~Eugene Pallette~

Born: July 8, 1889 in Winfield, Kansas, USA
Died: September 3, 1954 in Los Angeles, California, USA
~Eugene Pallette in a scene from THE
, released in 1928~
It's a source of amazement to those filmgoers born after 1915 -- which is to say, most of us in the early 21st
century -- that rotund, frog-voiced, barrel-shaped Eugene Pallette started out in movies as a
rough-and-tumble stuntman and graduated to romantic leading man, all in his first five years in pictures.
Indeed, Pallette led enough differing career phases and pursued enough activities outside of performing to
have made himself a good subject for an adventure story or a screen bio, à la Diamond Jim Brady, except
that nobody would have believed it. He was born into an acting family in Winfield, KS, in the summer of
1889; his parents were performing together in a stage production of East Lynne when he came into the
world. He grew up on the road, moving from town to town and never really putting down roots until he
entered a military academy to complete high school -- which he apparently never quite managed to do.

By his teens, Pallette, who was slender and athletic, was working as a jockey and had a winning record, too.
Before long, he was part of a stage act involving riding, in a three-horse routine that proved extremely
popular. He began acting on the stage as well, and was scraping out a living in the Midwest and West Coast,
hoping to make it to New York. At one point, he was allowing a company manager in whose troupe he was
working to pocket a major part of his earnings in anticipation of using the sum to finance a trip to New York,
only to see the man abscond with the cash and leave him stranded.

Pallette turned to movies when he arrived in Los Angeles looking for stage work and found that there was
nothing for him. He headed to a nearby studio, where he was told they were looking for riders and took a job
as a stuntman for $1.50 a day. He quickly realized that there was a need -- and much more money offered --
for leading men, and he was able to put himself forward in that role. In a matter of a few days, Pallette had
managed to make the jump from bit player to lead, and by 1914, he was working opposite the likes of
Dorothy Gish. Such was his range that he was just as capable of playing convincingly menacing villains as
romantic leads and dashing heroes. He was in D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation in a small role as a
wounded soldier. That same year, he played starring roles in three movies by director Tod Browning -- The
Spell of the Poppy, The Story of a Story, and The Highbinders -- as, respectively, a drug-addicted pianist, a
writer struggling with his conscience, and an abusive Chinese husband of a white woman. In Griffith's
Intolerance, he had a much bigger heroic part in that movie's French sequences, while in Going Straight,
also made in 1916, he gave a memorable performance as a sadistic villain.

Pallette's career was interrupted by the American entry into the First World War, for which he joined the
flying corps and served stateside. When he returned to acting in 1919, he discovered that he had to restart
his career virtually from square one -- a new generation of leading men had come along during his two years
away. He'd also begun putting on weight while in uniform and, with his now bland-seeming features, found
that only supporting parts were open to him -- and that's what he got, including an important role in
Douglas Fairbanks' 1921 adaptation of The Three Musketeers. For a time, he even gave up acting, pulling his
available funds together and heading to the oil fields of Texas, where he made what was then a substantial
fortune -- 140,000 dollars in less than a year -- only to see it disappear in a single bad investment. Pallette
spent an extended period in seclusion, hospitalized with what would now be diagnosed as severe
depression, and then turned back to acting. He reestablished himself during the late silent era in character
roles, built on his newly rotund physique and a persona that was just as good at being comical as menacing.

Pallette signed with Hal Roach Studios in 1927, where work as a comedy foil was plentiful, and his notable
two-reel appearances included the role of the insurance man in the Laurel and Hardy classic The Battle of
the Century that same year. It was with the advent of the talkies, however, that he truly came into his own;
his croaky but distinctive, frog-like voice -- acquired from time spent as a streetcar conductor calling off
stops to his passengers -- completed a picture that made him one of the movies' most memorable, beloved,
and highly paid character actors and even a character lead at times. Paramount kept Pallette especially
busy, and among his more notable movies were The Virginian, playing "Honey" Wiggin, and The Canary
Murder Case and The Greene Murder Case in the studio's Philo Vance series, in which he portrayed Det.
Sgt. Heath. He became especially good at portraying excitable wealthy men and belligerent officials.

