Fehmer Christy Chandler
January 18, 1905
Kingston, New York, U.S.
|Died||September 30, 1988 (aged 83)|
Fehmer Christy "Chick" Chandler (January 18, 1905 – September 30, 1988) was an American film character actor who appeared in more than 130 films from 1925 through the mid-1950s. Chandler was known for his starring role as Toubo Smith in the Universal-produced 1955 syndicated television series Soldiers of Fortune.
Born Fehmer Christy Chandler (named after his uncle, well-known architect Carl Fehmer), in Kingston, New York, to Colonel George F. Chandler and the former Martha Schultze (a sportswriter and daughter of Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Carl Schultze), by the age of 12, he was appearing as a dancer and entertainer in local stage shows. His father, an army surgeon and organizer of the New York State Police, enrolled him in a military academy, The Manlius School, which he attended for three years, serving with distinction and rising to the school rank of corporal. At 16, though he was being groomed by his family for a military career, he dropped out to work on a tramp steamer and, later, to pursue work in vaudeville and to study dance at the school of famed choreographer Ned Wayburn.
Chandler maintained a successful career throughout the 1920s as a dancer and comedian in vaudeville and burlesque, at times teamed with Naomi Morton, granddaughter of vaudeville and Broadway star Sam Morton.
In 1930, Chandler, still billed as Fehmer Chandler, joined the cast of the Liberty Bell Filling Station radio show starring Chic Sale, as Rodney Gordon, the assistant to Wheel Wilkins (Sale), proprietor of the titular gas station. Two years later, he landed a role in the Ben Hecht-Gene Fowler Broadway play The Great Magoo. Spotting him there, film producer David O. Selznick signed Chandler, now billed under his boyhood nickname Chick, to a film contract at RKO, telling the press that Chandler was "a cross between Lee Tracy and James Cagney." Chandler, who had done behind-the-camera work for director Charles Brabin in 1923 and had appeared in at least one silent film as an actor, turned full-time to movie acting with his first films under contract, Sweepings and Melody Cruise, in 1933. He appeared mainly in supporting roles, mostly comic, in nearly 120 films over the next 36 years. In the late 1930s he was a fixture at Twentieth Century-Fox, playing wiseguy sidekicks in the studio's series films.
Under the pseudonym Guy Fehmer, Chandler wrote a screenplay about racing called The Quitter. There is no evidence the film was ever produced.
In 1955, Chandler was cast in the starring role of Toubo Smith in the adventure series Soldiers of Fortune alongside John Russell as Tim Kelly. In the show, Smith and Kelly traveled the world engaging in treasure hunts, rescues, and exploration adventures. It brought Chandler his greatest fame. He was also a regular on the short-lived 1961 NBC comedy series One Happy Family. During the off-seasons, he toured the country in stock and musical theatrical productions such as Harvey and Annie Get Your Gun.
He kept active in guest appearances on television. He portrayed photographer "Billy Hackett" in the I Love Lucy episode "Ethel's Hometown." The Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Alibi Me" (1959) featured a memorable character performance, earning Chandler second billing. In the 1959 debut episode of NBC's Johnny Staccato, he played a police detective who was friendly with John Cassavetes' title character. In 1962 he appeared twice on Mister Ed, first as Mr. Hodges, the human partner of a performing elephant, in "Wilbur and Ed in Show Biz" (Season 3, Ep. 3), and then as John McGivney, a racetrack groom accused of doping, in "Horse Talk" (Season 3, Ep. 18). In 1965 he played the old fisherman Andy McGrew in the Lassie episode "Trouble at Paradise Lake" (Season 12, Ep. 7). In 1966 he played Riff Lawler in the Perry Mason mystery "The Case of the Avenging Angel." He retired in 1971 following a sixth guest appearance on Bonanza.
Chandler was a cousin of artist Howard Chandler Christy, but he is often referred to in period newspapers articles as Christy's "nephew" simply because Chandler referred to Christy as "Uncle Howard".
In February 1925, Chandler became engaged to Ziegfeld Follies performer, beauty contestant winner, and Christy model Dorothy Knapp, whom he had met in Christy's studio in or around 1922. Knapp broke off the engagement to pursue her career further, and Chandler then became partnered, both privately and professionally, with 17-year-old Sallie Sharon, whom he met at West Point. The pair formed a vaudeville team but never married. On April 4, 1931, Chandler married Eugenia "Jean" Frontai, a former contract performer with David Belasco's theatrical company. They were married 57 years, until Chandler's death from a heart attack on September 30, 1988. (Jean Chandler followed her husband in death [from cancer] the next day in the same hospital, South Coast Medical Center.) The couple had no children.
Chandler had been an avid amateur auto racer—until his wife filed for a restraining order to make him stop, as he had promised to do upon their marriage.