Copacabana (1947) with Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda; Rancho Notorious (1952); High Noon (1952); Don’t Knock the Rock (1957); Hold That Hypnotist (1957) with the Bowery Boys; The Joker is Wild (1957) and Man of the West (1958).

Movie series Elliott appeared in at least once include The Lone Wolf, Mr. Moto, the Thin Man, Nancy Drew, Scattergood Baines, Boston Blackie, Henry Aldrich, Blondie, and Joe Palooka. Naturally, he was also frequently cast on television. He was a regular on the Dick Tracy TV series in 1950, and frequently guested on shows like The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, I Married Joan, The Adventures of Superman; The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and December Bride. He was on The Red Skelton Hour nine times, once playing Santa Claus, a role he also played on The Jack Benny Program, and The Jimmy Durante Show. One of his last and best remembered parts was his regular role on the first two seasons of The Andy Griffith Show (1961-62) as Mayor Pike. His last credit (posthumous) was on The Third Man (1963).

Oh, and some 300 other roles.

For more on classic film comedy, please, read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.