Pallette was a veritable fixture in Hollywood for the next decade and a half, playing prominent roles in every
kind of movie from sophisticated screwball comedies such as My Man Godfrey (1936) to the relatively
low-brow (but equally funny) Abbott & Costello vehicle It Ain't Hay, with digressions into Preston Sturges'
unique brand of comedy (The Lady Eve), fantasy (The Ghost Goes West), musicals (The Gang's All Here, in
which he also got to sing as part of the finale), and swashbucklers (The Adventures of Robin Hood). The
latter, in which he portrayed Friar Tuck to Errol Flynn's Robin Hood, is probably the movie for which he is
best remembered. He was earning more than 2,500 dollars a week and indulged himself freely in his main
offscreen hobby: gourmet cooking. He was unique among Hollywood's acting community for having free
round-the-clock access to the kitchen of The Ambassador Hotel. Not surprisingly, Pallette's girth increased
dramatically between the late '20s and the mid-'40s -- his weight rising to well over 300 pounds -- but it all
meant more work and higher fees, right until the middle of the 1940s. He was diagnosed with what he
referred to as a throat problem then, and gave up acting. By then, he had a ranch in Oregon where he and
his wife lived. Pallette was also extremely pessimistic about the future of the human race, was on record as
believing that some catastrophe would wipe us out, and reportedly had stockpiled food and water in a
survivalist frame of mind. He died of throat cancer in the late summer of 1954, at age 65.

Biography by Bruce Eder, AllMovie.com
~Silent Filmography~
The Studio Murder Mystery (1929) .... Detective Lieutenant Dirk
His Private Life (1928) .... Henri Bérgere
The Red Mark (1928) .... Sergeo
Out of the Ruins (1928) .... Volange
The Good-Bye Kiss (1928) .... The Captain
Lights of New York (1928) .... Gene
Barnum & Ringling, Inc. (1928) .... Hotel detective
Aching Youths (1928)
The Battle of the Century (1927) .... Insurance agent
Chicago (1927) .... Rodney Casley
Assistant Wives (1927) .... Charley's Boss (B-23)
The Second 100 Years (1927) .... Dinner Guest
The Lighter That Failed (1927)
What Every Iceman Knows (1927)
Sugar Daddies (1927) .... Hardy look-alike
Fluttering Hearts (1927) .... Motorcycle Cop (B-20)
Jewish Prudence (1927) .... Rent Collector
... aka "Prudence" - USA (rerun title)
Moulders of Men (1927) .... Barney Mulholland
Should Men Walk Home? (1927) .... Detective, Intelligence Bureau
Many Scrappy Returns (1927) (B-14)
Desert Valley (1926) .... Deputy
You Never Know Women (1926) (uncredited) .... Party Guest
Mantrap (1926) .... E. Wesson Woodbury
Whispering Canyon (1926) .... Harvey Hawes
The Volga Boatman (1926) (uncredited) .... Revolutionary
Whispering Smith (1926) .... Bill Dancing
Rocking Moon (1926) .... Side Money
The Fighting Edge (1926) .... Simpson
Without Mercy (1925) .... Simon Linke
Wild Horse Mesa (1925) (uncredited) .... Melberne townsman
Ranger of the Big Pines (1925)
The Light of Western Stars (1925) .... Stub
Stupid, But Brave (1924) .... Richard Peely - Banana King
The Cyclone Rider (1924) .... Eddie
Wandering Husbands (1924) .... Percy
... aka "Love and Lies" - USA (alternative title)
The Galloping Fish (1924) (uncredited) .... Anti-Volstead Esquire
... aka "Galloping Fish" - USA (reissue title)
The Wolf Man (1924) .... Pierre
The Ten Commandments (1923) (uncredited) .... Israelite Slave
North of Hudson Bay (1923) .... Peter Dane
Hell's Hole (1923) .... Pablo
To the Last Man (1923) .... Simm Bruce
A Man's Man (1923) .... Captain Benevido
Without Compromise (1922) .... Tommy Ainsworth
Two Kinds of Women (1922) .... Old Carson
The Three Musketeers (1921) .... Aramis
Fine Feathers (1921) .... Bob Reynolds
Twin Beds (1920) (uncredited)
Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1920) .... Reggie Irving
Terror Island (1920) .... Guy Mourdant
Alias Jimmy Valentine (1920) .... 'Red' Jocelyn

