Douglass Rupert Dumbrille
October 13, 1889
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
|Died||April 2, 1974 (aged 84)|
(m. 1910; died 1957)
Douglass Rupert Dumbrille (October 13, 1889 – April 2, 1974) was a Canadian actor who appeared regularly in films from the early 1930s.
Douglass Dumbrille (pronounced "DUM-brill") was born in Hamilton, Ontario. As a young man, he was employed as a bank clerk in Hamilton while pursuing an interest in acting. He eventually left banking for the theatre, finding work with a stock company that led him to Chicago, Illinois, and another that toured the United States.
In 1913, the East Coast film industry was flourishing and that year he appeared in the film What Eighty Million Women Want, but it would be another 11 years before he appeared on screen again. In 1924, he made his Broadway debut and worked off and on in the theatre for several years while supplementing his income by selling such products as car accessories, tea, insurance, real estate, and books.
During the Great Depression, Dumbrille resumed his screen career in Hollywood, where he specialized in playing secondary character roles alongside the great stars of the day. His physical appearance and suave voice equipped him for roles as slick politician, corrupt businessman, crooked sheriff, or unscrupulous lawyer. He was highly regarded by the studios, and was sought out by Cecil B. DeMille, Frank Capra, Hal Roach and other prominent Hollywood filmmakers.
He played similar roles in Capra's film Broadway Bill (1934) (and the 1950 remake, Riding High), and DeMille's version of The Buccaneer (1938, and the 1958 remake). A friend of fellow Canadian-born director Allan Dwan, Dumbrille played Athos in Dwan's adaptation of The Three Musketeers (1939).
Dumbrille had roles in more than 200 motion pictures. He also played villainous roles in comedies, projecting a balance of menace and pomposity opposite the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, and The Bowery Boys.
He portrayed the Egyptian priest and magician Jannes in DeMille's final film, The Ten Commandments (1956).
With the advent of television, Dumbrille made numerous appearances in the 1950s and 1960s. He played a flustered tycoon driven to distraction by Gracie Allen on the Burns and Allen episode "Company for Christmas" (1955). He was cast in six episodes of the religion anthology series, Crossroads. He portrayed Senator Bates in "Thanksgiving Prayer" (1956) with Ron Hagerthy of Sky King. Dumbrille then portrayed Mr. Willoughby in "Big Sombrero" (1957). He guest-starred in the 1957 episode "The Fighter" of the CBS situation comedy Mr. Adams and Eve. In 1958, he was cast as Mayor John Geary in three episodes of the NBC western series, The Californians. He subsequently guest-starred in Frank Aletter's CBS sitcom, Bringing Up Buddy. He portrayed Mr. Osborne in six episodes of the 1963–1964 situation comedy The New Phil Silvers Show.
Dumbrille made two guest appearances as a judge on CBS's Perry Mason; in 1964 he played Judge Robert Adler in "The Case of the Latent Lover", and in 1965 he played an unnamed judge in "The Case of the Duplicate Case". In his final television role, he portrayed a doctor in episode 10 of Batman in February 1966.
Dumbrille's wife Jessie Lawson, mother of their son John and daughter Douglass (Dougie), died in 1957 after 47 years of marriage. In 1960, at the age of 70, Dumbrille married Patricia Mowbray, the 28-year-old daughter of his friend and fellow actor, Alan Mowbray. In response to criticism of the May–December marriage, Dumbrille rebuffed: "Age doesn’t mean a blasted thing. The important thing is whether two people can be happy together. Pat and I agreed that I had some years left and we could best share them together. We don’t give a continental damn what other people think."
Dumbrille died of a heart attack on April 2, 1974, at the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California.