helloagain wrote:It's a shame that Mr. Kilbride was so dissatisfied with his career. Such a waste.
On one hand, H., I can understand an actor becoming increasingly unhappy with being equated with his character. Kilbride isn't the only actor who has suffered that fate. But I'll never understand why someone would choose an acting career when the only thing he seemed to crave was complete and utter solitude. He never seemed to be happy.
The NY Times did a lengthy Sunday feature piece on him in 1940 regarding his stage role in 'George Washington Slept Here.' Sidney Shalett started it with:
IN the general excitement of unveiling the new George S. Kaufman-Moss Hart play, "George Washington Slept Here," not nearly enough theatrical hullabaloo was made over a rather important fact connected therewith. Percy Kilbride, the "actor's actor," was ending his virtual sit-down strike against the theatre, and was returning to the Broadway boards.
I don't have a subscription to the Times archives and the hard copies at the local library only go back so far. But here's part of a piece dated Jan. 13, 1935, probably long before any national fame. The end part is garbled and I've had to guess elsewhere at some of the bits of garble and dropped words. So this transcription isn't exact. And I have no idea what the relevance of the headline is to Kilbride because I can't read the last bit. But what I can post may add a bit of biographical data.
“REHEARSAL called off on account of earthquake and fire!” Percy Kilbride then and there decided that fate didn't want him to be an actor. Call boy and “bit” player at the Central Theatre at the age of 15, he resented these untimely fulminations of nature and resented the company manager calling off a rehearsal for “Just another earthquake.”
But this was in the year 1906 and Kilbride couldn’t shrug off the company manager’s excuse for calling off the rehearsal. The Central Theatre had all but burned down and it would be in the worst possible taste to go on with a rehearsal for “Ticket of Leave Man” when San Francisco was in flames.
So Kilbride moved to Oakland, not so far away, which hadn’t been honored by the visit of either earthquake or fire, and joined a touring repertory company. That was not quite thirty years ago, but it took every one of those years before the local theatre decided to “discover” his talents as an actor.
For he had been around. He had been around for many years in stock, with road companies, with repertory companies, in the movies and on Broadway. Playing in the West, he gained his first real experience in stock in such plays as “At Risk of His Life,” “Study in Scarlet” and “The Light That Failed,” the latter usually being reserved for the finer sensibilities of a sophisticated Friday night audience.
Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City . . . he became a familiar and favorite [missing word] in these cities. True, there was hardly a town with a theatre, a house or a large barn or tent that didn’t. In fact, he figures he has played more than 800 different characters in more than 700 different plays. When he would find himself with a few weeks and a few dollars to himself he would dash off to New York to the offices of the casting managers. His mild manner was not enough for these ogres and invariably he would return to stock. After a time it got so that Kilbride would come to New York and just walk around Broadway without visiting any of the managers. Then he would return again to his road or repertory company.
A brief interruption in his theatrical roamings came in 1917 when Kilbride found himself playing another kind of role—that of a Private in the Eightieth Division. But if a major earthquake couldn’t finish him off, what chance had a great war?
Kilbride returned too.
In 1928 he got his first break on Broadway in a play called “The Buzzard” which Kilbride remembers because Bill Tilden played in it. A flock of “duds” followed and when Kilbride was cast in a fairly important part in “Those We Love.” For a while he thought he was “in.” The play had a bit of a run but another series of “quickies” lost him his toe hold on Broadway. “Lily Turner,” “The Great Magoo”—indiscretion followed indiscretion.
Kilbride, a finished comedian by this time, somehow managed to avoid the good ones until “Post Road” came along. Even now he is still skeptical of Broadway. He wonders maybe whether an earthquake, a particularly selective earthquake, might not come along and open up a [rest of the article missing]
Just another Jack connection: Kilbride appeared with Sheldon Leonard in the Los Angeles cast of 'Three Men on a Horse' in 1935 (Kilbride left the cast of 'Post Road' while it was still on Broadway. I don't know why; he seems to have walked away from productions several times in the '30s).