Charles Coburn
Charles Coburn in 1939
Born(1877-06-19)June 19, 1877
DiedAugust 30, 1961(1961-08-30) (aged 84)
Resting placeBonaventure Cemetery, (near Savannah, Georgia)
Years active1901–1960
Political partyRepublican
(m. 1906; died 1937)
Winifred Natzka
(m. 1959)

Charles Douville Coburn (June 19, 1877 – August 30, 1961) was an American actor and theatrical producer.[1] He was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award ("Oscar") three times – for The Devil and Miss Jones (1941), The More the Merrier (1943), and The Green Years (1946) – winning for his performance in The More the Merrier. He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California) in 1960 for his contribution to the film industry.


Charles Coburn in Road to Singapore (1940)

Coburn was born in Macon, Georgia,[2] the son of Scots-Irish Americans Emma Louise Sprigman (May 11, 1838 Springfield, Ohio – November 12, 1896 Savannah, Georgia) and Moses Douville Coburn (April 27, 1834 Savannah – December 27, 1902 Savannah). Growing up in Savannah, he started out at age 14 doing odd jobs at the local Savannah Theater, handing out programs, ushering, or being the doorman. By age 17 or 18, he was the theater manager.[2][3] He later became an actor, making his debut on Broadway in 1901. Coburn formed an acting company with actress Ivah Wills in 1905.[2][3] They married in 1906. In addition to managing the company, the couple performed frequently on Broadway.

After his wife's death in 1937, Coburn relocated to Los Angeles, California and began film work. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as a retired millionaire playing Cupid in The More the Merrier in 1943. He was also nominated for The Devil and Miss Jones in 1941 and The Green Years in 1946. Other notable film credits include Of Human Hearts (1938), The Lady Eve (1941), Kings Row (1942), The Constant Nymph (1943), Heaven Can Wait (1943), Wilson (1944), Impact (1949), The Paradine Case (1947), Everybody Does It (1950), Has Anybody Seen My Gal? (1952), Monkey Business (1952), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), and John Paul Jones (1959). He usually played comedic parts, but his roles in Kings Row and Wilson showed his dramatic versatility.

For his contributions to motion pictures, in 1960, Coburn was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6268 Hollywood Boulevard.

Political activity

Coburn with Helen Walker in Impact (1949)

In the 1940s, Coburn served as vice president of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a group opposed to leftist infiltration and proselytization in Hollywood during the Cold War.[4] Born and raised in the southern state of Georgia, Coburn was a member of the states' rights network of groups known as the Citizens' Councils.[5][6]

A staunch Republican, Coburn supported Thomas Dewey in the 1944 United States presidential election.[7]

Personal life

Coburn married Ivah Wills on January 29, 1906, in Atlanta, Georgia. They had six children.[8] Coburn married Winifred Natzka on June 30, 1959, in Los Angeles. She was the widow of the New Zealand bass opera singer Oscar Natzka. They had one child,[8] a daughter.

In the 1940s, Coburn made his home at the National Arts Club in New York City. His late wife's mother lived there with him.[9]

Coburn died of a heart attack on August 30, 1961, at age 84 in New York City. He was interred at Bonaventure Cemetery.[10]

