Leon Ames
Harry Leon Wycoff

(1902-01-20)January 20, 1902
DiedOctober 12, 1993(1993-10-12) (aged 91)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills
Other namesLeon Waycoff
Years active1931–1986
Christine Gossett
(m. 1938)
11th President of the Screen Actors Guild
In office
Preceded byWalter Pidgeon
Succeeded byHoward Keel

Leon Ames (born Harry Leon Wycoff;[1][2][3] January 20, 1902 – October 12, 1993) was an American film and television actor. He is best remembered for playing father figures in such films as Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) with Lucille Bremer, Margaret O'Brien and Judy Garland as his daughters, Little Women (1949), On Moonlight Bay (1951) and By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953). His best-known dramatic role may have been as District Attorney Kyle Sackett in the crime film The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).

Early years

Leon Ames was born Harry Leon Wycoff on January 20, 1902 in Portland, Indiana to Charles Elmer Wycoff and Cora Alice (DeMoss) Wycoff.[4] Some sources list his original last name as Wykoff or Waycoff, and in his early films, he acted under the name of Leon Waycoff. In 1935, Ames explained that he had changed his name because Waycoff was often misspelled and mispronounced. Ames was his mother's maiden name.[5]

In the 1910 census, when his family was residing in Fowler, Indiana, Ames' name was given as Harry L. Wycoff and his father was listed as a manager of a meat market.[1] During World War I, Ames served in the field artillery of the U.S. Army and later in the flying corps (the Army Air Service).[6]


Ames' involvement with entertainment began when he worked as a stage manager for the Charles K. Champlin Theatre Company. He ventured into acting with the group and progressed to the lead in a production of Tomorrow and Tomorrow in Los Angeles.[7] He acted for three years with the Stuart Walker Stock Company in Cincinnati.[8]

He debuted on Broadway in It Pays to Sin (1933). His other Broadway credits include Howie (1958), Winesburg, Ohio, (1958), Slightly Married (1943), The Russian People (1942), Little Darling (1942), Guest in the House (1942), The Land Is Bright (1941), The Male Animal (1940), Thirsty Soil (1937), A House in the Country (1937) and Bright Honor (1936).[9]


This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (April 2023) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Ames made his film debut in Quick Millions in 1931. During the 1940s, he was under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Among his important roles at MGM was his portrayal of Mr. Smith in the studio's 1944 hit film Meet Me in St. Louis.

Ames was also featured in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), portraying the district attorney Kyle Sackett. He appeared in the Doris Day-Gordon MacRae film On Moonlight Bay (1951), its sequel By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953) and Peyton Place (1957) andFrom the Terrace (1960).

In the 1961 Walt Disney comedy The Absent-Minded Professor, Ames played college president Rufus Daggett. He reprised the role in the film's 1963 sequel Son of Flubber. In 1970, he was cast as Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox in the action war film Tora! Tora! Tora! His last screen role occurred in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), playing the grandfather of Kathleen Turner's character.

Radio and television

Ames' first radio broadcast was in January 1942 on Grand Central Station.[10]

His television roles included leads in the adaptations of Life with Father (1953–55)[11]: 604  and Father of the Bride (1961–62).[11]: 336-337  His role in Father of the Bride was soon increased because he had become the series' dominant character.[12]

Ames had the title role of judge John Cooper in the syndicated series Frontier Judge[11]: 370  and played Howard McMann in Bewitched.[11] He joined the cast of Mister Ed (1963–66) as a neighbor[11]: 701  following the death of actor Larry Keating. Ames also appeared in episodes of the NBC anthology series The Barbara Stanwyck Show and on the short-lived CBS legal drama Storefront Lawyers. He played a grandfather in the 1975 The Jeffersons episode “Jenny’s Grandparents”.