Fair and Warmer (1919) .... Billy Bartlett
Be a Little Sport (1919) .... Dick Nevins
The Amateur Adventuress (1919) .... George Goodie
Words and Music by - (1919) .... Gene Harris
No Man's Land (1918) .... Sidney Dundas
Viviette (1918) .... Dick Ware
Breakers Ahead (1918) .... Jim Hawley
The Turn of a Card (1918) .... Eddie Barrett
Tarzan of the Apes (1918)
His Robe of Honor (1918) .... Clifford Nordhoff
A Man's Man (1918) .... Capt. Benevido
Madam Who (1918) .... Lieutenant Conroy
Ghost House (1917) .... Spud Foster
Heir of the Ages (1917) .... Larry Payne
The World Apart (1917) .... Clyde Holt
The Purple Scar (1917)
The Marcellini Millions (1917) .... Mr. Murray
The Lonesome Chap (1917) .... George Rothwell
The Bond Between (1917) .... Raoul Vaux
The Winning of Sally Temple (1917) .... Sir John Gorham
Each to His Kind (1917) .... Dick Larimer
His Guardian Angel (1916)
Gretchen the Greenhorn (1916) .... Rodgers
Hell-to-Pay Austin (1916) .... Harry Tracey
Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916) .... Prosper Latour (French Story)
... aka "Intolerance" - USA (short title)
... aka "Intolerance: A Sun-Play of the Ages" - USA (copyright title)
Going Straight (1916) .... Jimmy Briggs
The Children in the House (1916) .... Arthur Vincent
Sunshine Dad (1916) .... Alfred Evergreen
The Penalty (1915)
The Ever Living Isles (1915)
When Love Is Mocked (1915)
The Scarlet Lady (1915)
The Isle of Content (1915)
The Adventure Hunter (1915)
The Spell of the Poppy (1915) .... Manfredi
The Victim (1915) .... James Darrell
The Story of a Story (1915) .... John Penhallow - The Author
The Highbinders (1915) .... Hop Woo
The Emerald Brooch (1915) .... Slick Charley
A Day That Is Gone (1915)
... aka "A Day That Is Dead" - USA (alternative title)
How Hazel Got Even (1915)
The Death Dice (1915)
The Birth of a Nation (1915) (uncredited) .... Union Soldier  
... aka "In the Clutches of the Ku Klux Klan" - USA (cut version)
... aka "The Birth of the Nation; Or The Clansman" - USA (second copyright title)
... aka "The Clansman" - USA (Los Angeles première title)
After Twenty Years (1915)
The Terror of the Mountains (1915) .... Soapy Smith
The Lost Receipt (1915) .... John Powers
The Beat of the Year (1914) .... Joyce
Who Shot Bud Walton? (1914) .... Jeff Hardin
The Kaffir's Skull (1914) .... Jack Dwyer
A Woman Scorned (1914) .... 'George Williams'
Detective Burton's Triumph (1914)
The Tardy Cannon Ball (1914)
The Runaway Freight (1914) .... Blackie
Broken Nose Bailey (1914) .... Broken Nose Bailey
Turned Back (1914)
Through the Dark (1914)
The Stolen Ore (1914)
The Bank Burglar's Fate (1914)
On the Border (1914)
The Gunman (1914)
The Sheriff's Prisoner (1914)
The Only Clue (1914)
The Burden (1914)
The Peach Brand (1914) .... Robert Carter
The Horse Wrangler (1914)
A Pair of Cuffs (1914)
The Stolen Radium (1914)
The Wheels of Destiny (1914)
A Diamond in the Rough (1914/I)
Texas Bill's Last Ride (1914)
Atonement (1914) .... Jules
The Stronger Hand (1914)
The Reform Candidate (1914)
The Portrait of Anita (1914)
The Thief and the Book (1914)
Educating His Daughters (1914)
A Man's Awakening (1913)
The Helping Hand (1913/I)
An Accidental Clue (1913)
The Tomboy's Race (1913)
Vengeance (1913)
The Kiss (1913)
Youth and Jealousy (1913)
The Brothers (1913/II) .... Estabon
The Tattooed Arm (1913) .... Jim Halliday
When Jim Returned (1913)
Suspended Sentence (1913) .... Frank Walling
The Homestead Race (1913) .... Ralph Cunningham
Brother Love (1913)
The Transgression of Manuel (1913) .... Manuel
When the Light Fades (1913) .... John Robertson
... aka "The Bearded Fisherman" - USA (reissue title)
The Fugitive (1913/I)