Complete filmography

Year Film Role Director Notes
1933 Boss Tweed Boss Tweed
1935 The People's Enemy Judge Hays Crane Wilbur
1938 Of Human Hearts Dr. Charles Shingle Clarence Brown
Vivacious Lady Mr. Morgan George Stevens
Yellow Jack Dr. Finlay George B. Seitz
Lord Jeff Captain Briggs Sam Wood
1939 Idiot's Delight Dr. Hugo Waldersee Clarence Brown
Made for Each Other Judge Joseph M. Doolittle John Cromwell
The Story of Alexander Graham Bell Gardner Hubbard Irving Cummings
Bachelor Mother J. B. Merlin Garson Kanin
Stanley and Livingstone Lord Tyce Otto Brower (safari sequences)
In Name Only Mr. Walker John Cromwell
1940 Road to Singapore Joshua Mallon IV Victor Schertzinger
Edison, the Man General Powell Clarence Brown
Florian Dr. Johannes Hofer John E. Burch (assistant)
The Captain Is a Lady Captain Abe Peabody Robert B. Sinclair
Three Faces West Dr. Karl Braun Bernard Vorhaus
1941 The Lady Eve 'Colonel' Harrington Preston Sturges
The Devil and Miss Jones Merrick Sam Wood Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Our Wife Professor Drake John M. Stahl
Unexpected Uncle Seton Mansley aka Alfred Crane Peter Godfrey
H. M. Pulham, Esq. Mr. Pulham Sr. King Vidor
1942 Kings Row Dr. Henry Gordon Sam Wood
In This Our Life William Fitzroy John Huston
George Washington Slept Here Uncle Stanley J. Menninger William Keighley
1943 Forever and a Day Sir William (scenes cut) [1]
The More the Merrier Benjamin Dingle George Stevens Winner - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
The Constant Nymph Charles Creighton Edmund Goulding
Heaven Can Wait Hugo Van Cleve Ernst Lubitsch
Princess O'Rourke Holman - Maria's Uncle Norman Krasna
My Kingdom for a Cook Rudyard Morley Richard Wallace
1944 Knickerbocker Holiday Peter Stuyvesant Harry Joe Brown
Wilson Professor Henry Holmes Henry King
The Impatient Years William Smith Irving Cummings
Together Again Jonathan Crandall Sr Charles Vidor
1945 A Royal Scandal Chancellor Nicolai Iiyitch Ernst Lubitsch
Rhapsody in Blue Max Dreyfus Irving Rapper
Over 21 Robert Drexel Gow Charles Vidor
Shady Lady Col. John Appleby George Waggner
1946 Colonel Effingham's Raid Col. Will Seaborn Effingham Irving Pichel
The Green Years Alexander Gow Victor Saville Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1947 Lured Inspector Harley Temple Douglas Sirk
The Paradine Case Sir Simon Flaquer Alfred Hitchcock
1948 B.F.'s Daughter B.F. Fulton Robert Z. Leonard
Green Grass of Wyoming Beaver Greenway Louis King
1949 Impact Lt. Tom Quincy Arthur Lubin
Yes Sir That's My Baby Professor Jason Hartley George Sherman
The Gal Who Took the West Gen. Michael O'Hara Frederick de Cordova
The Doctor and the Girl Dr. John Corday Curtis Bernhardt
Everybody Does It Major Blair Edmund Goulding
1950 Louisa Abel Burnside Alexander Hall
Peggy Professor 'Brooks' Brookfield Frederick De Cordova
Mr. Music Alex Conway Richard Haydn
1951 The Highwayman Lord Walters Lesley Selander
1952 Has Anybody Seen My Gal? Samuel Fulton / John Smith Douglas Sirk
Monkey Business Mr. Oliver Oxley Howard Hawks
1953 Trouble Along the Way Father Burke Michael Curtiz
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Sir Francis 'Piggy' Beekman Howard Hawks
1954 The Rocket Man Mayor Ed Johnson Oscar Rudolph
The Long Wait Gardiner Victor Saville
Country Doctor
1955 How to Be Very, Very Popular Dr. Tweed Nunnally Johnson
1956 The Power and the Prize Guy Eliot Henry Koster
Around the World in 80 Days a Hong Kong steamship company clerk Michael Anderson
1957 Town on Trial Dr. John Fenner John Guillermin
How to Murder a Rich Uncle Uncle George Nigel Patrick
The Story of Mankind Hippocrates Irwin Allen
1959 The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker Grampa Pennypacker Henry Levin
A Stranger in My Arms Vance Beasley Helmut Kautner
John Paul Jones Benjamin Franklin John Farrow
1960 Pepe Himself George Sidney

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1946 Academy Award The Devil and Miss Jones[11]

See also


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, September 6, 1971.
  2. ^ a b c "Charles Coburn (1877–1961)". The New Georgia Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on February 5, 2012. Retrieved July 17, 2006.
  3. ^ a b "Charles Coburn Collection". University of Georgia Libraries – Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Archived from the original on March 8, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2006.
  4. ^ Doyle Greene, The American Worker on Film: A Critical History, 1909-1999 (Jefferson NC: MacFarland, 2010), 80-82. ISBN 9780786457762
  5. ^ "Citizens Council". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  6. ^ "The Bend Bulletin from Bend, Oregon on June 13, 1959 · Page 5".
  7. ^ Critchlow, Donald T. (October 21, 2013). When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics. ISBN 9781107650282.
  8. ^ a b "Oscar Profile #104: Charles Coburn". CinemaSight. September 20, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  9. ^ "Mrs. Anna K. Wills". New York Times. April 19, 1944. Retrieved April 11, 2022.
  10. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 25047-25048). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  11. ^ "Charles Coburn Is 'Academy' Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. Harrisburg Telegraph. October 19, 1946. p. 17. Retrieved September 29, 2015 – via Open access icon

Further reading