Other professional activities

Ames was a founder of the Screen Actors Guild in 1933,[3] and he served as its president in 1957. During the 1960s, Ames owned several Ford dealerships in California.[citation needed]

Personal life

Ames was the father of Robert Fletcher, who was left with his mother when she and Ames split up in 1923.[13][14]

Ames wed actress Christine Gossett in 1938. The couple had a daughter, Shelley (b. 1940), and a son, Leon (b. 1943). Christine retired early from acting to raise their family. They remained married until Ames' death in 1993.[15]

Ames supported Barry Goldwater in the 1964 United States presidential election.[16]


On February 12, 1964, Ames and his wife were held hostage in their home as an intruder demanded $50,000 before he would free them. Ames called his business partner, who obtained the money from a bank and delivered it to the house as instructed. After inspecting the cash, the kidnapper left Ames in the house, bound with tape, and instructed Mrs. Ames to drive him in the couple's car. He also forced both the business partner and a guest in the Ames house into the trunk. Eventually, police (who had been alerted by the partner while he was picking up the money) surrounded the car and freed the hostages.[17]


On October 12, 1993, Ames died at the age of 91 in Laguna Beach, California of complications after suffering a stroke.[18] His gravesite is at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.[19]


In 1980, after 50 years in showbusiness, Ames received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.[20]


Partial television credits

See also


  1. ^ a b U.S. Federal Census for 1910 for Fowler, Center Township, Benton County, State of Indiana, access via Ancestry.com
  2. ^ "Costume Designers Guild Local IA 892 - CAREER ACHIEVEMENT". Archived from the original on 2011-09-30. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
  3. ^ a b Cameron-Wilson, James; Speed, F. Maurice (1994), Film Review 1994-5, Great Britain: Virgin Books, p. 162, ISBN 0-86369-842-5
  4. ^ "The Monthly Supplement: a current biographical reference service". A.N.Marquis Company. February 5, 2018 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "Name Change Causes Inquiry". Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. February 21, 1935. p. 12. Retrieved February 5, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  6. ^ Trivia for Tora! Tora! Tora! Retrieved May 13, 2023.
  7. ^ Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 11–12. ISBN 9781557835512. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  8. ^ "Leon Waycoff, Former Kokomo Boy, Real Star In Tomorrow and Tomorrow". The Kokomo Tribune. Indiana, Kokomo. July 25, 1931. p. 3. Retrieved February 5, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  9. ^ "Leon Ames". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 5 February 2018. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  10. ^ Lesser, Jerry (January 17, 1942). "Radio Talent: New York". Billboard. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  11. ^ a b c d e Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. pp. 96–97. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  12. ^ ((cite Leon Ames played the G.P. Doctor, on the series “ My Three Sons, as Titled “ Dr. Osborne, M.D.” Season 9 , Episode 14, when Kati & Robbi were deciding on a Dr. to care for her during her Pregnancy as “ Katie Douglas” in which Dr Osborne had a call from the Hospital stating he had an expectant mother awaiting him.. as he was checking in on Katie at the Douglas Home, in 1968. They decided Dr Osborne was the Best for their1st child ( which turned our to be triplets ) ,Serienews|last1=Gray|first1=M|title=Father of Bride Dominant Figure|url=https://www.newspapers.com/clip/3148142/simpsons_leadertimes/%7Cagency=Simpson's Leader-Times|date=March 3, 1962|page=10|via = Newspapers.com|access-date = September 2, 2015)) Open access icon
  13. ^ Robert Fletcher: A Star Among Stars, Now Living in KC
  14. ^ Cardova, Kathy (2015-04-16). "From Klingons to kings, Taos area man has costumed them all". The Taos News. Retrieved 2021-10-02.
  15. ^ Lentz, Harris M. III (2006). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2005: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. McFarland. p. 8. ISBN 9780786452101. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  16. ^ Critchlow, Donald T. (2013-10-21). When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107650282.
  17. ^ Rieder, Ron (February 13, 1964). "Kidnap, Free Mrs. Leon Ames". The van Nuys News. The Van Nuys News. pp. 1, 18. Retrieved September 2, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  18. ^ Willis, John, ed. (1996). "Obituaries". John Willis Theatre World 1993-1994 Season Volume 50. Applause Theatre Book Publishers. p. 238. ISBN 1-55783-235-8. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
  19. ^ Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland. pp. 79–80. ISBN 9780786450190. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  20. ^ "("Leon Ames" search results)". Screen Actors Guild Award. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
Awards and achievements Preceded byKatharine Hepburn Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award 1980 Succeeded byDanny Kaye